I have a different type of question and very much value your input.
Where I live there is some social pressure to start one’s child in a daycare/preschool at the age of 2. The school we selected is considered one of the best and has been around for 30 years, so I know we will be in good hands. They have a special program, routine set up that includes independent play, group play, outdoor play and a group meal.
My dilemma: what do think is the optimal age to place one’s child in a daycare/preschool setting? Should it matter that 80-90% of his peers are already in such a setting? Will he be behind socially or emotionally if I wait 3 months, 6 months, one year?
If I do start him, I would only put him in for 1/2 day and he would take his afternoon nap at home.
I am anxious for your response.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
I laud you for giving such careful consideration to this decision. I have to admit, hearing the words “social pressure” immediately gets my back up. Making choices for our children is hard enough without dealing with the opinions of other parents! If you have doubts about any decision that affects your child, don’t be swayed by pressure from others. Ever.
If a particular school tells you that your child cannot enroll unless he begins at age 2, or urges you to start your child earlier than you wish to for any reason, run for the hills. The school is not a good philosophical fit for you. And when your children are teens (like two of mine are), you’ll hope and pray that they don’t give in to social pressure either.
Since the RIE classes I facilitate wind down when the children are 2 to 2 ½ years old, I’m often asked about preschool/daycare readiness. My personal opinion is that group socialization is helpful and positive for a child of 3 or 4, but toddlers 2 years of age or younger do not need to socialize in a group setting.
Group care adds stress to the life of a preverbal child (which is not to say a baby cannot handle it and thrive — just something to consider). If we can’t yet communicate all our needs verbally, combined with the fact that we are being cared for in a group, it will be more stressful for us than being cared for at home, even in the most ideal setting. Playing with one friend from time to time, going to the park, meeting the plumber and saying “hi” to the mailman is plenty of social interaction for a child 2 and younger. If you have the choice to keep your son home for another year, he will only benefit.
For many families, group care is a necessity. Needing (or wanting) child care and having access to an excellent facility like the one you describe are good reasons to begin daycare or preschool.
It’s curious to me that age 2 is now considered the time to begin preschool in some circles. It used to be 3 to 3 ½. Children aren’t maturing any faster now, but they are expected to be ready to begin school earlier. Hmmm.
Whenever you decide to start your son in school, whether now or later, be certain about your decision. Know for sure that you are choosing the right time and place, so that you project conviction. That will make the transition much easier and smoother for you and for your boy.
I consulted an associate, Roseann Murphy, who studied with infant/toddler expert Magda Gerber and directed a child care center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers for many years. She kindly offered her professional opinion:
“My first instinct is to suggest that she wait for at least six months. There is much development that takes place between two and three. My optimal age would be three or older. Children this age have a command of the language and are usually toilet trained (depending on the child). Separation is a little easier. (The caregiver-to-child ratio in daycare/preschool averages 4 children to 1 adult from 0-24 months….then magically at two years the ratio changes from 8 to 14 children with 1, possibly 2 caregivers.)
If your reader is worried about not securing an opening …that is alright….there will be a place when the time is right. If she does not need child care because of work, then I would cherish the time she has for the next number of months and go to a few Mommy and Me groups where she is present.
David Elkind (psychologist, author of “The Hurried Child”) believes a later start is better. My dear friend Lois Robbert wrote a book in 1984 about preschool readiness and subscribes to the preschool age as three and above. She says, “Each child grows at his own natural pace and in his own time. It means respecting the child’s developmental level and not pushing him into school before he is ready. From a developmental view, it is understood that there is as much as a two-year difference in the development of children. Boys, in particular, are slower to develop than girls. A bright child may appear capable intellectually, but may have physical, social or emotional immaturity that would make it beneficial to spend more time at home” (“What is a Good Preschool Education?” Lois Robbert, UCLA 1984)
Magda’s approach would be very similar, as we know…
Children have a long school career ahead of them…years of socialization and academia. What a gift for a child to have the relaxation of home if it is possible…to spend time with Mother, bake, shop, play, etc. Socialization comes regardless.
For all of us in my age bracket, we can testify to how quickly time passes, how if we could get it back we might spend more time doing the relaxing/exploring thing with our children…”
Ditto everything Roseann said, especially her last thought. And if you decide to keep your son at home and don’t know what to say to your friends… how about, “Just need a bit more time with my little guy…before he’s off to school for the next 15 to 20 years.”
Molly, thanks so much for asking these questions. I hope this helps. Hopefully others will share their thoughts here as well…
All the best,