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Guidelines for Preschool Readiness

written by: J.B. • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 9/11/2012

Provided are guidelines for teachers to help parents decide if their child is ready for preschool or not. These guidelines will help the parent to decide if the toddler is socially, physically, or mentally prepared to enter the preschool classroom.

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    Ready for Preschool?

    Parent's face a big decision when a child is approaching two years old of whether or not to send the child to preschool. There are many factors parents need to consider when making this important decision. Age does not solely determine preschool readiness. More than being developmentally ready, consideration about whether the child is socially, emotionally, physically, and most importantly cognitively ready for preschool must be weighed.

    Here, we will cover these important questions:

    • Has the child spent time away from family?
    • Can he or she work on tasks independently?
    • Can the child participate in a group setting?
    • Does he or she have a scheduled routine at home?
    • Is the child physically prepared for preschool?
    • What are the reasons for wanting the child to attend preschool?

    The guidelines to follow will provide a better understanding about how to get kids ready for preschool.

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    Considerations About Independence

    Considering that the average teacher to student ratio in a preschool is 1:4, the child should be fairly independent. There are certain basic skills many preschools require.

    • Potty Trained- A child may need to be potty trained by age three based on the preschool's policy.
    • Basic Tasks- hand-washing, eating lunch without assistance, and falling asleep on their own.

    If a child struggles with either of these, you may need to ask the parents to work with the child before enrolling him or her in preschool. When these skills are mastered, the child is sure to have independence in preschool.

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    Emotional Adjustment/Separation

    A major concern for many parents is how their child will adjust to the preschool routine and not having mommy or daddy around. Advise parents that if their child has previously been cared for by a babysitter or a relative he or she will have a better chance to excel in preschool.

    If parents have not spent much time away from their child, suggest a weekend with grandma or another friend or relative. This will allow their child to learn how to be separated from mom or dad before preschool begins. The trick for parents is to allow their child to adjust to time away from home in short doses. A beneficial way for students and parents to adapt to school life is to schedule a few hours a week in preschool and then gradually extend the day. This way parents and students can adjust to their new schedule smoothly.

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    Attention Span

    Preschool is often filled with many arts and crafts projects, play time, and circle time. These tasks require preschooler's full attention and an ability to complete tasks on their own.

    Ask the parent:

    • Does your child like to draw or do puzzles at home on their own? If so, he or she will make a good candidate for preschool.
    • If not, parents can begin preparing their child by setting up playtime alone. Start with a half hour of alone play time while mommy is working on another task. Gradually begin to build up longer stretches of solo time to play.
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    Group Participation

    Circle time is a daily part of the preschool routine. Circle time is a chance for the children to learn and play together, but also requires that they sit still, listen to stories, and sing along to songs for about 15 minutes. This can be a difficult task if the student is not developmentally ready to participate. If a child is not used to group activities, parents can start introducing them by taking their child to a story time at the library, or joining a club such as gymnastics or ballet.

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    Scheduled Routines

    Preschool classrooms follow a strict routine. A typical preschool schedule is: free play time, circle time, academic time, craft time, snack, outside play, lunch, and good-bye time. Children will tend to feel more comfortable when they know the plan before it begins. Providing parents with the classroom schedule can be of benefit for the parent and their child. Suggest that parents provide a routine for meals, play time and rest time at home.

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    Physical Readiness

    Preschools keep children very busy all day. Ask the parents:

    • How does your child take to activities such as playground play, art projects, and outings?
    • Does your child have difficulty transitioning smoothly from one activity to the next?
    • Another factor for parents to consider when discussing toddler school readiness is when and if their child naps. Will preschool interfere with the child's nap schedule?
    • No need to worry, parents can slowly shift their child's bedtime up or down an hour each week prior to beginning preschool. Inform parents looking into full time preschool when nap time is scheduled. This way they can adjust their home schedule accordingly.
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    Understanding the Reasons to Begin Preschool

    Why are the parents considering preschool? Are they looking for daycare or academics? Do they have other options in case their child is not quite ready for preschool? Are the parents worried that their child needs preschool to be prepared for kindergarten? Assure them not to worry! There are many ways for children to develop the skills they need prior to kindergarten. If parents decide that the main reason they want their child to attend preschool is because the child is eager to learn new things and explore, their child is not gathering enough stimulation at home or daycare, or the child seems prepared to explore their social horizons and interact with other children, then chances are that preschool is a perfect fit for their child.

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    Additional Resources

    Policy Matters is an additional site which will provide more insight on toddler school readiness.