Preschool At Three: Should You Wait Another Year?

The benefits of sending your child to preschool are clear: Kids who go to preschool gain independence, tend to have good language skills, and have an advantage when it comes to being prepared for kindergarten says GreatKids. Most preschool programs can begin at either age three or four. Children who are already in daycare might transition naturally into preschool at the age of three, while moms and dads who stay home with their children might prefer to keep their kids home for an extra year and send them at four, instead. If your child is three, should you send them to preschool or wait another year? Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Potty Training Is a Necessity

Most preschools have the rule that if children attend, they must be fully potty-trained. What does this mean? According to, the child must be able to do everything from telling an adult that he or she needs to use the bathroom, to getting on and off the toilet, wiping properly, washing his or her hands, and returning to the group. Not all children are ready to be potty-trained by the time they would go off to preschool at the age of three. If your child is not quite ready yet, waiting the additional year, if possible, will be less stressful for both of you.

Experience Being Away From Mommy or Daddy Counts

For a child who has been going to daycare or has had a care provider other than a parent, transitioning into preschool at three years old might not be traumatic in the least. If you have stayed home with your little one, however, that extra year can give him or her more time to become independent enough to go off to nursery school without tears and angst. During this year, you can give your child small doses of independence; for example, leave him or her in the church nursery during the service or hire a babysitter more regularly.

The flip side of this is that preschool staff members are usually very good with helping children who have separation anxiety, so if you do decide to send your three-year-old, you can rest assured that while there may be tears in the beginning, he or she will probably be having too much fun to dwell on missing you once a bit of time has passed.

Individual Development Is Most Important

The most important thing for you, as a parent, to do is evaluate your own child. If he or she has social anxiety, which is not uncommon in young children, only you will know whether going to preschool as a three-year-old will help or hurt the situation. Language or fine-motor delays can also be challenging; these can hinder a child if the preschool is not equipped to deal with special needs. It's important to speak to the director of any preschool you are considering about your child's individual circumstances to determine whether it's the right choice for your family and when would be the right time to introduce preschool to your child.

Remember that no decision is permanent. If you send your three-year-old to preschool and it is a traumatic event, you always have the option to change your mind if things do not improve. Similarly, a child who does not seem ready in August might be much more independent come January; it's likely that you will be able to put your child into a program at the halfway point if you decide that preschool is the right decision after all. Talk to the preschool director, as well as your pediatrician, to decide what is the best course of action if you are unsure.

For more information and details, talk with different preschools in your area, such as Sammamish Montessori School.