Is Your Child Ready for Nursery School? 4 Things to Consider

There are a variety of factors to think about before taking the plunge into the nursery school admissions process. The tricky thing is that in NYC, these factors need to be examined at least a full year in advance of enrolling, in some cases when your child is a newborn.

Is my child ready?

You should be confident that your child will thrive in a program requiring the ability to make transitions, follow multistep directions, use materials in an appropriate manner, and socialize with peers.

Am I ready for my child to separate from me?

Some parents believe that schooling does not need to begin until 3 or 4 (and sometimes even 5 years of age) and prefer that their child stay home with them or a caregiver for another year or two. In NYC, there are plenty of enrichment programs and nursery school alternatives that families can choose instead of enrolling their child in a more formal nursery school setting. Keep in mind, however, that if you have decided to keep your child home for an extra year you may have decreased your chances of admissions at schools that enroll their first class at a younger age.

Is my child old enough?

Although you may feel that your child is ready for a nursery school setting, the schools you have in mind may require your child to be a certain age when enrolling, down to the month. In most NYC nursery schools, there is no flexibility to this cut off, even if your child misses it by days. However, while nursery schools enroll the bulk of their children at the first open entry point, there are some schools that will add spots for subsequent years. Do your research.

Ask your pediatrician

Your pediatrician is a good resource for assessing your child’s readiness. At a check-up, you may notice that he/she will ask things like, “does you child have good eye contact?” or “does your child seem interested in the toys you have provided for him?” or even “is your child pointing to express his wants or needs?” These are all developmental milestones that are important when thinking about your baby’s school readiness. Although you need to apply to nursery school one year in advance of your baby attending, you want to make sure that your child is hitting their milestones in an age appropriate manner. If you have concerns about your child’s development, you should bring this to the attention of your pediatrician.

The majority of the time, children will be ready for nursery school on schedule and your baby may have decided to walk or talk when he/she was good and ready. When we work with families, we always suggest applying if your child is age appropriate for a given school and there are no signs of significant developmental delays. When we provide home evaluations, we may discover that a child may have little language one month and then have a vocabulary of over 100 words several months later. There is no crystal ball when it comes to child development, so we suggest you cover your bases and apply. However, if your child seems to be struggling with transitions or there seems to be a concern for a speech and language delay, you may want to consider waiting a year before having your child engage in a mainstream nursery school setting, or seek out one of the many wonderful programs that will address your child’s needs.

At the end of the day, it is the parent who gets to decide if their child is ready for the application process. Nursery school is a time for socialization, academic and emotional growth, and the foundation for a child’s love of learning. Whether you begin at 2, 3 or 4 years of age, your child will benefit greatly by learning to explore, create and develop friendships.

–Roxana Reid is the founder of Smart City Kids Inc— the leading admissions advisory service in NYC provides expert advice on navigating the admissions process from Nursery School through 12th grade for private and public school options.