What Age to Start Pre-school

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions: Start Preschool at Two? Questions: Postpone Preschool for a Year? Other Questions about When to Start

Pre-schools for 2-Yr Olds: Pro or Con?

June 2008

I have a 2-part question about pre-school. I see that many people send their children to pre-school at age 2. This seems very young to us, and we're interested in hearing parents' thoughts on why this is a good idea or not. Is pre-school preferable to a nanny-share or daycare? How many days/hours per week is the norm for children this young? Looking in the BPN archives, the information on pre-schools for 2-year olds is pretty limited and dated. We live in Glenview and would be interested in highly recommended programs in Montclair, Piedmont, and other nearby neighborhoods. Any recommendations? Sarah

I started my now 4 year old daughter in preschool when she was 2. It was a relatively easy transition for us because she had already been doing a nanny share 3 times per week. She began at Little Seeds preschool in Alameda full time (M-F, 9-5) and while she cried the first week or so, apparently, shortly after we left, she quieted down and was happy. She was one of many kids her age (at 2) who were going to school full-time, so we felt better about our decision. Also, the school we chose has a very good teacher/student ratio, is immaculate and is academic and play based. I work with the website, The Savvy Source, (www.savvysource.com) which is a free, online resource for parents and their toddlers. Parents review their preschools and the information about preschools in your area is on the website, too. Jessica

I think it really depends on the child. My daughter is very social, outgoing and adventurous, and her small, nurturing family daycare just wasn't a good fit. At about age 16 months she really starting acting out at the daycare and inciting mischief among the other toddlers. Through the Yellow Pages, I found a wonderful Montessori program for her that she began at 20 months and stayed until kindergarten. Alas, the school has since closed. --a mom

We were also concerned about sending our 2 year old off to pre-school. It seemed too early, but we were wrong. Our child absolutely thrived. The pre-school our children go to is The Renaissance School. It's a warm and loving environment with lots of interesting activities. The 2 year old room has 12 children and 2 teachers. The school is located right at the bottom of Dimond Park, in Oakland. It's a Montessori school and the hours for the 2 year olds are Mon - Fri, 9am - 12:30pm. I also thought that everyday would be too much, but again, I was wrong. The children really look forward to going to school every day. Sometimes I think these seemingly big transitions, like into pre-school, are actually harder for parents than the children! You can have extended hours too if that's needed. Check out their website: (http://www.therenaissanceschool.com/trs/trs.shtml) Good luck!

2 sounds very early for preschool for us too. We won't send our child this fall at 2.5 but really don't think it would have negative effects if we did. I bet she'd love it (a few mornings a week) I'm just not convinced the benefits outweigh the cost (of tuition & logistics) for us. In conversation with my mom she pointed out that nursery school for me as a child was my only opportunity to get out, sing songs, etc. Now, if you are taking your child to studio grow, parks, y, library, etc. they are getting some of that. I do feel conflicted by having differing viewpoints from the majority. I'm convinced that early preschool is really more a childcare solution than a necessity to child development. The idea of preschool feels more comfortable to parents; it sounds so much less like daycare and so much more like an enriching opportunity. Or gives stay at home moms a much needed breather (often with a new baby.) All completely understandable if you need or want childcare. For me, I would need to know that they are getting something pretty awesome at the preschool I chose, something I may not be able to provide (like Spanish) if I were to justify the cost - or if I needed to work those mornings. Otherwise I'm happy to spring for a $12 class here and there and skip packing lunches for another year. Anon

Thinking about starting preschool at 2

May 2007

I have no idea about preschool: when it\x92s too early to start, when kids \x91should\x92 start, if kids really need it at all. I\x92m hoping you, the good parents of BPN, can shed some light on this topic for me. I am a stay-at-home mom of an 18-month-old boy. Because of my at-home situation, preschool/daycare is not a practical necessity at this point; however, I am beginning to wonder about the benefits. I\x92m mainly concerned about my son\x92s lack of social interaction with kids his own age, as well as with adult authority figures that aren\x92t Mom or Dad. In addition to our regular outings to kid-filled places like the zoo and park, he has one little friend that we see about once a week, and he was enrolled in Gymboree for a while \x96 he\x92s never uncomfortable or troubled in these situations, so it\x92s not that I\x92m worried there\x92s an existing issue, but I wonder at what age kids really need exposure to other kids and new environments outside of the home/family. All of this has led me to think about starting preschool/daycare around his 2nd birthday, possibly for 2 half days a week (and I\x92m assuming that I\x92d have to get on a waiting list pretty soon in order to start in the Fall). I\x92d love to hear any advice you have to offer on the topic. Oh, and a couple of other factors to throw into the mix: my son is a November birthday, so we are planning to start him in Kindergarten late rather than early (don\x92t know if this has any bearing on the current situation ); and we will be having our second child within 2 days of my son\x92s 2nd birthday (go figure). While I kind of like the idea of my son being at daycare/preschool 2 half days a week just to give me a breather when the baby\x92s born, I really don\x92t want him to feel like he\x92s being kicked out of the house and thrown into a new situation because of his new sibling. Again, any advice is appreciated! Clueless

First of all, Preschool usually means a preschool for 3 and 4 year olds that starts a new class every fall. These preschools do not accept children who are younger than 3 (or about to turn 3.) The idea is that children attend a preschool for one or two years just prior to starting kindergarten. Preschools typically accept applications in the spring for kids who will start preschool in the fall.

When people talk about preschool for a two-year-old, they are usually talking about a smaller operation that is run out of someone's home. Not always, but usually. It may be called a preschool, or it may not be.

Since you are having a baby, I think it would be a great idea to find a small homebased preschool for your 2-year-old. In my experience as a mom of 3, children don;t really begin to play together until they are closer to three. But giving a 2-year-old the chance to be around other children on a regular basis can be good. It's also good for the mom. So I say, go for it!

As you've guessed, the ''right'' time to start preschool varies from child to child. Like you, I'm a SAHM, so we had some flexibility. We decided to start our son a few months after his 3rd birthday, and in addition to helping socialize him (our main goal), it had one benefit that we hadn't considered: all his friends/peers started preschool at 3, too, so if he wasn't in school it would be hard to find playdates, and weekday music, sports, etc. classes often have few kids his age these days. My second son is already totally into the preschool thing because of his big brother, and will start at age 2 next fall. So go with what feels right to you. Depending on the school you're looking at, you may have to wait a bit, anyway, since lots of things for next fall are filling up already -- I started interviewing and applying a year before he started school. And about the new baby coming: because my second was born in September my older son was starting school right around the birth and did feel a little overwhelmed with changes at home and the switch from nanny to school, but it only took him a week or two to settle in. Not the ideal way to do it, but they're adaptable. And definitely nice to have some time with just the baby. Go with your heart

First off - you're probably too late to get into any preschools THIS coming Fall. At least not necessarily your first choice. Most preschools accept applications at the beginning of the year and make their decisions by spring. They know how roughly how many openings they have due to the number of kids who'll be heading off to Kindergarten in the Fall, so apart from surprise moves or personal situations, the numbers are pretty fixed. As to the other ''when'' - my first started just after he turned 3, a few weeks after his sibling was born, and it worked out great. He felt he had his new ''own thing'' apart from the baby. Number two started just after her 2nd birthday.

Start simply by visiting places, see what you like, what your son likes. Not all places do half days. Not all places meet your criteria. Talk to the staff, get their opinions on readiness. And as to reasons why if you're a SAHM - do you recall the public message campaign not long ago by the Ca. Commision for Families - First Five? - http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/ They stress the benefits of preschool as helping children with kindergarten readiness, which provides a stronger foundation for all their school years.

Kindergarten used to be preschool years ago - a place to play, learn to use scissors, nap and have snacks. Not so anymore. Preschool helps tremendously in helping kids learn to listen, sit still, interact, use their words, not miss mommy, etc - all the things they no longer have the time to do in kindergarten. Ellen

I'm no expert, but if you don't have a need for preschool (i.e. you need a break for yourself, to do work, to be with a younger child, etc.), then I would wait until your child is at least 3 years old. We started our daughter at 2.3 and while she's definitely grown socially and emotionally, I'm not sure that's due to her time in preschool. I'm not convinced that any child needs preschool, let alone three years. Plus, I feel like keeping a two year old on a schedule (getting dressed, getting out the door, in the car seat, out of the car seat, etc) creates a lot of friction that wouldn't exist if our day was more flexible. She's in preschool because I work, if I didn't, I would have skipped the first year, and possibly waited until 4 -- arranging playdates instead to make sure she gets time with kids her own age. preschool is overrated

We joined a playgroup for all the reasons you described, and it's been great. It's the same kids every time, so the social skills stuff goes deeper than with the ever- changing cast of characters at a playground, and a very minimal number of non- negotiable rules are helping our daughter get her head around the idea of paying attention to adults who aren't her own parents, and I've made some nice friends out of the deal, too. Ours meets in El Cerrito, in the basement of a church (we're kind of between a preschool and a playgroup, I guess) and it's for kids 2 years to 5, but there are lots of other playgroups around if you aren't sure you're ready for preschool but think you might want a little more structure/socializing than your current routine provides. Cory

Two days a week is nothing. he'll probably love the interaction. He won't feel like he's being kicked out, although almost any toddler will protest initially. He'll probably be so stimulated by it, and learn so many things, that you'll be happy you did it. Remember, we run the range here, from people who have to put their 3 month old in full time day care to people who don't quite get around to preschool until they are 4. I would say that you probably should have a 4 yr old in some form of preschool if for no other reason than to get them up to speed with the other kids for kindergarten.

I think most kindergarten teachers appreciate at least one year of preschool. My oldest did three years because I wanted the morning breaks. He started off with just a couple of mornings, then the second year that increased by a day & then for the last year, he went four. This still left one morning for us to do something together, but he wasn't blown away by the five day, all day rigor of kindergarten - not to mention that he had many pre-reading and early math concepts down AND tons of same-age socialization as well. We're duplicating that with our 2nd.

PS I do think it might be too late to enroll him in the fall, but perhaps a mid-year opening might become available? Also, check on the Schools newsletter - there are openings posted there periodically. Best of luck in your search!

Sign your child up for preschool to start in September (unless you can fine something that starts earlier). That way, by the time the baby is born, school is a normal part of his life and he won't see it as being 'pushed out' quite so much. I started my elder daughter in a preschool program at 17-months for the same reason. My second daughter was born in March. My elder daughter's teachers gave her with so much love and support when my younger was born.

I started my younger child at a preschool at 18-months, because quite frankly I need to drink a cup of coffee (and go to the bathroom for that matter) without someone sitting on my lap every now and again.

Honestly, in a perfect world, I would come up with the most stimulating activities for my children all day long (they are two and four) and love every minute of it while receiving five years maternity pay for each child. But, since I don't have the patience of a saint and live in Norway, I have chosen a lovely in-home Waldorf school for one child two days a week and a somewhat academic based for my second child two days a week. I clean my house, get my toes done and nap while my children are away and don't feel guilty about it. jan

I believe that some preschool is great for kids before they enter kindergarten. Just getting used to being in a somewhat organized environment helps them cope with the adjustment to big-kid school.

Your son is young and all the things you're doing are perfect: gymboree, outings, meeting with another kid once a week. I think 3 is a good age to start preschool, from my experience with my kids.

I will say, though, that if you can get him in two half days BEFORE your baby is born, he won't feel kicked out of the house after the baby is born. Just something to consider if you have the option. And whatever you do, DO NOT link it to the baby. Make it sound like a reward for being a great kid and all that.


Preschool at 2 - is it worth the cost?

April 2004


Hi, I'm thinking about sending my daughter to preschool when she is around 2 years old - starting a few days a week - not 5. Right now her grandmother cares for her while I work full time. So I haven't a clue how much to expect to pay for this - although I just know it's a LOT! Are there many schools that allow just 2-3 days a week? and what costs can I expect? Also, if any of you started your kids in preschool at age 2-3 was it worth it (the cost, did it benefit your child and in what ways)? I just don't think my daughter will get enough stimulation at grandma's at that age...she is very intelligent and pretty social. I live in the Oakland/Lakeshore/Piedmont area. Thanks in advance! planning ahead

My four year old daughter goes to preschool three mornings (9- Noon) per week and it costs $436 per month. It is my opinion that sending your child to pre-school before about 3.5 years (and I have done this)benefits the parents/caregivers FAR more than the child. The parent gets a little break and the child is still well cared for, but I think the child's preference is to be with their parents/grandparents. Sure they like to see other kids at the playground, but to have your undivided attention when they want it and to observe you as you go through your day-to-day stuff is the ultimate pre-school for them. They learn so much about real life that way. The stimulation and guidance they get from being with their parents/grandparents 24/7 is invaluable. anon


Should I start preschool at 18 or 24 months?

October 2001


Our easy-going 12-month-old son has been in a nanny share care situation at our house with 2 other kids since he was 5 months old. He's signed up to start Montessori pre-school sometime between 18 and 20 months old. But I want to hear what other parents and experts believe is the best time to move from a share care into a pre-school environment. Should we wait until he is 2 years old, or move him into Montessori at 18 - 20 months?

My daughter started in a preschool @ 20 months. When she was about 16 months we went to a meeting which incidentally took place at a pre-school. She just loved it there! So I took my cues from how engaged my daughter was & figured the time was right. I was a bit worried about possible trouble adapting to, for example, nap routines because she was kind of irregular, but she didn't have any sort of problem. She was in the routine by her second day. In many respects it seems like toddlers are more flexible than 3 year olds. If you are happy and excited about the program your child is going to attend, I wouldn't delay starting. beth

Here's one opinion: My son was and is very social and unafraid of new people and situations, yet just as the pediatrician predicted, he had his one bout of seperation anxiety promptly ay 18 mos. Luckily I had followed the Dr's advice & weaned him from habits like nightime bottle and pacifier prior to 18 mos, as I was warned that if I didn't, it would be difficult between 18 mos and 2 1/2. I saw other parents struggle during this time so I know it was good advice. On this note, I think 18 mos would be very hard for a child to begin a new situation, especially one as momentous as preschool. By 24-28 months, my son was over the fears and willing and enthusiastic about a new school.


Is 2 too young for mixed-age preschool?

May 2001


I'm thinking of sending my son, who will be 2 in August, to preschool in Sept. The school I like has mixed classrooms with kids aged 2-4 together. I wonder about the effect on him of being the very youngest kid in class with this fairly wide age spread. I also wonder whether 2 might be a little young for any preschool. Any thoughts? Kathleen

I can share our experience with my 2yr 3mo old daughter here. Children are different so I am not sure how much of our experience would be valid in your case. In general what I have observed is that children (mine and my friends') at this age LOVE to play with other older kids, and by doing so they learn so much. I would imagine a group of 2-4 y-o's would be perfect for my girl. The only concern I would have is, not every 4 y-o would like to play with younger kids, and they might express such feeling with inappropiate behavior toward the younger kids. So you might want to find out what the rules are for the kids with disagreements, and how the care givers prevent the situation in which the older kids hurt the younger ones - and most importantly, how you feel about all that. In our case I am comfortable with their rules and handling in the daycare my girl goes to. I even feel positive about letting children learn to get along with each other in this way. Cherri

I know that many people think very positivly about mixed aged preschools, but 2-4, that age gap is too wide, no doubt about that, I am a preschool teacher myself, and from all I know, the needs of a 2 year old cannot be met in such a group..and I have to add, that the 4 year old kids also suffer when the teachers have to deal with 2 year olds..2 year olds have to learn the basic rules of socialisation, and 4 year olds are very advanced, they want to be attended to, ask a lot of questiones and need stimulating activities.....then what about potty training?... It is really unfair to stick a 2 year old in such a preschoolsetting ......or is it a preschool with very small groups, like 4 to 6 children??? I doubt it though.

If you really want to do what is best for your child, then wait, find a home daycare with a small group of kids, (that is usually not more expansive than a preschool), and send your child to preschool 6 months or even a year later....and believe me, I know what I am talking about!!!!!!!!!!!! monika

We started our daughter in a similar situation about 2 weeks after her second birthday (three months ago). I will admit that it was a bit hard on us at first, and that we had the same concerns as you did about her being too little for preschool, etc. One of the most important things for us was that the school was sensitive from the very first to her developmental needs: for instance, they do not force kids to participate in, or complete, any activity, including circle time, if they don't want to. For a squirmy 2-year-old, that was really important. She's learned a lot about sitting still from the older kids, though, and now stays for the entire circle time -- and she has even become a good napper, which is a major accomplishment! In addition, we find that she is comfortable in the noisy, energetic environment where previously she was a bit overwhelmed by all the activity -- she really holds her own with kids of all ages and is getting better at verbalizing her needs. Her friends now range in age from 2 to 5 1/2, and the older kids tend to take her under their wing and teach her things, which I think is just great.

The most important thing for us was to give it time. We stayed with our daughter in the mornings until she felt comfortable, then enlisted teachers to help all of us separate from each other, and we only gradually increased the amount of time that she stayed at school alone, so that it wasn't for a full month until after she started that she was there for the whole day (naptime was the last transition). We also found that communicating with the teachers was very important -- even to the point of calling during the day to check in and make sure things were okay (there was one day that the teacher suggested picking her up early, but usually things went well even if the goodbyes had been rough).

I say all this with a bit of amazement at how hard it was in the beginning, because I taught preschool for years, and my degree is in developmental psych with a focus on early childhood -- so I thought I knew the ropes! But as a survivor I can honestly say that it does work out if you stick with it. If you're convinced that this is the right thing to do you then you can be honest with your son about the difficulties, but still positive and enthusiastic about the good parts, and you will all be able to succeed. For me, the best days are when I go to pick my daughter up at the end of the day and she doesn't want to leave (and I love the art and cooking projects and the new songs and stories that she brings home)!

Good luck. Lauren

My daughter, now in first grade, started preschool in October a few months after turning 2. She attended a small school in someone's house. At the time, she was the youngest by almost 2 years, although other children her age arrived over the months and years. We have photos of our little one surrounded by big 4-year-olds. Everyone was very nice to her, she got to play a bat in the Halloween skit because the original bat declined, and she quickly learned to use the toilet at 2-1/2. There was only one difficult kid at the preschool when Julia began there, and he liked her and played with her, so we never had any problems with big kids running over the little kid. She also got to stay at the same place for almost 3 years. Robbie

Two may or may not be too young for preschool. For some children it is, and for others it's not. For our son ee chose family day care from 2-3 years because it was smaller and more low key. We thought our son would have an easier time adjusting. This September he'll start in preschool when he'll be 3.25. We chose both the family day care and the pre-school because they have mixed age groups (among other reasons). I like mixed age because children have more opportunities to seek out others with similar interests and abilities, since not all 2 year olds, for example, are at the same place developmentally. They also can see where they're going by looking at the older children. They learn a lot from the older children and the older children get to be teachers and helpers which is great for learning. Of course the youngest don't usually do as much helping and teaching as the olders, but they have their own areas of strength where they can shine too. It's best if a child is going to be in the program for more than one year. Having the same teacher for two years is great (assuming the teacher is a good fit for your child) and by being in the program for more than a year, your child has the opportunity to be the youngest, the middle and then the oldest. As it turns out, our son outgrew the family day care. The space is now too small for him and all of the older children are leaving, so it won't be as mixed next year. He'll get to be part of a mixed age group in a 2.5-6 year old preschool instead and we hope it works out so he can stay until he goes to kindergarten or first grade. Also as a teacher, I have found most effective my classes that were K-1, K-2 or K-2. Even though I'm a big proponent of mixed age classes, as always, unless the overall program is sound and unless the teachers are skilled and loving, and unless it's a good fit for your particular child... the program won't be any good for you. Hope this helps. Susan


Preschool at 2 years for twins?

February 2001


I am a stay at home mother of twin boys who will be 2 in May, making them 2 years and 3 months in September. For many preschools this is too young and yet to wait a whole other year, until they are 3 years and 3 months, before they begin some group play/enrichment environment seems like too long to wait. I am torn between keeping them home full time and doing our routine of parks, playgroups, kindergym etc. for a whole other 18 months (from now)until they are over 3 years old, and signing them up for some form of nursery/preschool for this fall. I am looking into a number of options from 2-3 mornings a week where I go to a toddler program with them and stay (which leaves me no money for anytime for myself) to a play program in a private home, to a three day a week 8:30 - 1:30 preschool program that takes 2 year olds. I have also looked into a co-op program which interests me, but as a twin parent the workload is prohibitive and the waitlist is long. Depending on the program, I might need to work to afford sending the two of them. It is hard to know how I will feel 7 months from now and what they or I will be ready for. I am looking for advice from those of you who have been through this decision and what worked best and what did not work at all. Also, recommendations on any programs for 2 year olds would be of interest to me. Thanks, Lea

My twin boys are a year older than yours and I know exactly how you feel. I faced this decision about a year ago and decided to wait until they were 3 yrs 3 mos to put them in preschool this fall. It opened up a lot more options. I was working out of my house however and had a babysitter. While I still had no time for myself, I was able to manage it because the babysitter watched the kids in the morning and I had them after naptime. She cleaned the kitchen while they were sleeping and did laundry too which helped. Let me give you one piece of advice. The time you are in with them right now (just under two) is particularly difficult. After they turn two, things become unbelievably easier because they play with each other. There is another big change at 2 and a half, even easier. Although it is clearly more work than 1, my recommendation is to see if you can get a share situation for a few afternoons a week nearby where you can drop the kids at someone else's house with their nanny to play. You can usually get a lower rate that way and it is cheaper than enrolling them in preschool. Also, it gives you a few hours off. Otherwise, there are always people advertising on the Childcare piece of this newsletter who have a nanny who needs a couple of part time afternoons or mornings a week to supplement income. You could have someone come in for a few hours. Or, if you have room in your house could get an au pair to help on a more regular basis.

Your children will be well socialized if you hold off on preschool simply through interactions at the park and at home with each other. My guys knew the phrase take turns and could say it quite young. Anyway, I don't have any concrete recommendations except that it probably isn't worth sending them to preschool so young. You can get cheaper, more customized options (e.g., if you want to be flexible on hours a babysitter can change week to week but a preschool won't). Hope this helps. Shannon

If you live around Albany, I believe there is still a very nice part-time program called Playful Two's. It is (or was) run by Diane Gross, and her number is 527-21489. Louise


Should I start my 10-month-old when he's two?



I have a ten-month-old who is currently happy at his in-home daycare. When he is two-ish, however, I think he might benefit from a more structured preschool environment. I've been reading the various reviews of preschools posted here, and wonder how much in advance people are signing their kids up. If I need to start the application process a year in advance, for example, I would need to start checking preschools out now. Thanks for any insights you all may have. Wendy

I made the switch from family-care to preschool when my daughter was two and half. KinderCare takes children from infants to kindergarten and I am very impressed and happy with the care she and my one-year-old son receive there. I think if I'd waited until Andrea was three she would have been less flexible about the change. At two and a half she was ready for the structure and the variety of activities pre-school offered, but not as willful as she is now. An unforeseen benefit to me has been the reliable hours of the center. In family-care, our sitter took time off whenever she felt the need. I didn't realize the stress this caused me until I moved my kids to KinderCare. Regan


Start at 2 or wait till 3?

June 2003


Our daughter is about to turn 21 months old and is pretty wonderful - very affectionate, talkative, imaginative, outgoing, adventurous, etc., etc. She was also the classic high-needs baby who never slept (and still has plenty of sleep issues) and seemed to go through the ''terrible twos'' long before two (and now those symptoms have subsided). Here's the quandry: she was cared for by us until 9 months old and then a wonderful nanny (one on one care) from 9 months to now, Mon-Thur, 8 am to 6 pm. She goes to the park/zoo/Gymboree/Lawrence Hall of Science/etc everyday so gets lots of interaction with others. We have enrolled her in a Montessori preschool to begin in September (when she turns two) for 3 or 4 mornings (8:30-12:30) per week - it's about 6 kids to one caretaker. Part of me thinks it will be good for her to no longer have one on one care all of the time and part of me thinks hey - she's still a wee one - what's the rush? Why not wait until she's 3? I would be very, very interested in the advice of all you experienced parents. As you can doubtless tell, she is our first child and so the first time we're dealing with this issue. mama who wants to do the right thing

My son's been in a family daycare with a nice ''early preschool'' structure (story and/or art projects, then snack, then playing outside, then lunch, then nap, then music and/or free play and/or outside) -- run by a woman with a degree in early childhood educaiton -- since he was 15 months old, and has absolutely thrived there. His language skills have really improved (talked in complete sentences before 2 -- and was a non- talker at 15 months), he loves the other children, he loves art and dancing and music, etc. etc. Granted he's different than your daughter in some ways (the classic ''easy'' baby, though he does have sleep issues), but he's also imaginative (plenty of ''tea parties'' with his stuffed animals!), very outgoing, etc. This daycare situation has really benefited his social skills (he loves the other kids, likes to recite all of their names, give them kisses and hugs) and he's starting to show real empathy for the feelings of others. So I'm absolutely convinced that high-quality group daycare benefits young children -- in fact, my son has done better there than he did in the nanny-share he was in from 6 to 15 months (with an excellent nanny). If you feel that the daycare situation you've found is high quality, it will be fine for your daughter. Karen

There is no right or wrong answers to your question. Human beings are very adaptable creatures. Do whatever you think is right for you and your child. If you think she's too young, then wait. She seems to be having a wonderful life with her nanny. Preschool is not mandatory. If you think she would enjoy the company of other kids and shared care, go for it. She will most likely adjust well to the change. good luck

I'm not sure why you think that ''it will be good for her to no longer have one on one care all of the time'' at 2 years old? You're right, she is still very little and I think that one-on- one care with a nanny who takes her to Gymboree, Lawrence Hall of Science, etc. sounds GREAT for her! My first daughter went to preschool at 2 yrs. old and had a very difficult adjustment. My second daughter will start preschool in the fall, at the age of 3, and I think that she will be much better able to adjust with the change. Granted, they have different personalities and are different children, but I do think that children do better in preschool if they are a little older...there is such a difference between a 2 yr. old and a 3 yr. old! They are more social, able to share/play/interact better with other children, etc. My daughter will be going to a Montessori school and I recall the director saying that 3 year olds just adjust better than the younger children (they start children there at 2 yr. 9 months - and not younger - just for this reason). If you can, why not have her stay home with one-on-one care for another year? a mom

I started my daughter in preschool 2 mornings/week just 2 weeks after she turned two. She was the youngest one in the class, but it was a great experience for her. I was worried she would be clingy, so I wanted to put her in a social environment. 10 months later, she is now confident, independent, polite, and VERY social. It was a very relaxed preschool and they explicitly taught things like how to make friends, so it was a great choice for her.

Just wanted to share our experience! Jaime

We started our son in school at 2.5 years. We were going to wait until 3, but were expecting a new baby and thought the transition would be better before the new baby than after. Shortly after turning two he was much more interested in playing with children his own age and older, and I found that most of those children were not at the park anymore and were in school. The result is that my child LOVES his school, which he attends three mornings a week. He asks to go and see his ''friends'' which include all the kids in his class and others, and the teachers. School is financially more reasonable than a nanny and offers a lot more learning and socializing activities in my opinion. Our friends also started their daughter at 2 at the same school and she loves it too and goes every morning during the week. Just make sure the school has a small # of kids in their 2 year old class. ca

Sounds like you're doing the right thing. We started our children in preschool at age 2 and they loved it. They enjoy the stimulation they don't get at home. Since you're only sending her for 3 or 4 mornings a week, she'll still have plenty of one-on-one time with you. Plus, that way you can get some of the more boring housework done when she's having fun in preschool, and then when she comes home you can devote yourself to doing things she likes. mom of kids who loved preschool

I'm curious to see the responses to this one, as I have been contemplating the same issure re: my 21-month-old daughter. I have not been through it, so I may not have the advice you want. But I wanted to let you know that when thinking about when my daughter should start preschool I took an email poll of about 8 of my friends with older children asking their advice. Now, these moms worked part-time or were home full-time. So their kids didn't HAVE to have much out-of-home care. But all of my friends (except the 2 with 3+ kids who seemed rather desperate to get the last one out of the house) said ''what is the rush?''. They all said the kind of activities you described are probably plenty for a 2-year-old. They also reminded me that if my daughter started preschool this fall, she would have 3 years of preschool prior to kindergarten which seemed like overkill. Many also mentioned that even at 3 and 4 their kids got physically tired from being at school, which was another reason not to send a 2-year-old. My intuition about my own child matched their advice, and I will keep her home next year. We may do a cooperative preschool 2 days a week where I go with her each time, as I do think she will benefit from some minimally structured activities. But I think between music classes, art classes, Gymboree, library, park, zoo, museums, etc. a 2-year-old can get plenty of interaction and structure without being in preschool. anonymous

Our daughter (who had a similar social life, care arrangement as your child) started pre-school this year at 2. We were on a waiting list hoping to get in next year, but there was a mid-year opening, so we felt she had to take it. She had a hard time transitioning- it was just very stimulating for her. She was always exhausted by the end of the morning, and very whine-y about going. That said, she absolutely loves her school now, she wants to go every day of the week. I see the same thing with the other two year olds- they're all really growing into the program now that they're turning into 3 year olds.

It was the right thing to do for our family because we were very much committed to this particular school ( a co-op), but if I were to do it again in a perfect world scenario, I'd wait til 3. The 3 year olds just really get the large group scene and the transitions from one activity to another.

If you can, I'd wait. two cents

Clearly your instincts will guide you about what is right for your particular child. My experience is that I have been very glad that I have had my son, now 3 1/2 years old, in smaller non-preschool settings. He will start a ''montessori'' preschool this fall.

He has had a combination of Nanny/Parent/and small group in- home daycare. I give a lot of credit to his daycare provider, Sharyn Peterson of Wee Two Todddler House for providing wonderful loving guidance to all the kids in her care that has enabled them all to develop their own sense of strength and confidence, and to develop social skills that reflect kindness and empathy.

I wondered about starting preschool early as well, since it is now very common to start kids at 2 years old. But more and more, as I have watched him grow, I am really glad he has had this time to learn and grow in the context of his 5-6 ''buddies'' as he calls his daycare friends, without the larger pressures that a bigger peer-group and more curriculum-based program can bring.

This small group setting has felt like a nice interim step to help him develop socially, physically, and intellectually.

Good luck! bryson


Is it OK to wait till she is 4?

August 2005


Hello BPN friends,
My daughter is 2 and a half years olds and we are expecting our second child. I am a full-time stay and home mom and absolutely love it! My question is this; I hear all kinds of opinions on sending children to pre-school. I fully understand that it is good for a child to attend some pre-school before going to kindergarten however, I have got mixed advice as to weather it is ok for me to wait until my oldest is 4 years old to attend pre-school. She is very bright and I am not just saying this because I am her mom. I just feel she is a very well adjusted kid. We have many friends with kids that she plays with every week, she takes art classes and music classes and my husband and I spend our time as a family 100% (except for his work week). Sorry to ramble, but my feeling it that she is a happy, bright child and because I am a stay at home mom and will continue to be for long time, I feel NO rush in sending her to pre-school until she is 4. I don\x92t believe I am being selfish, just to me it seems natural to keep my child home with her sibling and myself until she is 4 and then putting her into pre- school for a year before going on to Kindergarten. I guess if I were going back to work or just didn\x92t thoroughly enjoy being a full-time stay home mom then I might feel different but since I am and she is a happy child I just wonder if waiting until she is 4 is OK? Please if YOU personally or professionally have experience or advice in this matter, I appreciate your honest opinion. Thanks and be well and Hug your kids everyday as much and often as you can as they are little (BIG) miracles!
SAHM in need of advice about preschool!

What timing! As I dropped off my second son for his first year of Kindergarten yesterday, I was OVERWHELMED with the sense that I had only had five years with him before he is now off into the world. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't seem like enough. He did go to one year of preschool, so he started at about age 4. I say trust your instincts. I say one year of preschool is probably enough, especially if she gets lots of interaction with friends and family as it is. I say once she starts school, life changes drastically and you never get ''the little years'' back.

Perhaps I say too much!

We now have a 1st grader and a Kindergartner, (and two smaller ones at home...) and I can't say I always have absolutely loved being a stay at home mom. But I'm aware enough to know that I am definitely going to miss these days when they are gone, and it sounds to me like you know that too. Keep her with you -- it's what you want to do anyway, right? PLUS, you could go with the wait and see route. Plan to keep her home, and if something changes (like if when she turns three, like my own three year old daughter, she all of the sudden seems to be going on 16...), or she starts to seem like she would really benefit from the structure of preschool, you could look into openings half way through the year. That is what I am doing with my own three year old -- I'm going to see if there are openings at our preschool in January.

Sorry to go on...touched a ''first day of school'' nerve...good luck. Monica

To preschool or not to preschool is a tough question to answer. Frankly, I think that you aren't hurting your child by keeping her out until kindergarten. She may be a little behind the curve in school practices (learning to line up, cooperative play, etc) and she may be exposed to glue and glitter a little later in life (kidding), but it will level out pretty quickly. You have to make decisions based on what is best for your own situation.

I am a SAHM with a two year old and a newborn. I thoroughly enjoy my career choice. Yet, I put my own child in preschool two mornings each week. I enjoy the few hours a week that preschool allows me to have alone with my younger child. As you may have noticed, toddlers love to be the center of attention and it only gets worse with a new baby around. A few months before my second child was born, I put my older child in pre-school a few mornings a week. I wanted it to be a place that she was used to long before the baby was born.

That said, I don't think that putting my child into preschool gives her a leg up getting into Harvard or Berkeley. But, my child loves the music, plaground time, crafts and Spanish that are offered at her preschool. We do all of these things at home, too. For me, though, that preschool times allows me time to totally focus on my younger child.

Also, I will put my younger one into preschool next year even though we are not planning for baby #3 quite yet. I do think that it is also important for me to have a little time that is just for me. I am able to give my children so much more when I have a little time to recharge my batteries. But that is me. You may not need any down time just for yourself.

Keep in mind, that there are alternatives to 'the preschool down the road' or offered through church. Many parents (not me) put their children in cooperative preschool environments that rotate from home to home so that they can have a higher level of involvement with their children.

Don't worry about what other people think or say if you choose to keep your child home. I have friends who are SAHMs that put their children in five mornings each week and some who are keeping their children home until kindergarten. All of us have bright curious children. We are encouraging their development in a way that is best for each of us and our families. SAHM Happily preschooling in Berkeley

I have been considering this extensively in recent weeks, so understand where you're coming from. I have a 3 yr. old DD and 8 mo. old DS. I think the benefits of preschool depend largely on individual families dynamics/needs. It sounds like you have a great situation with your daughter, and because of that I would NOT send her to preschhol until 4. Preschool is not necessary to provide social/verbal/physical (i.e. pre ''school'') skills when a child is getting that in their home environment. I think that the push for preschool as a way to ''prepare'' kids for future learning/academics is a shame. Childhood is getting shortened. When preschool can help parents who work or dont enjoy spending ALL their time with their kids, that's a good use of it (in moderation), but I dont agree with the idea that kids ''need'' socialization/preparation. You may want to look into some schools and see what kind of philosophy and schedule flexibility they have. Things change when the second baby comes. And I have found the early 3's to be the most challenging with DD so far, but also a time where she has blossomed socially and in her interest in the world. In our case it came down to this: I wanted to preserve the ''purity'' of her childhood at home with me. She has been raised with no TV, no junk food, and otherwise sounds like your DD, so I was wary of her being introduced to these things by other kids at p-school (of course I know this is inevitable, but its a matter of how long I can keep her innocent). On the other hand, she runs off at the park to play with other kids of all ages, and is recently very interested in other people, and the constant ''why?'' has started. She just seems newly hungry for more life, where she used to be (3 mos ago) much more introverted. Also, balancing the baby's needs (for a 90 min nap, for example) and her need for more action/activities is hard on her....and me. And lastly, my Dh works A LOT and we have no local family and few contacts yet (new move). So after MUCH deliberation, I decided to send her, at 3, mwf mornings for a break for me and increased stimulation for her (NOT academic preparation, as I am anti anything to do with early intellectual preparation for young children who have that from home. My whole family is highly educated, and from very prestigious schools - if that matters in your decision - so I know my kids will get exposure to that whether they want to or not :) but they wont get their childhoods again, and one year is a loonnngg time in childhood). In short, if you are happy home with DD, great for both of you! But be open to things changing as she grows over the next 6 mos. and when the baby comes. You both sound lucky to me.
There's Always time for School

You can safely wait forever! Your child doesn't need preschool, or kindergarten for that matter (schooling isn't compulsory until age 6 so you don't have to send her to kindergarten if you don't want to). Enjoy your time with your child and send her to preschool if and when you are ready. Any benefit that preschool might theoretically have given her is not a lasting benefit anyway. Studies of preschool programs have found that by 2nd grade there is no difference between kids who went to preschool and those who didn't. And with the rich and loving environment with plenty of opportunities to play with other children that you are providing I would be surprised if preschool offered any benefit at all to your child. Anyone who tells you you are being selfish by keeping her home is crazy. I sent my two older children to preschool, but I'll be honest about the reason: I wanted a break. I think people who try to make it sound like preschool is necessary for their child are trying to avoid guilt because they found it necessary for themselves. I don't think that there is anything greatly wrong with preschool--it can be fun for kids and give them experiences that are different from what they get at home--but neither do I think it is necessary or better than spending time with mom in a stimulting and loving home environment. If you are concerned about getting her ready look for a kindergarten readiness checklist on the internet like this one. http://www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,21-14779,00.html
Enjoy your years with your child! susan

Good for you that you're so happy in your role! Good for your kids too! Upfront, my bias, which is obvious, is that your 2-3 yr old will probably enjoy some preschool time, and you may eventually like it too. Your child probably won't have a hard time in preschool if you wait till age 4, but you can also look at it this way: First, most kids start some preschool by age 3, and will spend 2 yrs with essentially the same group of peers, which is good bonding. Plus, it's enjoyable for her. She gets to do something that's really for her! Peers! Toys! A change of scenery! Second, you could just send her for a short program: 3 hrs, twice a week, even a cooperative, so you're participating. So it's not much time. Third, I suspect you may feel differently when that baby comes along, and your 3 yr old may feel differently too. She may be happier hanging out w/ peers for a few hours a day than spending the entire day watching mom take care of a demanding infant. Finally, many parents look at this as an equity thing: I spent xx time alone focused entirely on kid #1, perhaps I should have some focused one-on-one time with kid#2 also. You can get that with #1 in preschool. You won't be depriving #1 from sibling time. Plenty of time for that. But whatever you are happy with will be fine, I'm sure. I just think it's going to be easier on you all if the older child gets into preschool.

You're happy. Your child is happy. Count your blessings and enjoy the next year at home!

My 4 year old son is going to preschool for the first time this fall because he really wants to--not because anyone else thinks it's time. He just noticed all his friends going last year, and he wants to go too. I think my son is very well prepared and socialized, and he doesn't have the bratty behaviors that so many preschoolers pick up from eachother! (I'm hoping that being 4 will help him resist the influences a little better than he would have at 3!) I'm also hoping that my extra investment in our relationship will serve us well in his teenage years. I bet it will, and I bet it will for you too!
Enjoy, Not Hurrying

I'm a bit confused about the ages you are speaking of. You wrote your child is 2 1/ 2 and you are considering waiting until she is 4. Do you mean, you want to wait a year, until she is 3 1/2 before she starts pre-school. It sounds like you love being with your child, children and she has plenty of opportunities to play with other children, so go for it, follow your instincts. I think it is absurd that we live in a culture where we feel the need to ship our kids off to pre-school when they are still 2 if we don't need to. I have heard pre-school teachers say that they only have the school for parents who need it, and that for those families who don't need it the children are better off at home with a loving parent. My child is not starting pre- school until now and she is almost 4. I'm glad I waited, and it doesn't seem that she suffered in any way for NOT being in school until now. I fully support your choice if you prefer to keep her home for another year! kept mine at home Mommy


Regret postponing preschool till 3.9

Sept 2003


We decided not to send our daughter to preschool this fall. She is 2.9 years old and is not precocious. We decided not to send her because she would be the youngest and we thought she would be completely overwhelmed by being in a classroom with 23 other students. I am now mourning my decision as I watch all her playmates go to school. We will reapply for next year and she will still have 2 years of preschool before she starts Kindergarten. I would like to hear from other parents who decided to wait to send their child to preschool. Our daughter is also very shy which was another factor in this decision.
Signed, Mourning Preschool Decision

We DID send our 2yo to preschool, so perhaps I'm not someone you wanted to hear from....but I wondered, if you are ''mourning'' your decision, why not go ahead and send her to school? Most schools do have a few openings at times other than September, so it's worth considering. Even if you don't want to do it right away, you might consider starting her in January, when she's turned 3 and the spring ''semester'' starts. anon

We did the opposite of what you are doing: sent our then 2.8- year-old daughter to a mixed-age preschool where she was the youngest in the class. The school was wonderful and she loved the teachers and the activities, but she was not emotionally mature enough to connect with the kids very well until almost a year later. As it turned out, that was when most of the kids who were her age started preschool for the first time. So, although there were no negative effects at all of having started early, it's possible that she would have gotten more out of her first year had we waited until she was older. Plus, 2 years of preschool is more typical than 3. All in all, you have nothing to worry about. Lauren


Starting preschool at 2 1/2?

October 2002


I'm a ''stay at home mom'' who's looking into preschools for my daughter for next fall. Since she will only be 2 years and 6 months as of Sept 1 (the common cut-off date), many of the schools that require children to be 2.9 are essentially out of the question for me. I'm beginning to wonder if it might be better to just wait another year.

A little background so you know what I'm thinking (for what it's worth)... I originally thought my daughter would be going to kindergarten in '05, so it made sense to start preschool in '03. Now that I see what the age cut-offs are for kindergarten, it seems she won't go until '06 and so I wonder if maybe 3 years in preschool is a bit much (plus by waiting another year I'd have more options as to which school she could attend).

On the other hand, we are talking about child #2 sometime in the next year or so, and it would be nice to have her established in a school before the hypothetical baby arrives. Also, frankly, I'm with her *all* the time, and would love the time to myself that having her in preschool for a few mornings a week would give me! :) We have been attending (at various times) Gymboree and Music Together classes, which she *loves*. She is also very excited when we see children she knows at the park or in our various playgroups, so I tend to think she would enjoy going to preschool for all the activities and the social aspects... but then again, it's hard to say since she is a sensitive child and very attached to me.

I'd love to hear what other parents have to say about starting preschool at that age (given that it's a choice, not driven by a real need for childcare), especially as it relates to the child's personality. Do you think it's worth waiting, for the reasons I mentioned? What other factors would you consider? Advice, please. :) Many, many thanks!

I started my daughter in pre-school for two half-days a week when she was a little over two. (She's now a bit over 2 1/4.) As you have learned, most pre-schools don't accept such young children. She attends the Cottage Playhouse in Montclair, which is actually licensed as a daycare but run as a pre-school. The school has one mixed age classroom with 12 children (aged 2 to 5) and two teachers. It's a perfect environment for her. She loves older kids and learns so much being with them. She likes to pretend to be different big kids when she comes home; it seems to be a way to try on their confidence and big-kid abilities. It's really helped potty training progress because she has so many role models! The teachers are great at setting up activities that interest all the kids and have cultivated an incredible atmosphere of respect, love, and safety.

I read different books on signs of preschool readiness, and my daughter was definitely there, despite her young age. (I think Penelope Leach and Meg Zweibeck were two of the authors I consulted.) It's been a great arrangement for her and our family. Preschool has been a more reliable source of childcare than a part-time sitter, and the social stimulation and variety of activities have really engaged her. We have another baby coming in January, so I had a similar motivation as you. I know that it wouldn't be ideal for all young kids, but she is really able to communicate with people outside the family, is able to spend time away from mom and dad, and has a great interest in the activities they do at school.

Hope this helps. -- Ilana

I think it obviously has to do with what developmental state your child is at. Last year we decided to put our 2.5 year old in preschool from 9-12:50 five days a week because our nanny suddenly decided to go to school parttime. Otherwise, I would have waited until she was 3.5 -- but I'm SO glad that she went in at 2.5. I hadn't realized that some of the things that I was attributing to normal terrible twos were in fact that she was needing more stimulation and more challenge than she was getting -- and to be a ''bigger girl'' than I was treating her. (Before she started preschool she was in Gymboree, Music Together, a ballet class, art at MCPC, weekly trips to the zoo, aqarium in SF, play dates, etc... which I thought was PLENTY of stimulation.)

The first 2 weeks were hard, and then she flourished far beyond what I could have imagined -- loved the independence, the cool toys/activities, her friends, having a lunch box. As a matter of fact, nearly all of our games that she wanted to do at home involved playing preschool.

I liked her only going until 12:30 so that she could have a good nap at home and lots of 1:1 time. Looking back, I think she would have had a really hard and frustrating year had I waited until she she 3.5 before giving her this experience.

The decision to put her in at 2.5 was hard/traumatic for me, but I had no idea how happy she was going to be.

I don't think that every environment is right at that age. We ended up at Growing Light Montessori, which was perfect for her. Things I liked: small class size, around 8-10 kids, 2 teachers, all toddler class with separate play area, really astute and nurturing teachers who would carry her around and hug her if she was having a ''needy'' day, and lots of great activities that she adored and were far better and different than toys commonly available. One piece of advice my wise sister gave me which prompted me to look at Montessori is that if your kid is not especially large or aggressive that the Montessori method (properly applied) gives a bit more protection. Big emphasis on sharing, taking turns, respecting other's ''work'', that provides a chance for every kid to do whatever they want without having to get their first, or be the fastest. I think that philosophy was what my daughter responded to the most. There is also an emphasis on trust and respect for the kids as being very capable beings which she ADORED -- she loved the fact that she was asked to put work away when finished, throw away a used napkin, etc. Made her feel very big girl.

Please feel free to email me with any questions -- this is a topic that I'm pretty passionate about as I had such a profound change in opinion! nancy

my son started preschool last year two weeks before his 2 1/2 year old birthday. He was by no means the youngest in the school. You sound like you have some good reasons for wanting her to start preschool, and it also sounds like she might do really well at the right school. (Another reason to do it now is to get the whole preschool search thing over with by the time your second child comes along!!) My son will have had three years of preschool before he starts kindergarten, which my husband thinks is out of control, but on the other hand, if you can afford it, why not? I love talking to him about what he does at school, and he is very proud to have his own ''place'' to tell me about. I had him at the preschool 2 days a week last year, three this year, plan to have four next year, and then by the time he starts kindergarten he'll be all set for the big 5 day/week commitment. Good luck! Fran R.

I just put my daughter in preschool last month at barely 2 years old. Her birthday was just 3 weeks before school began! I wanted to write because our family sounds like yours - I am a stay-at-home-mom and we do many of the activities you mention: Kindermusik, Gymboree, playgroups, Habitot classes, etc. My daughter is also sensitive and a bit shy and clingy, but loves learning new things and is excited when we go to our activities with other children.

SO... I had a hard time deciding on preschool, but enrolled her anyway. I figured if she wasn't ready I would take her out and try again next year. (We were lucky enough to find a preschool that starts at 2!) She has been there a month and loves every minute of it! She is the youngest child, but is one of the happiest and most involved in the classroom. She is bright and talkative and understands that I am coming right back after class. She hands tissues to the children who are crying (there are lots of those too!) and tells them that their mothers will come back too! She loves the activities and extra stimulation, and now seems a bit bored with me! lol

The thing I did that was really helpful was to join a ''Mommy and Me'' PRE-preschool class this summer. Once a week we went to ''school'' together. The class was just like a regular preschool class except that the parents went with the children. So at the end of that class I explained to Kaytlin (who loved every minute of it) that she was a big girl now and could go to her own school all by herself. She was excited, but didn't quite know what that meant. So for a few weeks before preschool started we talked a lot about what would happen there and where I would be while she went to school. We went to class the first day and Kaytlin marched right in and told the teacher that she was going to school by herself and Mommy was going home! We never looked back :-) And I am thoroughly enjoying my two free mornings each week!

Good luck with your decision! Just remember that nothing has to be permanent - if you enroll in preschool and it isn't working, there is no shame in taking her back out. In the Bay Area, there is probably another kid on the waitlist who wants your spot anyway! Jaime

Pre-K programs are a great place for that last year of pre- school for fall birthday kids. My daughter is in a wonderful program and there are several great Pre-K classes in the Bay Area. If your child is ready to start preschool and would benefit from it, then don't worry about that third year. There are more Pre-K options this year then there were last year and I bet the trend will continue. jc

We started our 2 year, 4 month old daughter in preschool in 2000, 3 mornings a week and have found it to be a positive experience . She loves her structured program, which has a curriculum, but emphasizes play and developing social skills more than academics. She has developed some stong attachments to her teachers and we feel she is enriched by having exposure to the other kids and teachers at school. We were lucky to find a combination daycare - preschool which didn't require she be potty trained. We chose to start preschool earlier anticipating the birth of our second child and knowing we would need time with the new baby as well as a way to cope with the adjustment of our older child. If you can afford the extra expense, its a great way for stay at home parents to get a short break. We are now starting our second child at the same age in the same program and are excited and happy it has gone so well for the family! K.C.

We started our daughter in preschool when she was 2 yrs 2 months' old. Obviously, they don't require that the kids be potty trained. She had been attending full-time daycare since she was 3 months old as my husband and I both work full-time. Our daughter has thrived at her preschool! This is her third year, and technically this year is pre-K. We really felt our daughter was ready at 2 to start preschool, but waited a few more months just to make sure. We initially wondered if it might not be too early, but once we saw our daughter thriving so quickly there, we knew we had made the right decision. All of this, of course, depends on the child and the school. Even if you feel your child is ready, if the school is not a good match for your child, it won't work out. We were lucky it worked out and it's been so cool to see her develop socially, emotionally, intellectually, etc. Lori


Start preschool before or after new baby?

November 2002


We are expecting a new baby at the start of summer 2003 and have a toddler who will turn three right around that time as well. Originally our plan was to start him in preschool next fall. Some of the schools we are considering run all year, and could accept him before the new baby arrives, which seems like a good idea. Can anyone offer experience and advice about benefits of starting preschool before or after new baby? I know preschool is a big change for kids, and we want to make the transitions of school and new sibling as easy as possible. Cheryl

My biggest concern is for newborn and mom's health. If you send your 3yo to preschool, especially for the first time, he'll get sick often for the first 4 months. He'll inevitably spread it around the household. It'll be inconvenient for parents to take care of the sick household. It may also result in the newborn getting earaches and such, needing antibiotics, and restless sleep from congestion. I think breastfeeding helps lessen the severity.

I advise to wait until 4yo to start preschool. Then he can suffer the requisite sick days, adjust to a routine, obey teachers, make friends and learn all the Pre-K skills so he doesn't have to learn all that in Kindergarten. Baby and mom/dad won't have to go through all the adjustments along with 3yo. kim

My son started pre-school within a month of the birth of our second child, and from day one it's been great for him. Loves the school, the teachers, the other kids. He was excited about the baby, pre-school (we had visited it several times beforehand), and his 3rd birthday, which also happened in between the other events. But he's also the type of personality that likes the attention and excitement. It could have gone the other way just as easily. For him, going to pre-school was all ''his'' - something the baby couldn't share. He's great with his sister, possibly because he's not at home all the time competing. If you have the option of introducing school before the birth, it certainly sounds less stressful for everyone, and would give you more time to help your child adjust if necessary. Helen

If your child can start preschool a while before the baby is due (not just a week or two), I highly recommend it. She will have a cahnce to develop a new routine and new friends, and you will have a little time for all the last minute stuff (or just relaxing). If she starts close to when the baby is born (either before or after), I think that adds to the feeling (already likely to some degree) that the new baby's arrival itself has led to the big change, or that you would rather spend time with the new baby than with her. If she is already enjoying her new ''big-girl'' activities well before the baby comes, it won't seem quite so drastic, I think. If you can't start well before, I would wait until quite a while AFTER, so the two changes don't seem linked. R.K.

I know that in our case, having our daughter in preschool before the baby came was a huge blessing! She already had established a place of her own, with new friends, and more importantly, a routine that did not change when the baby arrived. Although her life at home was changing, and at times confusing, school remained exactly the same, and this was such a wonderful comfort for her. It gave her a place to go to each day where she could simply be herself, and not the new big sister, or mommy's helper, and so on. And, although it may not be very P.C. for me to say, it was a nice break for me and for her. She arrived fresh home from school each day ready to embrace her sister, and I--having spent time alone with the new baby--felt that I could indulge her with my time and not feel guilty about it. Good luck with your decision! Marja

I think the answer to your questions depends upon...what kind of toddler do you have, and how you think you can cope with both a toddler and a baby at home(at the same time).

We had a similar situation. Our 2nd child was born in late April, and our 1st child was due to start per-school in the Fall just after he turned three. My toddler is so HIGH energy that I ramped up his time with his nanny just after the baby was born, and then placed him in his new pre-school early during their summer session. Turned out to be the BEST thing for me b/c I would not have been able to handle both all day, every day(my husband is an attorney who works long hours). My son loved his new school, and the summer session provided a wonderful introduction and place to call his own. I was able to have quality one-on-one time with my newborn, which was relaxing for me. I must mention that my son has never had separation anxiety issues, so pre-school was a very easy transition for him. He goes five days a week from 9-2pm. Good luck!
- A mom who couldn't wait for pre-school to start!


Start at 2.9 or wait till 3.9?

January 2003


My child will be 2 yrs and 9 Months next September. Is it better for him to attend a pre-school where the children range in age from 2-3 or 2.9 - 3.9 - should he be the youngest or the oldest in the class?

I think it depends totally on you child's personality. Some kids love hanging around with older kids, trying things, and not minding if their skill level isn't the same. Others continually feel inadequate - that they aren't as capable, and can never catch up. Some enjoy being the ''big kid'', either as leader or care-taker of the younger ones, while others feel like being the oldest is boring (especially if most of the activities are geared to the younger ones). So, try to figure out your own child's tendencies. R.K.

My child has an October birthday, and here is what I'm thinking about the situation. First of all, at preschool age, I think you need to look at the individual child and not just his or her birthdate to decide if he or she is ready to start the socialization that is so important in preschool. My son has been asking to go to school for several months now, and I think he'll be more than ready at almost 3 to join with other kids in preschool. I am not so confident that he'll be ready to start kindergarten at almost 5, however. So I am looking for programs that offer a third year of preschool or a pre-kindergarten class. When the time comes, I plan to decide what to do with the help of his preschool teachers. Common wisdom these days is to start kids, especially boys, in kindergarten later. Carolyn


Waiting till 4 to start preschool

April 2002


Hello. I have a question about the chances of getting my son into a preschool if I wait until he's four.

I was planning to wait until my son is 4 to send him to preschool. He's 2 1/2 now (he'll be three in July) and in a family day care situation that we love and that suits me, a single mom who works full time. The preschools I'm interested in are telling me that it is unlikely he will get in because there are almost never any openings for four year olds.

Does anyone out there have experience with waiting until your child is 4 to go to preschool? Any experience with preschool admissions for a first-time attending 4-year old? Any advice on how to proceed? Should I give up on our wonderful family day care and hustle to get him into a preschool now in case I can't get him in when he's 4 (which may be pointless since the admissions process for 3-year olds is over at most places)?

Thanks! ~Rebecca

Don't even consider putting an end to good childcare situation so that you can participate in another one with uncertain results. Preschools - especially exclusive ones - are notorious for creating parental anxiety over admissions. You should be skeptical about any school that is attempting to manipulate you into applying prematurely. When it comes to child care - especially in the case of single-parent families - you should pick the childcare situation that is right for you. There will be an appropriate preschool for your child when he or she turns 4. Just take your time and keep looking. noshmama

We waited until my son was turning four to apply to preschools because we were happy with his daycare situation and were in no hurry. Sorry to say that we did discover that in quite a few schools, four was too late. Having said that, I can tell you that we did get into a preschool (a cooperative) where we are happy. In your situation, I would just sit tight for now and apply early and often for next year. But for other people, I would say that if you do want your child to attend a preschool, it might not be a bad idea to get them started when they are three or so. In my son's case, he entered a school where many of the kids had already been there a year and had the benefit of knowing one another and their teachers, surroundings, etc. I wish now that we had started him a year earlier. Linda

I recommend that you contact several schools that you have seen mentioned in a positive way. Contact them soon. Let them know when you would like your son to start, when his birthday is, therefore what age he will be, and why you want to wait until then. You may also want to state that you understand there may be few openings for 4 year old boys at that point. Ask them when you can visit their facility for a tour. If you like the place, get on their waiting list ASAP after(or during) the visit. If they understand that your realize the openings will be limited, then they may be relieved and may treat you in a calm manner and may be glad to put you on their waiting list for the start time you want. If you get on enough lists, you are likely to be offered at least one space when they learn that some other 4 year old boy is moving out of town or going to kindergarten earlier than expected. Best of luck. I think you will get a spot somewhere. Stay in touch with them and be positive with them. Their jobs aren't easy. Suzanne

This was the exact situation for my son. He stayed with his family day care, where he had been since he was 4 months old, until he was 4 1/2. He is now in a pre-school for one year. This was a very good decision for us, and in his last year in day care he really thrived. The transition to pre-school was relatively easy. Things that made it easy were talking about all the new things he would learn, supporting his growing up, and having a ''moving on/graduation'' ceremony at his family day care. Regarding getting into a preschool: yes. I found that many schools did not have an opening for him at that age, but there were several that I liked that did have a space. I say- don't sweat it too much. Maybe you won't get into your first choice, but it will porbably work out well anyway. By the way- we go to Via Nova, which will likely have an opening, and we're very happy there. Good luck. Mona