Too young for preschool?

Now that your toddler is approaching 18 months old, you may wonder if he is ready for preschool. To help you decide, ask yourself these questions, suggests.

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Now that your toddler is approaching 18 months old, you may wonder if he is ready for preschool. To help you decide, ask yourself these questions, suggests.
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Has my toddler had previous temporary separations from me? The start to preschool may be more difficult for him if he has hardly spent time away from you.

You should try to drop him off with Grandma and Grandpa for a few hours, or leave him with one of your trusted friends for an afternoon.

Such separations get him used to not having you by his side all the time, and prepares him for preschool.

How are his social experiences? It can be quite challenging for little one to mix with others his own age, if he isn’t used to it.

That’s why it is helpful to take him to toddler playgroups long before you think about enrolling him in a preschool. Every interaction with his peers builds his resilience for meeting the social demands of preschool.

Does he get on well with other children his own age? If your toddler has played with his peers already, you’ll have been able to observe his social skills. Even at this young age, some children are more socially adept than others.

Encourage him to share his toys with his pals and to take turns, where possible. The gradual development of social skills prepares him for preschool, ensuring that he mixes well with others.

Does he cope well with change? Attending preschool involves many different changes for your tot. For example, he will have to meet new people, adapt to a new building and follow new routines.

All these changes make preschool life interesting, but at the same time can appear threatening. Some children cope better with changes than others.

Is he quickly at ease with strangers? Toddlers vary in their level of shyness – even the most outgoing 18-month-old can become anxious when meeting unfamiliar strangers for the first time.

Maybe your little one smiles and chats happily with anyone he meets. If so, he’ll regard the start to playgroup as an exciting opportunity.

But if he hides behind you, or refuses to respond whenever an unfamiliar adult tries to engage him, playgroup may unsettle him at first.

Does he stay calm when he doesn’t get his own way? Managing intense emotions is difficult for tots – that’s why they tend to explode with rage the moment something doesn’t go their way. Aggressive tantrums are common at this age.

Unfortunately, however, a toddler who lashes out the moment he can’t get what he wants may find himself socially isolated in playgroup. As a result, he could feel lonely and excluded.

Does he cope without needing your attention all the time? Preschool teachers understand that the typical toddler is attentionseeking, and they do their best to give each child the attention that they need. Yet there are limits.

A child who demands attention at home whenever he wants will also expect the same support level from the teachers. When that doesn’t happen – because they have lots of children to care for – he may become distressed.

If you answer “yes” to most of the above questions, your tot is probably ready for preschool and will settle in easily.

Otherwise, consider delaying entry until he is more mature. Still, you could enrol him in a half-day programme first and hope that it will encourage his maturity. The decision is yours.

"If you answer “no” to most of the questions, consider delaying entry until he is more mature."