Anyone with a 3- or 4-year-old child knows that kids this age are full of curiosity and questions about everything around them. They are interested in learning, which isn't always the case as kids get older. It's a good idea to take advantage of this natural developmental stage and put them in a preschool where they'll learn the skills that will help prepare them for kindergarten. While children will probably gain at least some benefits from any preschool, a high-quality school is best.
Benefits of Preschool
Children who go to preschool learn not only pre-reading and math skills, they also learn how to behave in schools, how to get along with other children, and how to learn to be more self-sufficient. Research shows that children who took part in preschool may have benefits beyond being more ready for kindergarten, including being less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to go to college, being less likely to commit a felony and being more likely to own their own house and not needing government assistance later in life.
Basics to Look For
For the best results, look for a school that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Make sure the area is neat and clean, that there are plenty of age-appropriate toys and art materials, that there's a safe outdoor play area, and that you would be comfortable leaving your child there. Ask about the daily routine, the discipline policy, and how teachers will communicate with you to let you know about your child's progress. It's preferable if the teachers have at least a bachelor's degree in education and even better if they have specialized training in early childhood education. The program should be licensed by the state and have a child to teacher ratio of no more than 10 to 1.
Consider an Innovative Preschool
Some preschools are working on figuring out more effective ways to teach the children the skills they need to know to do well in kindergarten and later in life. These programs will still have many of the same characteristics as the typical preschool, including snacks and naps, but use different strategies. For example, it may not be necessary to choose between a play-based and an academic preschool, as there are programs that are designed to teach the academic skills through play. There are also programs that combine both the Waldorf and the Montessori approaches, following one for the first part of the day's activities and the other for the second part, which helps keep kids interested and excited about learning. There's evidence to back up this type of learning environment, with a study showing that balanced approaches that involve both child-initiated activities and the teaching of skills by the teacher were more effective than those that focused only on one kind of approach.
For more information, contact a preschool near you, like Sammamish Montessori School.