When is the best time to start preschool or daycare?

Q: I am a stay-at-home mom and many friends and family keep telling me my son should go to preschool or daycare 2 or 3 times a week for 3 hours a day.  They believe he should play with other toddlers and learn to follow instructions from someone different. Does he need this already? I take him to Gymboree and music classes, but does he really need to be left by himself? When is it an appropriate time to start preschool or daycare?

A: It's really up to you and what works for your family. It can be great for your toddler to learn to socialize with other children, be independent from you for awhile, gain familiarity with a school environment, and boost his learning. But you can also provide him with a rich, interactive, and fun environment right at home, with all the benefits of preschool. Just make sure you're offering him similar experiences. Consider arranging alternating "drop-off" playdates with another toddler's family so the children get used to being in someone else's care (and you get a short break). Finances, parent preferences, and scheduling are all valid issues to consider when deciding whether to make preschool or daycare a priority.  

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