Is Your Child Ready for Pre-school?

Parents question whether their pre-school aged children are ready for a structured nursery school setting.  Mighty Mommy shares some questions you can ask yourself to assess whether your child is ready to take that important step.

Cheryl Butler
3-minute read

Now that we’re heading into the second half of summer, parents are starting to think a bit about back-to-school.  (Some may even be dreaming about it!)  For parents of kids ages 3 – 5, making the decision on whether or not your child is ready to attend pre-school can be all-consuming, especially if you have a child that is typically a homebody and hasn’t interacted with other adults and children much.

Here are 7 questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to decide if your child is ready for that jump to pre-school:

Question #1: Is your child fairly independent?

How frequently does your child play with other kids?  How well does your child take turns and share toys?  Many pre-schools require children to have basic skills such as being toilet trained and being able to wash his hands after doing an art project.  You know your child better than anyone so do an honest assessment of how independent he or she really is in these areas.

Question #2: Is your child able to work on projects alone?

Pre-school usually involves lots of arts and crafts projects and other activities that require focus (even if just for short periods of time) on individual tasks.  Can your child be left on her own to do these types of activities or does she need constant 1:1 direction?

Question #3: How well does your child listen to and obey instructions?

Pre-school is when young kids need to start following instructions from adults other than mom and dad.  Is your young one able to listen to directions such as “Please come sit on the story time mat” or “Please clean up your blocks and put them back in the bin where the toys are kept"?

Question #4: Has your child spent time away from you?

Preschools usually follow a predictable routine: circle time, play time, snack, playground, maybe even a nap. There's a good reason for this.

Generally speaking, if your child has already been in the care of a babysitter while you are at work or a daycare situation, he might be better prepared to separate from you when he goes to pre-school.  If not, you can begin making arrangements for him to spend some time with a grandparent, neighbor, or a babysitter. Hire a sitter to stay with him for just a few hours so he learns that you will not always be the only adult he spends time with during the day.

Question #5: Is your child used to keeping a regular schedule?

Pre-schools usually follow a predictable routine: circle time, play time, snack, playground, maybe even a nap. There's a good reason for this. Children tend to feel most comfortable and in control when the same things happen at the same time each day. If your child is used to being at home without any particular structure, before sending her off to preschool, begin introducing some routines such as story time, a craft, and snack at regular times each day.

Question #6: Does your child have the physical energy for pre-school?

Whether it's a half-day or full-day of pre-school, kids keep very busy from the moment they walk in the door until they leave each day.  Is your child used to a lot of activity at this point and time or will he tire easily at preschool if he’s used to a lot of relaxing at home?

Question #7: Why do you want to send your child to pre-school?

Most importantly, assess what are your goals for sending your child to pre-school. Some of the most important benefits of pre-school are helping kids to socialize and begin to share and interact with other children and adults.  Do you think your child is bored at home or his daycare and is ready for more stimulation in a school setting? Are you just looking for a break and some alone time each day?  Once you decide what you hope your child will gain from attending pre-school and take the time to answer some of these questions, you’ll be ready to make a decision that is best for both your child and your family.

Happy Parenting!

Preschool image courtesy of Shutterstock.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.