Even otherwise peace-loving Swedes seem to be weighing in from across the Atlantic. (Hint: don’t mess with Swedes when it comes to public benefits surrounding kids. They take it very seriously.)
American proponents of universal Pre-K argue that it leads to less crime and to increased economic development. Opponents say it doesn’t reflect American reality in a variety of ways. All of which may be true.
What we would like to do is take a step back from politics, public interest, pejoratives and suggest five “real world” benefits of preschool. We won’t quite talk about science or revenue figures, just common sense!
Here they are:
1. Earlier exposure to learning doesn’t hurt. The sooner a child starts getting familiar with letters, numbers, and shapes, and especially languages the better. Yes, of course, children can be exposed to all of these things at home, but a high-quality preschool program will most likely have a broader variety and a more adequate program.
2. Kids like other kids (usually!) When children socialize and observe each other, they enjoy it. Additionally, placing them in the new social environment will not hurt from a developmental perspective. As above with exposure to learning, they have a lot to gain and nothing to lose.
3. It builds immune systems the old-fashioned way. The first year or so in a new school environment is one big series of viruses, runny noses, and colds for most kids. Yes, it will be a tough year, but kids (and their parents) can get it over with before starting Kindergarten!
4. Kids start adjusting to being away from their parents. They will have to eventually, obviously. Pre-K is a chance to grease the wheels a little bit.
5. You can’t do it all by yourself. It is theoretically possible for you to engineer all of the above for your child with a series of play-dates, group activities with other parents, and lessons at home? Yes. But realistically, it will be difficult for you to do so, at least to the level a high-quality Pre-K program can, without making it your full-time job and finding a group of like-minded parents with children of the same age. If that is not possible, your child may lose these opportunities. And even if it is possible, you may lose your sanity! (As you know, when it comes to kids, full-time literally means full-time.)
Preschool is not a catch-all solution and it may not be the perfect fit for every child. The potential benefits of preschool and early childhood education, however, make it worth considering. Most child care and preschool programs, especially for the youngest kids, are flexible when it comes to scheduling and allow you to evaluate if it works for you and your child, one step at a time.