The earlier children are encouraged to learn and interact, the better. In fact, the Denver Preschool Program website explains that approximately 80 percent of brain development takes place before a child reaches the age of 5. High-quality preschool programs see this period of development as an opportunity to enhance learning and build social skills. There is no doubt early childhood education in some form matters, and the list of whys just keeps growing as children across the U.S. reap the lifelong benefits.
Children who attend preschool are at an advantage in the general classroom in the years that follow. By the time kids get to kindergarten, they already have exposure to numbers, shapes and even the alphabet. According to W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, former preschoolers who enter kindergarten have stronger math and pre-reading skills and a larger vocabulary than those students who did not attend preschool.
The reasons why preschool matters don’t begin and end with academics. The preschool years are a time for exploration, learning and growth. Being around other preschoolers in a structured environment makes for an easier transition to kindergarten when the time comes. The Denver Preschool Program website adds that early childhood education research reveals that preschool makes for better citizens who are less likely to depend on social services later in life.
The benefits of preschool have lasting effects. For instance, preschool students are more likely to have high academic achievement throughout the years that follow their preschool years and are more likely to graduate from high school and gain acceptance into college. According to the Illinois State University website, children who attend preschool have a lesser risk of needing special education services during their academic lives, and as juveniles and adults, they are less likely to engage in delinquency. Preschoolers also earn higher wages during their adult life than their peers who do not attend preschool.
Choosing a Preschool Program
If you are a parent looking for a preschool for your child, check licensing. A high quality preschool meets state licensing requirements -- if the preschool surpasses these requirements, all the better. Accreditations are a plus, too. An accredited preschool exceeds minimum state requirements, often striving to achieve higher quality standards. Karen Stephens, director of Illinois State University Child Care Center and instructor in child development for the ISU Family and Consumer Sciences Department, sites examples of things to look for when visiting preschools. She encourages parents to observe the preschool staff’s interaction with students and parents. Staff should be approachable, positive, competent and respectful to children and parents. Also, classrooms should have a balance of free-play and structure, as well as being comfortable, neat, clean and organized.