Which Type of Preschool is Best for You?

Straight to Kindergarten

Q. What if we decide not to send our child to preschool at all, and keep her at home until she's 5? Will she be at a huge disadvantage when she attends kindergarten?

A. Surprise -- early-childhood experts say that preschool isn't absolutely necessary, and any disadvantage your daughter encounters would probably be short-lived. For instance, she'd probably need help in adjusting to daily school routines; she might also need more time than others to get used to being in a group and taking turns with materials. "But even without preschool, many children can master the fundamentals of kindergarten life in a short period of time," Katz says, as long as they're supported by teachers and parents. Of course, this assumes that during the preschool years you read and play with your child every day, that she plays regularly with other children, and that she occasionally spends time away from you with a sitter or relative. Play dates at other kids' houses would also be helpful.

Still, although your child won't suffer if she doesn't go, there are definite benefits to attending preschool. A child gains important social and emotional skills, says Wendy Masi, PhD, dean of the Mailman Segal Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. She'll learn to feel safe and comfortable away from home. She'll learn to be part of a group, to take turns and follow routines, and to make friends and work out conflicts. A good preschool will also encourage your child to pursue her own interests, whether it's writing her name or learning more about the natural world. By the time your child starts kindergarten, she'll have all those skills under her belt.

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