It's truly amazing: the moment your baby turns two, they suddenly start to transform into a little person. They become more inquisitive, thoughtful, and dexterous. They better understand emotions, speak up when they want something, and even help with certain tasks.
To help make the most out of this magical time, parents might want to consider if school should be a part of their toddler's routine. If you're thinking about signing your child up for early preschool, learn more about the general benefits and advantages of different programs that are available across the region.
What Early Preschool Is and How It Benefits Children
Preschool is a form of early education that prepares kids for kindergarten. These programs introduce early reading and writing concepts, math, science, social studies, music, and creative arts to kids ages three through five.
Similarly, early preschool programs serve as a stepping stone for toddlers to get ready to attend those preschool classes. These programs introduce the same subjects, just at an earlier age (18 months through two years old). Not only that, but early preschool can have a significant impact on your child's social-emotional development. How?
Supportive classroom settings provide children with opportunities to learn:
- Fine Motor Skills
- Gross Motor Skills
- Listening Skills
Exposure to group settings early in life can also prevent behavioral issues and allow kids to get accustomed to a more structured routine. Most notably, these educational opportunities can lay the groundwork for your child's entire academic future. In fact, early interventions are shown to "have a significant impact on a child's ability to learn new skills and increase their success in school and life."
Additionally, academic experts note that in order to get the most out of these experiences, high-quality early child care that provides "warm, safe, supporting environments that are rich with language and conversations, and offer many opportunities to play and engage in hands-on exploration are key."
Why Early Education Is More Important Than Ever
Unfortunately, with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the youngest members of the population have experienced learning and developmental delays. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendations for language and communication developmental milestones. Previously, 24 months was the benchmark for a child having at least 50 words in their vocabulary. As of 2022, they have pushed this marker to 30 months of age.
Research shows that young children have not only experienced language delays, but they have also displayed deficits in their motor and cognitive development. This can be unsettling to the present day parents of toddler-aged kids. Research showed that "children who continued to attend high-quality early childhood education centers [during the pandemic] had enhanced development, compared to those children quarantined at home," revealing that early preschool can be a positive choice.
There are many ways for parents to help their kids get the skills and social interaction they need, and early preschool is an option to consider.
Benefits of Different of Types of Early Preschool Programs
When looking for early preschool programs, it's important to consider the learning approach that you think best suits your child as well as what you would like them to learn throughout their time in school.
Montessori school is a form of guided learning that allows your toddler to take charge of their educational experience. This self-paced, hands-on approach gives kids the opportunity to engage or simply observe in different sensory activities. These revolve around subject matters that children will build upon in their future-math, language arts, and cultural studies. The intent is to let a child's own natural curiosity inspire them to learn.
These teaching methods foster independence, spur creativity, enhance focus, and even bolster well-being into adulthood. Studies have also shown that this learning style can improve academic performance. This method of teaching has been around for over a century.
The Reggio Emilia approach to learning involves a community style education. What this means is that parents are a part of the process and most of the activities involve the entire classroom. Children learn by engaging their senses and partaking in open-ended projects. The philosophy is that mistakes happen and that we learn through exploration and experimentation.
Similar to the Montessori approach, the Reggio Emilia teaching method helps children to build social-emotional skills, it promotes academic advancement, and facilitates creative and critical thinking. Many times, early childhood preschool programs combine these two concepts.
The Waldorf program takes a hands-on approach while creating a home-like environment. This means that the teacher is the core component to the classroom, transitioning from grade to grade with the students. They incorporate the arts into all aspects of their curriculum and remove the instance of competition.
This program also brings higher scores on standardized tests and a greater love for learning, but if you plan to transition to public schools in the future, research shows that the change can be very difficult for kids in their formative years.
HighScope is another hands-on program that implements crucial topics like math, creative arts, language, and technology. Inspired by famed child psychologist Jean Piaget, this curriculum works on problem solving, critical thinking, and participatory learning opportunities. Research shows that this is another program that brings higher achievement scores and better social behaviors later in life.
Otherwise known as Mother's Day Out, Parent's Day Out, and Child's Day Out, these are programs that typically include or are centered around faith-based teachings and play. While they have learning opportunities built into the curriculum, these early preschool programs are not accredited educational institutions. Rather, they are a way for your child to build their social-emotional skills and give parents a break in the day.
For those looking for more affordable programs, consider signing your child up for school at a local college or university. Most of these educational establishments offer early preschool programs that are taught by students getting their degrees in Early Childhood Education and Development. You can also find similar vo-ed programs at early education childcare centers in many communities.
When signing your child up for any program, ask about their teaching style. Even if a school isn't specifically advertised as one of types of programs listed above, they tend to follow one or a combination of the curriculum styles. This can help you find the perfect program for your little learner!
Note on Playgroups
While playgroups can have also have many benefits for children (and even parents!), including social interaction and communication, early preschool programs will usually follow a more structured approach and have specific activities planned for children. Playgroups may be more casual, include more free play versus structured activities, might include both parents and kids, or may have fewer regular meeting times. Since some early preschool programs, like MDO's, may not be accredited or have certified teachers, however, it's important to check into these aspects if it's important to you in choosing your child's program.
Early Childhood Education Matters
No matter which option you choose, early education can make a positive imprint on your child's future. Other considerations to make when choosing a program are the cost, your child's specific needs (learning delays and special needs can limit their choices), the distance from your home, and the time commitment. Do your research, get recommendations, and schedule an in-person tour to ensure that you find the right program for your family.