21 answers

Preschool Vs. In-Home Playcare for 3Yr Old W/anxiety?

My gut instinct answers this question for me but I need to hear it from other expert mommies.
I have a 3 year old that has social anxiety issues. He is being tested for SPD (Sensory processing disorder).
I have been at home with him since September. At that time he began to socially withdraw from his classmates, would have outbursts of fear/anger if he felt overwhelmed (senses).
So we made the decision for me to quit my very stable job & stay at home with him.

Economically - this is NOT working for us.
I must return to work FULL TIME. That means I will not be able to enroll him in the ISD based preschool as it is only part time & there will be no one available to take him.
His social withdrawl is becoming worse the more that he is isolated from other children so I know that he needs to be socially acclimated SOON. He is now refusing to play at McDonalds or even the "germ pit" at the mall.
(Will politely sit on the sidelines & watch the other children, but says that he wants to go home... it's so sad.)

There is one "in home playcare" down the street. He NEVER goes to anyone and he goes to this "mommy" as if she is his grandma. So far no issues when I have taken him for a few "test sessions".
However, there is no structure to his day, no nap, no "learning".

Here's what keeps sticking in my head... At his last doctors visit his pediatrician STRESSED that all children should start preschool by the age of 3.
I can't get that out of my head. My heart tells me to ignore it.

What if he needs the professional skills of a seasononed childcare professional to walk him through the steps of learnig?
Am I hindering his development?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

it is so sad to see them get so upset. I have twins (g/b). they are 3.5. My little girl is attached to me all the time. she has a hard time separating from me. However, once I am gone she seems to do fine.

I am writing to you about ISD. My son attends the new school for speech. He is picked up on the bus and dropped off by the bus. I am stay at home. However, the bus would pick him up and drop him off from daycare/school if he attended one. So research about having him evaluated and go from there. I love the school and my son has made great progress.
Let me know if I can help in any other way.

1 mom found this helpful

I think that the sooner you get him involved in a school type environment, such as preschool, the longer he has to adapt to it before he hits kindergarten and it's more important academically. You could even look into preschools that are for kids with special needs if you think it would help him. They offer smaller classes, with more one on one time for the children.

More Answers

Hi C.,

I see you already have alot of answers, but I taught preschool and head start for many years and wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you.

First of all my heart goes out to you, your partner, and your little one. I admire you for wanting to take the time to make the very best decision for him and for you.

Preschool is good for a lot of things. Surprisingly he can get several of those at the playcare. The skills learned at a preschool that are most helpful for later learning are social skills, listening skills, and negotiating skills, how to start and stop one activity and move to another, communication skills. All of these are skills that can be learned in a home playcare as well. A child can be super duper smart, ahead of the game even, but if he doesn't posess these skills he has a more difficult time in kindergarten than if he came in having never learned a thing about numbers, letters, colors and the like.

Preschool fosters curiosity and a desire to learn new things. The beautiful thing is that you can do that, too. With just thirty minutes a day, you can introduce him to ideas and concepts that will spark his interest and make him curious to learn more. You don't have to be a seasoned childcare professional. There is a pretty good chance that he might actually learn better with you right now, in a comfortable and not overstimulating environment. You can teach him numbers by letting you help cook things and dealing with the measurements. You can teach him colors using egg dye, jello, fruit gummies, and a million other things. You introduce language and it's uses best by reading to him, getting repetitive books that are easy for him to memorize and letting him "read" them to you.

I would stick to the playcare situation and just pick up the slack in the learning department, if I were you. And if you want any ideas, feel free to email me and I will send you some that are easy and cheap, if not free.

Hope this is helpful,


1 mom found this helpful

All children should go to preschool by age 3? I've never heard that, nor do I agree. Small children learn while playing in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable. If this in-home daycare is where he feels this way, that is where I would send my child. I would speak to the childcare provider about a nap or rest time. That is important for all young children. Ignore your pedi and go with your heart on this one! I completely agree with you!

1 mom found this helpful

Go with your gut! I went through the same issues with my now 6 year old. Looking back on it now, I wish I would have pulled him from preschool and let him just be a kid. My vote is for the play care down the street.

The second item I would consider is changing pediatricians. Everyone is a little different and for a doctor to make a blanket statement that every 3 - year old should be in a preschool does not show individualized "best for this patient" care. I have heard wonderful things, and am considering changing to, Dr. Baine (spelling?) in Frisco. Apparently, she understands and offers suggestions on how best to meet the needs of children, especially children who have SPD.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,

I agree with your gut feeling. I think I turned out just fine and I never attended preschool. I went to in-home daycare until I started Kindergarten. Your son feeling secure is more important. If he's comfortable he will learn more and grow in his environment. I would however talk with this lady at the in-home daycare and discuss a schedule with her. I think a routine with naps and feedings is very important though it does not have to be rigid on the exact times. My son is 2 and a half and has been with his in-home for 1 and a half years now. She's wonderful and she is structured. Ask this lady if she can incorporate some learning time each day. Here is how our schedule is set up. =-)

Breakfast is the only meal that is not at a set time since parents drop off at different times. She feeds them when they arrive, typically 8am-8:30am
9:30 - 11:00 is learning time, play time, and every Wednesday she takes them to the library
Lunch everyday is from 11:30-12:30
Nap for all of the kids is from 1pm- 3pm
Snack time at 4pm

Best of luck to you and your little one!

1 mom found this helpful

Once again, preschool is not crucial. I own one and I see every day kids who need it and kids who do fine without it. Of our 8 kids the 4 who went are no smarter or more successful than the ones who didn't, and they are all overacheivers.
Help your child with his medical issue first. If he loves this person it is important for you to encourage him to form relationships. He can learn his ABC's from you at home evenings.
There are seasoned childcare professionals who know nothing about kids with anxiety. Give your child security and he will learn just fine. Stop letting PHD's with no kids tell you what yours needs.

1 mom found this helpful

I think your doc was out of line to tell you that ALL children should start preschool by age 3 if even at all. We opted NOT to send our kids to preschool because I knew that there was nothing an institutionalized setting could teach my children at such a young age that I couldn't. For instance, my children both (boy and girl) knew their ABCs by the time they were 4. My son could spell most sight words by the time he was 5. Both kids could count and recognize numbers to 30 between the ages of 4-5. Now, my son is in 2nd grade and reads 165 WPM which is above average according to standard testing. My daughter is in Kindergarten and is doing very well with her letter naming and sounds and is right on target. No, they are not geniuses, but everything they know, I (in partnership with my husband) gave them the tools to start with, and I am dang proud of that. We taught them how to spell the objects in the room while playing games at night before bedtime. I spent the time on the floor with them playing with magnet letters and numbers. I read stories to them daily. I took them on walks through the neighborhood with a plastic bag for finding treasures to examine later (threw some science in too) and I took them to the park to run around with other kids (social skills you are worried about). My son has always been on the outgoing side and would run up to any kid on the playground and become immediate friends. My daughter is a bit more on the shy side, and it takes her a bit to warm up to others, but they are both doing great socially and academically, and what do you know, they NEVER stepped foot in preschool or daycare. Imagine that! So, you say you need to go back to work, well, make that work around your son. I understand needing to go back to work. I am working for the first time in almost 8 years, but I work around my kids' and husband's schedules, so that one of us is always here for them, and I am still home in time to hang with them for a little while before tucking them into bed. So, I say your mommy gut instinct is right on...listen to it. And I give you props for putting your son before your job. He's way more important.

1 mom found this helpful

it is so sad to see them get so upset. I have twins (g/b). they are 3.5. My little girl is attached to me all the time. she has a hard time separating from me. However, once I am gone she seems to do fine.

I am writing to you about ISD. My son attends the new school for speech. He is picked up on the bus and dropped off by the bus. I am stay at home. However, the bus would pick him up and drop him off from daycare/school if he attended one. So research about having him evaluated and go from there. I love the school and my son has made great progress.
Let me know if I can help in any other way.

1 mom found this helpful

My heart goes out to you. I haven't read all the responses. But I was wondering if your job that you left last fall, would take you back parttime? It would allow you bring in something, without having to pay for preschool/daycare. If you figure out the cost of child care, it might make sense in the long run. BTW, I know lots of kids who didn't go to preschool and they did fine in Kindergarten. The only issue I've hear their moms say is that following the class routins/schedules etc, took a bit of getting use to. Good luck.

Personally, I would send him to the in-home childcare. He's 3! He needs more security than learning at this point. It has been proven that learning is genetic. Once he gets into kindergarten, it all starts leveling out. There is no reason to rush a child.

I am horrified that people are pushing to learn so much faster. You can't put those types of expectations on children. They all learn at their own pace and passion. As a child, I never attended pre-k and was pushed into kindergarten too early. Academically, I was top of my class and ended up being valedictorian. Socially, I really needed more time before being pushed into the environment and that has affected me even into adult life. My daughter, age 2.5, is highly intelligent. She knows all her colors (both english & sp), number (both english & sp), alphabet, forms complete sentences and concepts, and uses terms like 'myself' properly. She learns these things through play. I don't push them on her. She is just starting to want to play with other kids which we do at Gymboree. You might try a Gymboree class or something like it. The class has made a big difference in her social skills because they have a structured lesson and a parent is in attendance.

Only you know your child and his needs. Don't be pressured into doing something your gut tells you not to do. You are the momma and the one who protects and loves him most.

yup. Go with your gut. The average 3 year old might need pre-school, but your son needs to feel secure. Do you really think he'll get anything out of pre-school is he's terrified, and/or just "WANTS TO GO HOME" the whole day? If this in-home care giver reads with him and/or lets him work on numbers/letters then he'll be fine. You can help her integrate some academics. I think I might also look at some counseling and/or play therapy. Maybe a therapist can find the reason he's withdrawing and help him work through it.
Meet his needs as they come. You'll get it right.


Hi, I am a full time mommy of a boy with aspergers (he's 3). The bus picks him up at our house and takes him to PPCD. Then, the bus picks him up from PPCD and brings him to my childcare of choice (as long as they can work it in their bus route). Believe it or not, our son loves the bus! We then pick up our son from childcare after work. Our son has improved so much by going to PPCD. He has anxiety issues too and the PPCD program will work with your child with these issues. Plus, he gets the advantage of learning everything he needs to know for kindergarten and it is free! Call the school, find out what bus service they use and see how you can make it work. If there is a will, there is a way! Good luck!

I think that the sooner you get him involved in a school type environment, such as preschool, the longer he has to adapt to it before he hits kindergarten and it's more important academically. You could even look into preschools that are for kids with special needs if you think it would help him. They offer smaller classes, with more one on one time for the children.

first off pediatricians should never impose their personal preferences on their patients. anything they tell you should be a general guideline, if anything. every child is different and as a professional, they should know that. it doesn't sound like your pediatrician is really willing to work WITH you on this, but that's what i'd suggest. find someone who knows more about this. i sure don't know anything. maybe if you got him into the school district (head start or something?) they could advise you about his circumstance as well. someone needs to, who knows what they're talking about. good luck and i hope you find something that he can thrive in.

Do you have preschool through your public school systems? At our public school the preschool teachers are therapist or have special training with special needs kids. My son went for his speech but he got so much more out of it.

I think you answered your own question when you said that he is withdrawing the more he is out of social situations. It sounds like you need to put him into some environment, and that it should be with kids his own age (or close to it).

We have a 3 year-old and a 22 month-old, both in DayCare - it was the best decision we made for the family. I don't have a choice, I have to work. But, I also think my kids are getting much more instruction in that environment than I would be able to provide at home (this is my personal opinion based upon my personality).

Our son just moved into the preschool class at Day Care and knows all of his numbers, letters (even in sign language), etc. At day care, they have a curriculum and set-times to do certain activities. It's very structured. If I were at home, I wouldn't be as structured, and I don't think I could have done as good of a job with either kid.

Trust your instincts so you don't have regrets. Even if you commit to a Day Care/Preschool, you can always withdraw if you think it's not helping him develop.

You might look into a cooperative Pre-school. In a co-op, parents actually help in the classroom. It is a nice way to ease both you and your son into the school setting. You can get more information at http://www.preschoolco-op.org/ .

Aside from his parent's love and attention, I believe the next thing a child NEEDS is socialization. I know I hated putting my boy in "school", but he blossomed so much once around other children each day. Think of it this way. You need other people (adults) in your life for mental stimulation, fun, and social interaction, so it stands to reason that your son would. You will help him with his "learning" each day by reading to, speaking with, and involving him in your daily activities. But as parents, we can teach only so much. Little ones need other little ones.

You have some really good options listed below. I suggest looking into a Lutheran school. No, I'm not a Lutheran, but my son (3 years) attends "school" at a Lutheran church, and it is great. They have a structured program, but it is reasonable, and not restrictive. They also have great continuing education for their teachers, and national standards for their teachers.

Good luck.

Wow can I relate to where you are. My son, now 6, begin having problems at 2-3. Pre-school was a disaster and we even had him in therapy for a year from the damage pre-school did to him. He too had sensory and social issues, which have since been recognised as Aspergers. We opted instead to have him in small classes at our Rec. Center and many playdates for his social skills. Some went great and some we returned in tears. Yes both of us.

He in now in public school in Grapevine and doing great. He in not behind at all from not being in pre-school. And in many areas is way ahead.

I stayed home and kept other kids to off set the income as well as have him a built in "playground" of other kids.We had a very structured day each day from class time to naps, lunch even snacks.

Hang in there! But don't push him to hard. A Mom's heart always has the right answer.

You can always do learning games with him at home to help him develop academically. Look online for home-schooling projects for a preschooler to find acitivites that will help you. My two are in preschool, and for them I think it's really important, but I think you need to follow your gut for your own child. I've heard before that preschool is unnecessary, and your child will learn what he needs to once he enters kindergarten. I wouldn't feel like you are hurting him by placing him somewhere that, socially, he is more comfortable. I don't always follow my pediatrician's advice, b/c my pediatrician isn't the one at home with my child every day -- I am. My advice is to listen to things your pediatrician says, but not be afraid to make your own decisions about what is best for your child.

At any rate, I'm sure you aren't hindering his development by not sending him to preschool. Social development is much more important than academic learning at his age, and he is getting that at the in-home place. Good luck!

I would consider looking into a preschool that is qualified and prepared to handle children with special needs. Apple Creek is a WONDERFUL preschool, with directors and teachers that are very well qualified to handle children with differing needs. They emphasize academic skills, but just as importantly, social skills. You can check their website for more information (www.applecreekpreschool.com), but I'd encourage you to go visit and talk with them about your son. They have morning and afternoon options and stay and play options as well. They are truly excellent!

I would see if your school district has parents as teachers program they come to your house and work with you guys. I'm an in home daycare provider/stay at home mom and I"m just now starting preschool with my daughter who just turned 3 the end of December and my 2 year old niece I wouldn't push it but take a look at the website I'm going off of and you might get some ideas to do stuff at home with him it's lettersoftheweek.com. Good Luck

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