Sending toddler to school: Right age, Right School
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|   Sep 01, 2016
Sending toddler to school: Right age, Right School

Being an educationist I am often asked what is the right age to send your child to playschool and how do I choose the right school for my child?

What is the right age to send your child to playschool?

The right age is anywhere between 1.5 to 3 years as Brain research shows that an average child is born with about 100 billion brain cells. An infant’s brain develops rapidly from birth till 3 years producing 700 new synaptic connections every second.

Experts state that toddlers need support to stimulate their learning at a time when their brains develop at twice the rate of adults. If they are not stimulated enough in the years before starting school, the brains can set back by decades.

Factors like child’s relationships, experiences and environment influence the development of the growing brain. All these factors need to be considered while deciding a preschool to ensure there is no stress or push to achieve academic success.

Toddlers’ brains need stimulation - To make the most of these ‘light bulb’ years when toddlers’ brains form connections at double the rate of adults, it is important that they are provided with learning experiences that nurture them in a high- quality preschool.

How do I choose the right school for my child?

Nature provides a blueprint for each child’s potential development and children need quality bonding time with human beings to nurture them.

Selecting the right preschool is critical for future academic, social and emotional success and taps the potential for laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

A preschool programme which understands the ‘windows of opportunity’ and designs the activities accordingly is conducive for learning. These windows are neurological wiring timetables when the child is more primed for learning; for e.g. a child is primed to learn reading skills and vocabulary. If this period is missed or we wait till the child can talk, we miss the ideal time to create a foundation in reading and learning.

The Preschool should be an opportunity for development and not be used as getting them ready for primary school. The curriculum implemented needs to be based on brain research where learning is fun, engaging and stress free. The developmentally appropriate activities, equipment and physical environment promotes social, physical, cognitive and language abilities.

Preschoolers thrive when there is consistency in the trust they have in adults at home and school. Hence nurturing relationships through an ideal teacher-child ratio is important in preschool for children to develop a personal connection. Preschoolers need structure which is invisible for emotional security. At the same time they need choices to develop decision making – hence a good preschool that provides a blend of free and structured play does not stress the children. Here the facilitators ‘follow’ the child.

Thus, it is very important for a child’s well-being that parents understand the importance of the right age to send their little ones to school and also what factors they should keep in mind while determining the right school for their child.

Pointers for selecting a preschool

There is no generic way of picking a preschool. What parents should do is list the 5 things that are most important to them in order of priority. Some examples may be - proximity to the house, curriculum and learning style used, hygiene, religious based learning, annual fees, a playground, use of technology, teacher: child ratio, teacher qualifications, classroom size, batch size, inclusive education, an exclusive difficult to get into preschool. Then find a school that matches. From my experience this is the best way. For some parents a preschool that has a prayer everyday is vital. For others religion and school should not mix. For some parents a preschool that teaches numbers and the alphabet early and in a structured way is imperative. Other parents want a less structured preschool and want a focus on play and not on early literacy and numeracy. 

This is an approach I use for all parents. Check out a few preschools - select one that most aligns with what you want for your child and yourself as a parent. Some parents don't do their homework and either have a 'herd' mentality or are victims to the usual 'if it is difficult to get into' it must be good - way of thought. A parent recently moved her child from our school to an expensive 'elite' impossible to get into school and then after 6 months moved back to ours. Out of curiosity when quizzed about the shifting her retort was 'In that school my child will learn to leave a carbon footprint. With your school she will learn to leave a social footprint. I did not realise how high on my value chain that was till very recently, and so I had to move back.'

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