Last week when I overheard the recommendation that all children as young as three years old must be enrolled in preschool, I was in disbelief. Three years old just seems so young to me!
According to the Early Learning Association of Australia, the recommendations were based on the fact that Australian children were falling behind the rest of the world in their early learning skills. They said that two years of preschool was linked with student performance later at high school, particularly in science. But before we all rush to put our practically-still-toddlers into preschool, let’s wait a moment and break this down.
First of all, preschool is not the only place children learn
There is so much learning that occurs for young children in the home environment that should definitely not be discounted. With play being the simplest way children learn, allowing a child to follow their interests and build on them is a fantastic way for them to develop their early learning skills without needing to be in a formal learning environment. Simply being in a loving home environment offers children many opportunities for learning through basic day to day skills like cooking, going to the park and even just being with siblings.
Three is just so young
At three years of age, some children aren’t even out of nappies. Sure, they’ll mostly all be sleeping through the night (unless you count my six-year-old, but she’s definitely the exception to the rule *cough) but they’re still just basically, well … bigger toddlers. Even though they are grasping more skills of independence, they’re still pretty dependent on their primary care-givers. So let’s slow down a minute, for their sake.
Not all children are interested in the same thing
If all parents of three-year-olds are being recommended to put their children into kindergarten so they can do better in science when they get to high school, well, that sounds great. Except, what about the kids who don’t want to study science? And also, um, how the heck does a three-year-old actually know what they want to be when they grow up?
Not all parents can afford to send their three-year-olds to preschool
Have you read how much preschool fees cost lately?! They are not for the faint of heart! Even taking rebates into account, sending a child to preschool without a second supporting income is definitely not something that all parents have the luxury of affording. Suggestions to send three-year-olds off to preschool just places more pressure and stress on parents.
So before we all decide to send our three-year-olds off to preschool because one organisation suggests that it may be better for them, I ask we take a moment. Because honestly, I believe that we as parents know what is best for our little ones. We need to not discount the proven benefits of open, unstructured play at home. Let us make sure that we do not underestimate the learning that goes on here. Our children are little for such a short time, that the time we have with them is so precious. We as parents get to be there for so many of their milestones, let’s not rush them into growing up. Let them be little, hold them a little longer. Preschool might be around the corner, but for now it can wait.