The Benefits of Preschool

In the past few decades, the number of children enrolled in early childhood education programs has grown steadily. In 1965, just five percent of 3-year-olds and 16 percent of 4-year-olds attended, yet in 2005, more than 40 percent of 3-year-olds and more than two-thirds of 4-year-olds were enrolled.

One factor that may be contributing to this trend is the rise of dual-income families, which grew the demand for childcare. Another major factor, however, is the fact that nowadays parents are much more educated about the social and intellectual benefits of attending preschool. Research studies show that children who attended a high-quality preschool are more likely to become good readers in elementary school, graduate from high school and attend college. They are also less likely to be placed in special education or held back a grade.

What Do Children Gain by Attending Preschool?

Preschool is the first time many children experience having a teacher and being in a structured classroom environment. Children get the opportunity to learn how to be part of a group, as well as important social and emotional skills such as sharing, cooperating, resolving conflicts and exploring new things. These are the foundations that will help them succeed in kindergarten and in life.

Some of the benefits preschool provides are as follows:

Independence. Preschool helps foster independence and self-esteem in children when they discover that they can do things for themselves. This includes small tasks like helping to prepare snacks and feeding the fish, to bigger ones such as choosing which classmates and what materials they want to play with.  Being cared for by a teacher in the classroom also helps children develop trust with other adults and feel safe being away from their family.

Socialization The chance to interact with other children on a regular basis and develop social and emotional skills is a major benefit of preschool. Developing relationships with a consistent group of children over time (as opposed to meeting new kids at the playground) gives them a chance to get to know each other and learn how to work together and treat each other with respect. Also, the rules children are required to follow in preschool, such as sitting still at circle time or putting away toys when they’re done,  helps them practice self-control and learn appropriate behavior.

Cognitive Skills. Though most preschools do not emphasize academic learning, they provide the building blocks needed to grasp these skills when they’re in elementary school. Putting together puzzles and pouring sand from different containers form the foundation for understanding basic math concepts. Teachers strengthen cognitive skills by engaging in fun activities and experiments, asking thought-provoking questions and encouraging children to find answers for themselves.

Motor Skills. In preschool, children get many opportunities to run, jump, climb, throw balls, and do other activities that help develop their gross motor skills. The classroom also offers activities that help improve fine motor skills, such as playing with play dough and cutting with scissors. Kids develop balance, hand-eye coordination, and strength—all while having fun!

Kindergarten Readiness. While many parents think that sending their child to nursery school will help prepare their child for kindergarten by teaching them pre-math and pre-literay skills, it’s actually the the social skills they learn that gives them a good start in elementary school. Children who attended preschool are more advanced when it comes to areas such as getting along with others, following directions, and problem-solving. They also gain confidence that they can survive away from their parents and learn how to participate in a classroom environment. This allows kindergarten teachers to spend less time on classroom management and more time educating the students.

While sending your child to preschool doesn’t guarantee she’ll get into an Ivy League college (if that’s your goal), if you choose a high-quality program that fits the needs of your family, you can feel confident that your child is becoming more independent, growing socially and intellectually, and gaining skills and experience that will help him do well in kindergarten.


Jenifer Wana is the author of How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School.