Is it OK for kids to skip preschool? The pros and cons according to experts

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Attending preschool, daycare or any other childcare setting in the United States is optional.

This means that every parent has a very important decision to make…

Should you send your child to preschool or keep them at home?

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NECS) shows that 54% of all three- and four-year-old children are enrolled in preschool.

So, whether you choose to send your child to preschool or keep them home, you can rest assured that plenty of other parents are arriving at the same decision as you are.

Choosing to skip preschool and wait until compulsory education begins is absolutely fine!

However, it’s important to consider your decision carefully to make sure that it’s the right one for your child, as well as the rest of your family.

Studies have shown that attending pre-school has many benefits for children. Yet you will also find that there are benefits to keeping your child at home until they’re older.

If only there were a simple Yes or No answer to whether you should skip preschool!

The benefits of having your child attend preschool or pre-K mostly center around social and academic development — chances are your children will grow rapidly with formal instruction and lots of interaction with other kids.

However, skipping preschool or keeping your child at home has plenty of benefits, too — you’ll be able to give them more individual attention and enjoy better flexibility in your schedule. You’ll save a ton of money on tuition, too!

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of skipping preschool with the help of some child counselors and other experts.

Pros of skipping preschool

First off, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might wish to skip preschool and keep your child at home with you…

1. Preschool can be expensive

The average cost of enrolling a child in pre-school or daycare is $9,589 per year, which is higher than the cost of college!

While the exact cost will vary depending on where you live, the type of childcare, and the age of the child, preschool is one of most families’ largest bills each month.

If sending your child to preschool enables you to earn more from your job or business, enrolling your child can be a savvy financial decision.

But for stay-at-home parents, it can be hard to justify the high cost of childcare.

2. Skipping preschool can give your family more flexibility

Preschools, unlike daycare classrooms, have set times when children must attend and it can be tricky to get these to align with your work schedule.

A six-and-a-half-hour day doesn’t leave much time to get to the office, do your work and then return to collect your child.

As well as this, preschool holidays can be lengthy, and you also won’t be able to send your child if they’re sick.

Registered play therapist Kait Towner believes that there are many advantages to skipping preschool.

She says: “Not having to adhere to a preschool schedule can provide your family with more flexibility and make it much easier for working parents to coordinate childcare and their day-to-day as a whole”.

3. Kids may get more attention at home

One-to-one time is important for young kids, yet this is something that preschools are unable to offer — even when they try their best.

Although preschools have lower student-to-teacher ratios than schools, teachers’ attention can be divided between up to twenty children.

If you’ve ever taken care of nieces and nephews or friends’ kids in addition to your own, you’ll know that with more than a handful of kids to each adult, it can be impossible to give each child as much individual attention as you’d like to.

Keeping the kids at home with you allows you more input into the attention and one-on-one instruction they receive.

4. Not every child is ready to learn at a young age

When deciding whether to enroll your child in preschool or not, it’s important to remember that every child is unique.

While some children thrive with a structured routine and are eager to learn about numbers and letters, not all are.

Pushing children to learning subjects like reading, writing, and math before they’re read can lead to frustration and make them avoid learning altogether.

It’s just as, if not more, important for kids of this age to learn through play and socialization.

Cons of skipping preschool

Now, let’s take a look at some of the things that your child might miss out on if you make the decision to skip preschool altogether…

1. Preschool is a great way to socialize with other kids

Kait Towner believes that socialization is one of the main reasons to have your child attend preschool.

“If your child does not engage in activities outside of the home with similarly aged peers, it is very beneficial for them to attend preschool.”

Of course, many children socialize with siblings, neighbors, and kids that they meet at sports or dance classes.

But, if your child doesn’t interact with other kids for at least a few hours every week, then attending preschool could be worth it to give their social development a boost.

2. Preschool makes the transition to kindergarten easier

Starting kindergarten is a critical juncture in a child’s life.

When kids first step foot in a kindergarten classroom, it can be a very unfamiliar world in terms of social, behavioral, and academic expectations.

While parents can do a lot to prepare their children for kindergarten (in addition to applying on time), attending preschool is one of the best ways to prepare the foundations for kindergarten learning.

Education aside, preschool teaches kids so many skills.

From using the restroom and washing their hands, to throwing and catching a ball, to taking notice when a friend appears sad; a preschool education can help kids prepare for school on many levels.

3. Preschool can give kids an academic headstart

Play therapist Kait says:

“Academically, children are expected to know a good amount of information prior to kindergarten. If you do not provide this academic support to your child at home, preschool can help.”

While many parents love to teach their kids to read, write and do simple maths, teaching these concepts to very young children when you’ve had no training about how to do so is something that many parents find difficult.

Enrolling your child in preschool can give them an academic headstart, leaving your time free to be spent on the fun stuff, like playing soccer or baking cookies together.

4. Preschool keeps kids active

The CDC recommends that preschool-aged children should be physically active throughout the day.

This is something that can be very hard to do in a home setting.

It can be tempting to let kids watch TV or play video games while you focus on your never-ending list of chores.

Registered clinical counselor, Pareen Sehat, says:

“I believe that the most important factor that preschool provides is the space and opportunity for active sports and motor activities.

“Both of these activities play important roles in improving children’s overall health, creative skills, cognitive skills, and the development of their personality.”

Other considerations before you decide to skip preschool

Deciding whether to send your child to preschool isn’t always an easy decision as there are lots of factors to think about.

The different types of childcare

The decision to enroll in preschool usually isn’t as straightforward as ‘preschool versus staying home.’

Your options may also include pre-k, a daycare center, in-home daycare, a nanny, or babysitter, as well as staying at home with a parent or grandparent.

Which is the best option depends on the needs of both the children and the parents.

As your child gets older or your working hours change, you may decide to switch from one type of childcare to another.

Suggested read: Preschool vs Daycare: Pros, Cons & Differences Explained

How many hours per week?

While daycare centers may be open from around 7 am until 6 pm, offering up to 55 hours per week of childcare, preschool hours are often much shorter.

Most preschool settings offer the option of part-time care, either mornings or afternoon sessions only or just a couple of days per week.

You can mix and match two or more childcare options, perhaps using a babysitter for the hours before or after preschool.

Be sure to look into all of the options in your area to find what works best for you.

The age of your child

Although it’s possible to send your child to daycare from just a few weeks of age, many children don’t actually start until two years old, and even more begin to attend preschool at around four years of age. 

There’s no ‘best age to start preschool’ as it’s such a personal decision that will be different for every family.

If you decide not to enroll in preschool, for now, you may decide to revisit that decision in a year’s time if your circumstances change.

Wrapping Up

Attending preschool is not mandatory in the United States.

Compulsory education for children begins somewhere between the ages of five and eight, depending on the state.

It’s totally fine, and extremely common, to have your children skip preschool or pre-K and keep them at home until they’re ready for kindergarten.

The benefits of opting out of preschool include more flexibility in your schedule, saving tons of money on tuition, and giving your child lots of valuable one-on-one attention.

However, if you can afford those high preschool and daycare bills, your child will experience amazing social and academic development in the more structured school environment.

Whatever you decide is definitely OK — the experts say so! You can always mix and match different styles of childcare and change your arrangement as your life and schedule demand.

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Hope this helps!