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When/if to start preschool?


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#1 MeeraK

Posted 29 May 2019 - 10:58 PM

Hello there - we have an 18-month-old daughter who spends all day with me (as mum) - not in daycare or with other carers. We keep busy with wonderful playgroups, play dates, Montessori classes, trips to the beach, etc - so she has a varied and interesting day. Her language is extremely advanced and she is happy, confident and sociable. My question is whether we should be sending her to preschool from age 3 or 4, or could she go to straight to school at 5 or 6? I’m a bit worried about how she might cope with starting preschool so young and being away from me during the day - would hate for her to cry and be upset, that would break my heart...  We are considering a Montessori school but they are required to start at age 3 for 5 mornings a week - that seems like a lot for such a small child. Any thoughts about pros/cons of starting preschool at age 3 and being away from primary carer for the first time? Thank you!

#2 tenar

Posted 29 May 2019 - 11:13 PM

She's very young.  Her needs will change and so will yours.

My eldest started 3yo kindy when she turned 3, for two morning a week, then a morning and a full day each week, then 4yo kindy for 2 days and a morning each week.

I loved that she got to:
- learn from other people than me
- do messy crafty things not at home
- access a far wider range of toys and activities than I could provide at home
- hang out with and learn from other children her own age
- make persistent friends (now aged 10 she is still friends with some of those children).
- allow me some 1:1 time with her younger sister
- learn about keeping routines like sitting in a circle on the mat, listening to a story read to a group of children, hanging her bag on her hook and getting her lunch from her own box: all this stuff is important for starting school
- learn that she could do all that stuff independently from me.

We were not interested in Montessori (imo the best aspects of those styles of education will be used and built upon by any good preschool anyway), so didn't have that kind of restriction going on.

I was very glad to be able to be a SAHM for both my kids and I was very glad that they both got a couple of years of preschool before they started primary school.

Edited by tenar, 29 May 2019 - 11:15 PM.


#3 MeeraK

Posted 29 May 2019 - 11:24 PM

Very helpful, thank you!

#4 ~LemonMyrtle~

Posted 30 May 2019 - 06:41 AM

3 year old pre school is pretty standard here in Victoria. Both my kids loved it. But it’s only 2 days, 3 hours a session. So it’s very easy on the kids. They are very flexible with kids that dont settle in easily too, you can stay or go whenever you are comfortable. And you can volunteer to be parent helper and stay for the whole session if you want.

I agree that 5 mornings a week is too much for a 3 year old that’s never been away from their mum before. I’d look at a different pre school.

#5 Future-self

Posted 30 May 2019 - 06:50 AM

There are proven benefits of at least one year of preschool in many ways - physical, social, emotional as well as academic. It’s hard for you to picture now but she will be ready for the amazing things that a great preschool can offer in a few years.


And sure she may cry at first - any big change brings big emotions for kids and one outlet for that is having a cry. If you follow Montessori philosophy then you will have come across that idea of crying - it’s not a bad thing, it’s a natural release and kids just need support.

Anyway, take your time to find a great preschool and our her name down now - the good ones fill up fast. Tour them, chat to the teachers .

#6 jessiesgirl

Posted 30 May 2019 - 07:11 AM

Hi Meera.  My plan for my DD was to just do 4 year old kinder before school (we are in Vic). She was not in day care ever either.  When it came time to apply for 3 year old kinder though, I felt that we were in need of something extra with meeting and interacting with other children and I would apply and see how it went.  It turned out to be the right decision for us.  It was a council kinder, experienced teachers, very gentle, only two mornings a week such a lovely environment.  My DS went too.  It had added benefits for us in that we were able to identify that our DD had some issues that we could work on before school started.

#7 Drat

Posted 30 May 2019 - 07:25 AM

I think preschool definitely helps kids in the transition to 'big school'. I think going from nothing to 5 days a week will be a very big shock to the system.

My daughter absolutely loves her daycare (she's only 2) and most days I literally have to drag (or bribe) her out. She's very social and she seems to most enjoy the social aspect with the kids and all the staff. Especially the staff, she loves having adults to talk to and she will socialise with all the staff in not just her room but also in the other two rooms. Every afternoon is a long parade of cuddles and goodbyes to every child and carer!

I've done a complete 180 as I wasn't keen on daycare at all. She's ended up being there two days a week now.

#8 Kiwi Bicycle

Posted 30 May 2019 - 07:55 AM

The other benefit of doing 3 year old preschool is you are automatically get into 4 year old the next year. If you hold off doing 3 year old in a popular centre, you might miss out by already being full from the 3 year olds from the previous year.

#9 Ninja_mum

Posted 30 May 2019 - 09:27 AM

Preschool will be great for her and yes she might find settling in difficult for a little while (or not) and that’s an even better reason to do it. She’ll learn she’s capable of doing something a little scary and being successful with you and her teachers support.

#10 Chicken Penang

Posted 30 May 2019 - 09:32 AM

My DS started preschool at three years old for two days a week. The following year he inception three days a week. He enjoyed and transitioned to school easily. My DS did the same with two days of daycare from 18 months.
I would highly recommend preschool or a good daycare. Staying at home for the first five years would make for a very difficult transition to school.

#11 Kreme

Posted 30 May 2019 - 09:41 AM

My kids were both at home with me full time until they went to preschool. DD was 3.5 when she started, and DS was 3. They both benefited so much from preschool and socialising with other children. They went 2 days a week off a year and 3 days a week for the next year. Short days 9-3 and only open during school terms.

They both transitioned really easily to school. But to be honest, that was probably more their personalities. My niece went to daycare from 10 months and cried every day. She cried every day for the first year of school, and has now started high school and is struggling with that too. Some kids just struggle with transitions and change.

#12 MeeraK

Posted 30 May 2019 - 10:56 AM

Thank you for all the responses, it is very reassuring to read. Will start investigating good preschools in the area - it sounds like starting with 2 short days from age 3 may be a good way to go...

#13 TheirMum2

Posted 30 May 2019 - 11:10 AM

My twins went to preschool one day a week (aged 3) and the two days a week (aged four and five - started kinder aged six).

I did not want them to go to pre-school, as we were in  similar situation to you and they had never been in the care of anyone other than my husband and I or hubby's mum and dad. I only sent them because the paediatrician and early intervention staff said they had to go (one has a disability and I was particularly worried about how she would go).

It was the best thing we ever did. Both of the girls absolutely loved pre-school from day one. It was amazing for their social/emotional development, speech and language development (for the little one with a disability in particular), school readiness and academic skills. They were always so excited to tell us what they had done each day with their friends, art, craft, outdoor play etc. They made new friends who we then saw outside of school, further expanding their opportunities for play and learning.

I found it really difficult to put them into someone else's care initially, but the staff were absolutely amazing and I have never once been sorry that we did put them in to pre-school. We still get hugs when we run into staff in town and we still have morning/afternoon teas with one staff member in particular.

They both transitioned to Kinder very smoothly and I think that this was largely because of the skills they had developed and positive experience they had already had in pre-school.

#14 Jenflea

Posted 30 May 2019 - 11:42 AM

Some kids cry at drop off no matter what. Kids get sad but they get over it.

DD did at Playschool(3yr old preschool), preschool, kindy and half of year 1.
That's just her.
She enjoyed it fine once she settled in but me leaving her she didn't like.

#15 Beancat

Posted 30 May 2019 - 12:19 PM

The international research on the benefits of good quality pre school as a determinant for future success (both academically and emotional) is extensive, particularly from those world leaders in the Scandinavian countries (although they have a later starting date for school).

Hence there is reason why the government is rolling out subsidized  3 year old kinder here.  We know the benefit cost result is very positive

I think you need to ask yourself for who's benefit are you considering keeping her home until school - is this about her or about how you feel letting go?

#16 Jenflea

Posted 30 May 2019 - 03:41 PM

I wish I could like your post twice Beancat!

#17 robhat

Posted 30 May 2019 - 04:20 PM

Preschool in the year before starting school is a definite must. Big school is quite an adjustment for many kids and is usually harder still if it is their first experience being away from home and mum. Plus, preschool does a lot for kids developmentally and socially. It's a huge advantage for kids who go.

There's plenty of research to indicate that 2 years of preschool before starting school is even better than 1. Whether or not you can access that though is the problem. In the area where I live the demand for preschool places is high and there are not enough preschools. It's pretty much impossible to get a place for a 3 year old. In fact it's nearly impossible to get one for a 4 year old if you didn't put their name on the wait list when they were 2. Anyone who moves into our area when their kid is 3 or 4 pretty much won't get a preschool place for them. It's not like that everywhere though, but do start asking around in your area.

#18 PrincessPeach

Posted 30 May 2019 - 04:42 PM

View Postrobhat, on 30 May 2019 - 04:20 PM, said:

Preschool in the year before starting school is a definite must. Big school is quite an adjustment for many kids and is usually harder still if it is their first experience being away from home and mum. Plus, preschool does a lot for kids developmentally and socially. It's a huge advantage for kids who go.

There's plenty of research to indicate that 2 years of preschool before starting school is even better than 1.

Agree 100%. My eldest had so much growth socially in his pre-school year it was surprising. It was the perfect preparation for school this year.

There are 2 kids in his class who have gone straight from the home environment to the classroom & term 1 was an epic adjustment for them. Community sessional kindy places are hard to come by here & so are daycare places, so it's not necessarily by choice, especially for families who move into our area. So if you have the chance to get a place, take it.

As for crying at drop off. my friends daughter has been in daycare since she was 4 months old & still to this day is in tears each week. She turns 7 next month.

#19 Blue Shoe

Posted 30 May 2019 - 06:37 PM

My DD was at home cared for by me/family until she started preschool at 4. She did 2 x 9-3 days, but loved it so much she could have done 3 days very happily. As it was the local preschool many of the children there went to the same primary school as her, which helped the transition into kindy.

I was a little anxious about her starting preschool because in the past she had not liked been left in various kids programmes, but it all went really smoothly, and the preschool staff were amazing. DS is on the list to attend the same preschool next year - like DD, he will start at 4 not 3 as the preschool is so popular they don’t have many spaces left for three year olds. I am a little sad at the thought of DS going next year, because he is growing up too fast and I will miss having my little buddy at home with me. But I remind myself how much DD loved the preschool and what a great experience it was for her, and I know it’s in his best interests to go.


#20 Meepy

Posted 30 May 2019 - 07:28 PM

DS went to 3 yo for 2 x 3 hours weekly.  He found friends instantly and loved it.  Just turned 14 and has some of the same friends now. Really helped him settle into school, having some of his kinder friends with him.

#21 JoanJett

Posted 30 May 2019 - 08:17 PM

I think the conversation about evidence for the benefit of preschool is more nuanced than "two years are better than one".  It is clear that the greatest benefit for earlier interaction with more structured education in the 3 year old environment is most significant for vulnerable children.  Like other educational outcomes, home environment (or grossly SES) plays an enormous role in outcomes and the greater benefit of earlier engagement is most manifest in the at-risk group.  The push to fund access to 3 year old preschool is about equity. Families that cannot afford quality educational opportunities deserve the opportunity to engage with services that are available to others as a choice.

My personal anecdata - older child went to 3 year old preschool programme in a daycare setting, still had difficulties settling into 4 year old kinder and school.  Second son "stayed home" with a range of playgroup/school/playdate/other activities for interactions, as well as carers other than me by using babysitters for appointments and school commitments for my older son.  He was the most well adjusted, socially competent and academically advanced child in his class.  That's a sample of 2.  The outcome was as much about their personalities and birth order as anything else.

To the OP, when it's your first (and perhaps only) child, decisions seem bigger.  If your major concern is how your child will cope with separation, there is a middle way before preschool 5 days a week at 3 years old.  Start building up time away from you with other family members caring if available, or a regular babysitter every couple of weeks.  It will help her become used to time away from you and it will help you to cope with separation as well.  You might also really enjoy a break.  Keep doing all the wonderful activities that enrich and broaden her world.  There are many ways to prepare your child for school and many preschool options that you can pursue.  Your child missing you is normal and natural - it's a sign of a healthy attachment.  In the early years, it's sometimes hard to think that other people can provide care, love and support to your child, but that's what you want.  

There is a real benefit to some structured out-of-home care educational opportunity before full-time school.  Whether that happens at 3 or 4 is a more nuanced decision for you and your family to decide.  

Good luck.

#22 MeeraK

Posted 01 June 2019 - 01:57 AM

Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. And JoanJett, thank you for clarifying the research. It does make sense for her to do some kind of preschool program before starting school, I’m sure she will enjoy it. I think our plan will be to slowly ease into it with a great preschool, possibly from age 3 but definitely from age 4. Maybe Montessori will be too much, too quickly - though I will ask what kind of flexibility they have around starting dates. Thanks again, this has been immensely helpful.




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