Letting go and watching your child move on to the next milestone in their life is one of the hardest things about being a parent. When they’re heading off to preschool or daycare, you can’t help but stress out and wonder if they’re ready for such a big step.
This guide will take a deeper look at how you can know if your child is ready for daycare, preschool, or accelerated preschool. But before you decide which step is next for them, let’s look at their options.
What Is the Difference Between Daycare and Preschool?
When you have a child who is 1 or 2 years old, daycare will be your option. Not all preschools will allow toddlers. Some have age requirements of 3 or 4 years old, while others have a checklist of readiness skills children should be able to do before attending. Those readiness skills are too advanced for most 2-year-olds.
Another important difference between daycare and preschool is the curriculum. Daycares are a babysitting service while preschools focus on curriculum that involves learning. If you want your 3- or 4-year-old to learn something, you should opt for a good preschool instead of daycare.
When looking for a preschool, you’ll want to pay attention to the teaching methods used there. There are several options of teaching methods for you to consider, including popular ones such as the Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Montessori, Play-Way, Bank Street, and HighScope methods, to name a few.
The school district your child will attend when they reach kindergarten may also have a free preschool your child can qualify to attend. Not all districts do, but some offer this kind of program. It’s worth a call to your child’s district to find out if they do.
How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for Daycare/Preschool?
We tend to think of our children as babies, even when they have already passed that stage. To determine if your child is ready, look at your child with an objective eye.
First off, as a word of warning, if your child has a compromised immune system or another condition affected by germs, such as viral-induced asthma, you should check with your doctor to see if he thinks preschool or daycare is a good idea. Children will be exposed to many germs in daycares and preschools, so it’s an important consideration for you.
Your child may also be required, depending upon the rules and requirements at that daycare or preschool, to have certain vaccinations before they attend. You should check with the facility you are considering to see what their policies are and if your child is compliant. If they aren’t, you’ll need to decide if you are comfortable with getting your child those vaccinations. If not, your options may be limited.
If you are against vaccinations or your child can’t have certain ones because of medical reasons, you may be able to obtain exemptions, depending upon your reason and which state you live in. Many states make exceptions for vaccination requirements based on medical or religious reasons.
Once you get the green light from your child’s doctor and you’ve addressed the issue of vaccinations, you can start considering other readiness factors you’ll see on our checklist later in this article.
How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for an Accelerated Preschool?
Do you feel as if you have a little Einstein on your hands? Do you think your child has real potential academically or could even be a prodigy? Then you might want to consider an accelerated preschool.
If you’ve already taught your child more than the basics and they can perhaps even read already, an accelerated preschool is a possibility for your child. While you could opt for an early enrollment in kindergarten, many parents hold off on that at this age because their 4-year-old might not yet have the emotional maturity for kindergarten.
A good alternative can be an accelerated preschool program that places a higher emphasis on academics than many other preschools do. A child who is exceptionally bright, curious, and displays a love for learning would do well in this setting.
While some people question the need to put pressure on young children to perform well academically, others think it’s best to develop and support that talent while the child is as young as possible. It’s not a subject everyone, even the experts, agree on.
It’s up to the parents of the gifted child to decide what is best for them. But the question many parents have is how can you tell if a child is truly gifted, or just bright? Having your child properly assessed is a good place to start. But if you’re looking for a checklist of skills many gifted children display, here is a starting point for you.
1. Being a Natural Learner
All children can learn, but some seem to do it easier than others. Some children seem to love learning, while others don’t enjoy it nearly as much.
You might notice if a child is gifted that they’ll concentrate their efforts on a particular subject and seemingly obsess over it as they try to find out more information about it. You could notice your child asking insightful questions that seem advanced for their age. You might have a child who reads early, enjoys it, and comprehends it.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your child seems to have a photographic memory or they don’t need much help when learning a new skill. Your child’s concentration may last longer than their peers when they are involved with a subject that interests them.
2. Enhanced Language Skills
Gifted children may reach language milestones earlier than their peers. You might notice they know more words than many other children their age. They might have better grammar or use longer sentences.
You also might notice they enjoy having conversations with adults more than kids their own age. They may modify their language usage depending upon whether they are talking to a child or an adult. They may use simpler words with kids their own age and bigger words with adults, showing a deep understanding for language.
They can also often complete directions that have multiple steps instead of only being able to follow one step at a time.
3. They May Seem Different Emotionally and Behaviorally
Sometimes young children don’t seem to understand anyone else’s emotions other than their own. But gifted children often do. They sometimes pick up on the feelings of others when their peers wouldn’t, and show empathy, which is a rare trait in young children.
You might find yourself telling your child to talk slower – they can be fast talkers because their mouths are trying to keep up with their minds. They might also seem to have unquenchable curiosity and energy. Since they never want to stop learning and absorbing everything they come across, they just keep moving.
They might prefer the company of older children because they are more mentally matched up with them than they are children of their own age.
A Checklist for Toddlers and 2-Year-Olds
Thinking about enrolling your 2-year-old in preschool? Here are some basic abilities most programs will require your child to have.
- Being capable of interacting and playing with classmates, or in small groups. This doesn’t mean that hiccups won’t occur. Preschools routinely have issues with children not getting along at times.
- Being able to sit on a carpet and pay attention for 10-to-15-minute stretches for story time.
- Having the capability to successfully transition between activities without throwing tantrums or having meltdowns.
- Knowing and being able to respond to their name.
- Being comfortable enough being away from their parents that a new student won’t cry non-stop while at preschool. They must be able to adjust emotionally to being around new faces.
- Having the ability to sit in a chair for 10 to 15 minutes straight to work on activities and projects.
- Maintaining eye contact with people they see every day during instruction or play time. That doesn’t mean shy children should immediately be capable of doing this. But once connections are made, a child should get better at doing this.
- Having the ability to use eating utensils and know how to self-feed.
- Not needing to use a bib when they eat. That is fine for daycare services, but preschools require more.
- Calming down on their own when they get upset.
- Having the ability to drink out of cups – children must be completely weaned off of bottles.
- Being completely off of pacifier usage.
- Having the ability to use some self-help skills and exert some independence.
- Being able to handle everyday sounds without being scared or startled.
- Being able to handle a variety of textures, both in the foods they eat and the materials they are surrounded by.
- Having the ability to walk around freely without feeling the need for teachers to carry them. They should use their legs without expecting the teachers to carry them when they get tired.
- Understanding how to hold large crayons or markers correctly for coloring exercises.
- Being capable of participating physically, mentally, and emotionally in daily classroom activities.
- Having enough control over their sleeping schedule that they will be able to stay awake instead of needing a nap during preschool hours.
- Being able to calm down without a long routine or assistance when they get upset.
- Having the ability to follow simple one-step instructions.
- Refraining from wandering out of the classroom or running out when they are upset.
The Expectations for 3- and 4-Year-Olds
This age group should have all the skills mastered in the toddler and 2-year-old section. But they should also be able to handle some additional items as well, including:
- Sitting for a longer stretch of at least 20 minutes for activities and group work.
- Having the ability to ask and answer questions.
- Being able to follow multi-step instructions as well as single-step instructions.
- Having the full ability to engage with teachers and classmates during participation in activities.
- Being able to use the bathroom independently, with little to no assistance. They should be potty trained or nearly completed with their training. Of course, accidents do happen in preschool sometimes, and for that reason, every parent should consider keeping a spare change of clothes at the school or in their child’s backpack, even if they are fully potty trained.
- Having the ability to say their first name.
- Having some academic ability, including counting to at least 10 and knowing some individual letters.
- Being able to hold a pencil, crayon, or marker for coloring sheets or worksheets.
- Being able to work independently and not disrupt the classroom during tasks.
- Having a good attitude and the willingness to learn.
Preschool is a Great Adventure
Even if both you and your child have some reservations about preschool, it’s a good training ground for kindergarten. It’s usually just half a day, so it’s not a full-time commitment for your child. Plus, they’ll make friendships and learn useful academic information and social skills.
But to have a successful transition to preschool and foster a lifetime love of learning, you’ll want to make sure your child can perform the necessary skills that many preschools require. If they aren’t quite there yet, get to work on mastering those skills at home. You can do a lot to prepare your child for their preschool or daycare experience.