My own three-year-old is finally eligible to go to preschool on a half-day basis. He’s becoming more and more social each week and I know he’d blossom in the structure of a well-run classroom. Luckily, we have a fantastic preschool nearby that’s extremely affordable. While my son isn’t too young to go to preschool, he is quite small for his age. Maybe I’m a little bit protective, but I wanted to be sure he was really ready to take this next big step in his education. I started doing research and quickly learned that preschool readiness is mostly a matter of opinion!
Author and early intervention specialist Amanda Morin suggests parents use a handy acronym, PIECES to help them assess their own toddlers. The goal is to make sure the child is developmentally ready to handle the challenges of the preschool environment; that they have all the “pieces” they will need to succeed!
P = Potty Training
Some preschools require children to be reliably potty trained before they can enroll in classes. Others might be more flexible, but be sure you check your school’s policy well in advance of the first day of the semester. In any instance, preschools are ready to help kids with handwashing or the occasional accident. Of course, potty training is a sign that your toddler might have the next PIECE of the puzzle.
I = Independence
Preschool is the first time many kids are around that many of their peers at the same time. It’s important that they feel secure in themselves and have a strong sense of independence. Teachers will expect your toddler to be able to choose their own activities and play independently for 5-10 minutes at a time. Does your child routinely choose their own activities and spend time in solo play? If so, they might be ready for preschool!
E = Expressive
Teachers prefer preschoolers be able to express themselves verbally with ease. If your toddler cannot speak clearly enough to be understood by strangers or does not feel comfortable speaking to others, they may not be ready for school. And that’s okay! If you have any concerns, you can speak to your pediatrician about early interventions for speech delays.
C = Concentration
Although most kids are quite wiggly and fidgety, preschool demands a certain level of concentration. Most activities won’t last more than 20 minutes. Still, toddlers need to be able to focus on the task and avoid interrupting or distracting others.
E = Emotional Readiness
One of the key signs that a toddler is ready for preschool is their emotional readiness. If your child has a lot of anxiety when you leave them in someone else’s care, they might not be ready for a classroom setting. It’s typical for young children to cry at drop-off for the first week or so. However, a kid who cries for an hour or more is probably not quite ready for school.
S = Stamina
The last of the PIECES is stamina; your toddler needs to be able to stay awake throughout the school day without needing a nap. Most 3-year-old preschools are only half-day classes for this very reason. If your little one still needs two naps per day, it might be best to wait another year before starting school.
And that’s all there is to it! If your child has all the PIECES, they’re likely ready for a preschool program. If they don’t seem to be quite ready, that’s okay! Child development is not a race. Preschool will be the right choice only when your toddler is ready to take on the challenge!