Preschool is a way for children before the age of kindergarten to get a taste of what an educational experience outside of the home is like. There are several different ways that a teacher can approach the curriculum for kids under the age of 5, but most schools use art, activities, music, and games to teach some basic reading, writing, and social skills to these youngsters.
The first preschool that received federal funds in the United States was created by the Johnson administration in 1965. It was a half-day program intended to help low-income families give their children a “head start,” which would become the name of the program. Before the institution of this idea in the 1960s, only 10% of children were enrolled in a formal education program before the age of five.
A lack of funding for the program in the 1980s fueled the private sector to begin created for-profit preschools that could help families get started earlier with the educational process. By 2005, 69% of kids in the United States, over 800,000 children, were in a state-based preschool program. Many more received some level of education from privately-owned businesses as well.
Some states, including New York, Virginia, and Florida, are looking at universal preschool as an option.
If you are thinking about sending your little one to preschool, then these are the pros and cons you will want to consider.
List of the Major Pros of Preschools
1. It can be challenging to create a learning environment at home.
Children who are under the age of five typically learn better when they have opportunities to explore and play on their own. There are times when the environment at home can allow this to happen, but a preschool provides opportunities that are not always available for kids at their house. There are dedicated places for learning specific things when attending an early education program.
Children have access to art supplies, books to read, and time to spend with their friends all while getting to know what it is like to start learning away from home. These opportunities make it possible for kids to learn reading and writing much earlier than they would under the structure of the regular public school system.
2. Preschool is a place where kids can start to learn their social skills.
Young children receive some time to practice their social skills with daily trips to the park or the occasional play date with a friend. Attending a preschool provides a regular opportunity to interact with children who are roughly the same age. This gives them a chance to develop a deeper friendship that can last through the rest of the K-12 learning experience.
There are teachers at a preschool who will help to moderate the social interactions so that it can be a safe learning environment. Play dates or a park outing tend to have higher levels of adult interference, which means there are fewer opportunities for the kids to work on resolving their own conflicts or mistakes.
3. It gives children a chance to develop relationships with other trusted adults.
Unless your youngster has had sleepovers with their friends, there is an excellent chance that the only adults that the kiddo trusts are you and your partner, if you have one. Kids who do not trust other adults tend to cling to their parents or guardians with high levels of emotion. If they grow accustomed to being with one person every day and no one else, then even family and friends can struggle to interact with the little one.
By choosing to enroll your child into a preschool program, you are giving them an opportunity to develop a relationship with other trusted adults. It is a way to reassure them that they will be OK even though you as their parent may not always be around.
4. Preschool can provide children an opportunity to practice their patience.
Young children tend to operate in a world which expects instant gratification. Since they are often the center of attention at home with their parents, there is no need to learn how to sit and wait. When you enroll your kiddo into a preschool program, then they will realize that they are not the only child calling for the attention of a teacher. It will give them a chance to listen and to talk with other adults and children more often, learning how to comply with different requests even though it may not be what they want to do.
5. It provides a new level of exposure to different experiences.
Parents most certainly provide their young children with a wealth of different experiences that can help them to develop new approaches of life. A preschool can take this advantage to another level. Programs might include taking the class to a police station to sit in the car, run the siren, or even take a ride. Some schools might go to a local fire station, take the kids to the beach, or visit stores that are nearby to see what is in the neighborhood.
The curriculum can also include educational exploration experiences, such as raising a caterpillar so that it can turn into a butterfly. There might be musical performances, opportunities to learn a new sport, or even practice yoga.
6. Preschools offer preparation opportunities for kindergarten.
Preschool is an environment which prepares your little one for kindergarten one day. The routines that your child will have as they get older can be challenging for them without this opportunity because their only experience is the schedule that you keep at home without enrollment into a program like Head Start. Even going to a daycare or having a nanny around does not always prepare a child to follow the instructions of a teacher that your kiddo doesn’t know well.
Attending a preschool will also help your kiddo begin to establish a routine that has them waking up in time to get to school. They will learn what it is like to eat lunch away from home, how to learn and listen in the classroom, and how to interact safely with other children that are close to them in age. This advantage is why the transition from preschool to regular school goes more smoothly than it does if the child must go from their home environment to kindergarten.
7. Your child still receives the consistent structure and routine they need.
Young children struggle when their schedule is inconsistent. They need to follow specific routines that help them to develop their learning processes. Although attending a preschool does create a change in this process at first, you will discover that the good programs will work with what you were doing at home to create the consistency that your kiddo needs to have to start learning.
When you consider the social, emotional, cognitive, and language skills that children can learn in a safe preschool environment, this advantage makes the cost of an enrollment more of an investment in the future of your kiddo then an expense you need to manage today.
8. Preschools can help teach your child how to resolve conflict.
Does your kiddo get frustrated easily when something doesn’t go their way? Do you experience a lot of tantrums when the word “no” comes out? If so, then preschool could be an opportunity where your child could learn how to resolve the conflicts that happened to them throughout the day. Teachers can supervise the processing experience when difficult emotions arise to teach meaningful coping skills that they can carry with them throughout the rest of their life.
Even when there might be bullying or aggression in the classroom, kids get an opportunity to find a creative solution to their problems while practicing conflict resolution skills. This advantage makes the investment worthwhile because these skills are always used.
9. It teaches children how to respect different forms of authority.
There are always personalities that will clash when you put a group of people together. Some people are permissive, others are authoritarian, and there could be authoritative approaches used as well. When you enroll your kiddo into a preschool program, then you are giving them an opportunity to learn how to approach people who have these different styles. Even if you are adaptive at home and use all of them with your parenting approach, there are teachers who may prefer one specific style instead.
By learning how to interact in positive ways with these different approaches, your child will have tools that they can use throughout their life to manage conflicts, seek collaboration, and find creative ways to create opportunities for themselves.
List of the Major Cons of Preschools
1. The cost of preschool can be very high.
Head Start provides low-income families with an opportunity to send their child to a high-quality preschool program. If you do not qualify as a family for this program because you make too much money, then it might be difficult to find a private preschool that you can afford. According to information gathered by Baby Center, the cost of a preschool is comparable to the high prices that day care centers charge for care.
Depending on your geographical location, the average cost of sending just one child to preschool ranges from $4,500 to $13,000 per year. That is the equivalent of paying about $375 to $1,100 per month. Some families are unable to absorb that kind of expense, which is why they tend to focus on home-based activities instead. Some programs even raise the cost of tuition for every year that your child attends.
2. The schedule of a preschool can be difficult on some little ones.
Some preschools are very in flexible with their schedule, sometimes telling you the exact days and times that your child may attend their facility. If you are unable to meet those expectations, then your application will be rejected. When you need an alternative schedule to meet the demands of your job, family, or school, the costs begin to rise even more. You may find yourself rushing around each day to make the pick-up time, which can eventually impact your job or other activities.
This disadvantage is the reason why you do not often see families with siblings in the same age range attending preschool. The demands of the schedule, combined with the added cost for more children, is too much to bear for the parents or guardians.
3. Kids tend to get sicker when they are around other children.
Even if you practice strong hygiene habits at home, there’s an excellent chance that your kiddo will be sicker than usual when they start to attend a preschool program. It may only take a few days for your child to get sick when they start having social encounters with other kids their age because of the close proximity they have to one another in the classroom.
If your child has not had a lot of exposure to other kids before you decide to place them in a preschool program, then you will want to be prepared to take a few days off at home during the first month until their immune system grow strong enough to manage the situation. This disadvantage usually applies more often to families with an only child, but isolated households with multiple children can encounter this problem as well.
4. Kids can be clingy when you drop them off at a preschool.
There are some children who see the idea of attending preschool as an opportunity to learn and make new friends. Then there are the kiddos who wail and scream because they do not want their parents to leave. Choosing to enroll your kiddo into a local program means that your morning or afternoon transitions are going to change. This issue can be tough on them as well as it is on you.
Going to preschool is a significant change for everyone. Kids can sometimes harbor separation anxiety because they become afraid of the idea that you might never come back. There can be uncertainty about the new classroom, the teachers, or the other children who are there. This disadvantage can make for a challenging drop off routine during the first few days of attending the program.
5. There will be days when you child doesn’t want to go to school.
Any parent with a child in school will tell you that there are days when their kiddo will do anything in their power to avoid attending classes. The same is true for kids who attend a preschool program. Even if they have adjusted to your drop off routine and no longer cry or kick at you when you try to leave, there might be tantrums which happen at home because they don’t want to go that day. This issue usually occurs when you are already running late for work or some other appointment.
This disadvantage will usually fade over time, but there can be some children who find the preschool program to be boring. This feel can stimulate the adverse behaviors that can lead to problems with attending in the future.
6. You will have more food and laundry expenses.
There is a time commitment to consider when you enroll a child into a local preschool program. If you work with a private provider, then there may be an expectation that your kiddo brings their own lunch to the classroom each day. You may also need to pack spare clothes in case they get dirty during one of their adventures or create more artwork on themselves instead of the project that the teachers have for the day.
The time and monetary commitment that parents or guardians must have when managing their preschool schedule can be surprisingly large. You will be doing more laundry during the week, have more food expenses with the packed lunches, and have the various activity fees to pay as well. Some schools may not even have the capability to warm up food, which means you’ll need a thermos to manage the situation.
7. There may not be a lot of one-on-one time for your child.
Preschools must follow a specific teacher-to-child ratio as part of their licensing requirements in most places around the world. That means you have a guarantee on the level of supervision that will be present for your kiddo in the classroom. What you may not realize is that the ratio can be somewhat high, so it may be virtually impossible for your child to receive some one-on-one time with their instructors.
That means there can be safety incidents that occur at the preschool which the teachers do not catch until it is too late. The rate of injury at preschools in the United States is about 49 for every 1,000 children during each eight-hour period of exposure. There can be issues with accidents, bullying, or aggression as other kids attempt to figure out healthy ways to interact with one another.
8. Some preschool teachers are abusive.
Although this disadvantage is rare, there is still the possibility that your child’s preschool teacher could be abusive toward them. In March 2019, two Illinois staff members at a preschool were placed on administrative leave after an accusation was made that said they were making children stand make it as a form of punishment. This issue occurred in the Head Start program for the community. There are also issues with neglect and sexual abuse that occur in some facilities.
You must perform your due diligence with a prospective preschool program to ensure that your child will be safe there after dropping them off for the day. Then make sure that you talk with your kiddo after picking them up to see how their day went and if there is anything that you need to know about to protect them.
Verdict on the Major Pros and Cons of Preschools
Many children excel in a preschool program. It is a safe place for them to learn how to interact with others socially while getting an opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills. They will get to explore their community, learn to trust other adults, and prepare themselves for what will happen in kindergarten later on in their lives.
Some kids prefer to learn by themselves and don’t have a desire to form social connections with children their own age. A kiddo in this situation might benefit more from an online learning opportunity like ABC Mouse if your family has the opportunity to keep a parent, nanny, or daycare provider at home.
The pros and cons of preschools apply in unique ways to each family. There is not a generic “right” answer which occurs in every situation. Talk to your local Head Start program or private schooling provider to see if there are openings that can match your schedule, and then take your kiddo on a test run to determine if they can adapt to this change in their environment.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.