More parents are struggling to decide when to start sending their children to school. If you are reading this, perhaps you are one of them too. But just because preschool starts accepting students at 2.5 years old and your child seems to be able to sing effortlessly to the ABC song, it doesn’t mean that he/she is ready to go to a school. Compulsory schooling age varies worldwide and there is a reason for that. That is because there is no one universal age that can determine a child’s readiness to enter school.

Sending your child to school early

Greg Brooks, a professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom believes that putting children in the school too early is unnecessary and can be risky because different children reach their developmental milestones at a different age. There is this risk of children being presumed as a ‘problem child’ for their inability to focus in class, listening to instructions and engage in academic tasks when actually, they just haven’t fully grasp those skills yet because they are still young.

On the other hand, recent researches have been showing that students who go to school a little later actually demonstrated better academic performances than their peers who were enrolled earlier. This practice of delaying a child’s entry to school, known as ‘redshirting’ in the United States,  are typically opted by parents to give their children more time to catch up to their peers in terms of academic, social or physical skills.

Girl happily painting using paintbrush and watercolour

When is your child ready to attend preschool?

As a parent, we only want the best for our children and in this competitive era where education is pretty much the key to climb the socioeconomic ladder, there is a pressure to put our kids into the school early so he or she is not left behind.

Readiness for preschool has more to do with your child’s development. Is he ready emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively to participate in daily programmes with a group of other students? Below is a checklist as a rough guideline to know if your child is ready to be put into a preschool.

  1. How independent is your child? Your child should be at least potty-trained and be able to take care of basic need like eating without assistance, washing hands after painting and sleeping alone.
  2. Has he gone to play dates/activities that require him to socialise with other children? Was he okay?
  3. Has your child spent time away from you? Will separation anxiety be an issue? If you have not been away from them, parents can schedule some opportunities like letting them spend the weekends with the grandparents or your siblings.
  4. Do you think he has the energy and stamina to cope with the activities scheduled for him? There will be art projects, field trips and games. Does your child get excited about activities like this? Or does he gets cranky moving from one activity to another? Also, preschools usually arrange nap time for the kids after lunch. So, if your child needs naps in the morning, it may not be the time yet to go to school.
  5. Do you have a fixed schedule for your child’s playtime, nap time and eating time? If not, it is best to set a standard schedule as preschools usually follow a predictable routine – playtime, circle time, lunchtime and more.

Girl holding paintbrush doing arts

Since children don’t miraculously acquire self-control and maturity, parents (with the help of caretakers, if you have any), will need to explore activities that can promote school readiness to your child. One of the ways to do this is by exposing them to
pretend-play or enrol them to a playschool. Playschool has been relatively popular in Malaysia now to prep your child for preschool.

To help you decide on which pre-school and the different approaches to send your child to, do read our article “Pre-School 101: Everything you Need to Know”.