Does Preschool Really Matter? Isn’t It Just Play? It’s Basically Overpriced Daycare, Right?
These are questions that many parents have when they are deciding about their child’s early education. You may be asking them yourself. However, the truth is that preschool and early childhood learning are incredibly important. They lay the groundwork for the rest of the child’s education.
The preschool years are crucial for the development of attitudes toward school and learning. Little ones who attend a preschool program at age 4 are more likely to be school-ready than their counterparts who did not. Just ask any Kindergarten teacher for their own anecdotal research and they will tell you that preschool sets kids up for success from the very outset of school.
In preschool, kids learn how to think and how to socialize in a school setting. The research suggests that critical thinking and social and emotional learning are correlated with secondary-level academic achievement. Studies of well-known high-quality early childhood programs have consistently revealed that preschool leads to adulthoods with higher earnings, fewer crimes, and more. So, what may appear to be merely “playing” to adults is actually important learning.
This brings us to our next point….
Play as learning
Play is an essential component of early childhood development and learning. Kindergarten used to incorporate more play-based activities. However, in recent years, play has not been a priority in early elementary school.
That is why it is so important for young kids to get that chance to play and have hands-on fun in preschool.
Learning gaps appear early but can be closed quickly if they are addressed in a quality preschool program. This is a problem often seen in lower-income communities. Large numbers of disadvantaged students enter kindergarten behind in reading and math skills, oral language, vocabulary, and more. Unfortunately, they have not been exposed to the early learning activities that would have set them up for success.
Preschool attendance is linked to improvements in social and emotional development, less grade repetition, less special education placement, and higher levels of high school graduation. The evidence and research consistently show that preschool allows children to develop skills that will serve them all of their life. It is not just play. It is the first learning a child will ever do.