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What age is preschool?

Guide

12/23/2021 | Evan Klinger

“What age is preschool” is a question we hear all the time.  And it’s a good question! Children are required by law to go to kindergarten at age 5 in most states, but they may be ready to engage at a younger age and preschool is the answer.

Preschools usually accept kids aged 2 and a half to 3 years old, but age is just a number and some children may have different developmental factors that must be weighed when considering what age preschool is a good fit for your child.

Maria Montessori said “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child's own natural desire to learn.” If a parent feels that a child is not ready for learning in a classroom environment, perhaps preschool can wait another year.

When school is just starting, parents may become confused with the different terms of “preschool” and pre-K. When you are asking “What age is pre-K,” the guiding principles are that preschool is age 2 to age 4 and pre-K (short for kindergarten) is for children ages 4 and/or 5. The main difference between preschool and pre-K is that in a pre-K classroom higher classroom learning abilities will be expected of your child. If your child is not yet an active learner, preschool may be preferred to pre-K.

Deciding at what age preschool is the right fit for your child is not always a decision based on your kid’s preparedness for a learning environment.  Sometimes the decision has to be made for financial reasons.

Currently the United States government is continuing a long debate on whether preschool should be a free universal right for children ages 3 and 4.  Some states, like New York, have taken the decision out of the government's hands and enacted laws that make preschool for children age 4 completely free.  Other states are following suit to get around the failed federal mandate to provide free resources to preschoolers.

Each generation is blown away by the next generation’s ability to learn new things sooner in life. Studies have been conducted measuring the life experience differences between a child who went to preschool earlier between ages 2-4 as opposed to children who started school in kindergarten at age 5. These studies have found preschoolers had improvements in social, emotional, and behavioral skills, graduation rates, SAT-taking rates, and employment rates as well as decreases in juvenile incarceration and teen pregnancy rates.  

The age-old debate of what age is preschool a good fit for children will continue as long as parents have a say. There is no denying that preschool helps kids socialize with their peers, learn how to share with others and expose them to new experiences with adults and other children.

Many factors play into the question “What age is preschool?” Don’t discount the birth month of your child.  If your child was born in July or August, you have the decision to make if they will be much older or younger than their peers.

With the facts of what age is the “normal” time to enroll your child in preschool, ultimately it is up to the family and the feelings of the potential preschooler to know if the time has come.

“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.” ~ Magda Gerber

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