Should you delay your child's preschool entry?

The experts dish the pros and cons of delaying preschool and if you’re making right choice for your mini-me!

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It’s every working parent’s dream to spend more time bonding with their offspring. Indeed, the toddler years just seem to whizz by in a jiffy.

However, with dual-income families a norm, juggling work and caring for your mini-me is a common situation. So, parents look to helpers, babysitters/relatives, or childcare centres for caregiving help.

Enrolling your offspring in a preschool with nursery and even kindergarten classes ensures that your child takes part in activities that will enhance their development. Attending preschool gives your mini-me the chance to…

* Socialise and make new friends Your little one will make new friends and hone their communication skills. They will need to learn how to share and play nice with their peers.

* Get used to going to school Preschool programs are similar to Primary school in many ways. For instance, your tot will need to get used to a schedule and routine and being away from you or their caregivers for an extended period of time.

“As long as the child is outgoing, curious, open to trying new things, communicative and expressive — these signs shows that [they should be ready for preschool].”

* Learn a variety of subject basics Preschool programmes, including in kindergarten, will help your child master the basics in subjects they’ll be taking on in Primary 1. They’ll pick up mathematics, language — in both writing and speech — science and other topic essentials.

* Have fun and be creative There will be lots of craft activities to keep your tyke busy as well as opportunities for them to sing and dance with their peers.

Incidentally, there’re no specific guidelines that’ll help you decide if your child is ready for preschool. Insights Mind Centre psychologist Daniel Koh notes that different children develop at different rates and there are no concrete signs to determine academic readiness. “As long as the child is outgoing, curious, open to trying new things, communicative and expressive — these signs show that [they should be ready for preschool].”

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Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, points out that as long as your child can play, you can enrol him in preschool. Dr Lim also advises that you check on the level of care the school gives. “For example, some schools may not be able to cater to kids who are not toilet trained.”

You should note that you’re required under the law to register your child for P1 as soon as you are notified by the Ministry of Education to do so or once your child reaches the school-going ages of 6 or 7.

Koh and Dr Lim share the pros and cons of delaying your child’s entry to preschool programmes:

The Advantages

* Your tyke gets to build strong bonds with loved ones In the early years of your child’s life — up to 3 years old — the most important aspect of their development is building strong bonds with your child, says Dr Lim. “Very young kids thrive best when they are cared for by people who are genuinely concerned about them like their parents and grandparents.

* Gives your child with special needs time to meet their developmental milestones Apart from ensuring that your child meets the school’s age guidelines, you should observe if your child is developmentally ready to start preschool. Dr Lim explains that if your child lags behind their peers, then getting speech, occupational or psychological therapy and counselling will be beneficial for them. “If a child clearly lacks behind in terms of speech, motor, or emotional development, further assessments will be required to determine the emotional disturbances or underlying causes for such a delay.”

The Disadvantage

* May have trouble fitting in in Primary school Dr Lim notes that the current P1 curriculum may already be fairly advanced, so your tot is expected to be proficient in his languages. “This may not be adequately provided by parents, especially if they are working, so going to a kindergarten will help them academically this way.” So, if you delay your tot’s preschool admission, they may find it even harder to adjust in P1.

Koh stresses that it’s best to let your child attend preschool unless there are serious reasons — such as learning difficulties — that warrant a delay. “Introducing your child to school and helping them to make the transition, as well as providing all forms of required support, [will benefit them].”

Photos: iStock

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