Preschool Good for Our 3 Year-old?

Updated on July 22, 2010
M.S. asks from San Rafael, CA
21 answers

Our daughter just turned 3 years of age. She's been in a part-time preschool (~2.5 hours three times a week), since last November. Of all the preschools we looked at, we thought the one she's in was the best one. She's in a 2's class with 9 other kids and two teachers. The school is very organized and they always stay on a consistent schedule. The school has a new theme and change their activity table toys/projects every week. It's a play-based school (not Montessori). Our daughter loves to do imaginative and creative play, to sing and to dance. The other kids in her class do not do as much role-playing as her. My husband is now questioning whether the school is good for Kiana because she's too advanced? for the other kids, and also because she went through a difficult at-home to preschool transition. It took about two months for her to stop crying when brought to school. She doesn't cry anymore when dropped off at school and her teachers say she seems to be having a good time at school. However, in the mornings while getting ready for school, she still says she doesn't want to go. My husband is the stay-at-home parent and has been the one who has had to field her crying and resistance. I think as an only child who doesn't have regular play dates, part-time preschool is a great opportunity for her to develop her social skills, outside of her parents, and to eventually make some firends, develop her confidence, etc... However, my husband is questioning whether any 3-year old who has a parent at home needs to go to preschool. He says that he didn't go to preschool until he was 4 years old and is worried that she is too young for it. Is there an early childhood education expert out there who could give us some advice?

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm not an ECE, if you don't count 20 years of real life experience, but in my opinion your husband is right. The best education at that age comes from actively involved parents. She doesn't "need" to go to preschool. If she really doesn't want to go, and your husband is happy to have her stay with him, then why not keep her home? She'll be in school soon enough.

Kudos to your husband for being willing to keep her home. I know when my kids were that age I was sure dying to have a break from them.

And by the way, there is a big difference between 3 and 4. She will probably be much happier to go to pre-k in another year.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

As a preschool owner I can say you can have it both ways. You can be a very involved parent and also have a happy socialized child. Your daughter has the best of both worlds. She is not in daycare all day, she is playing with her friends (which is very important in her development) and has a parent at home to spend times with her when she is at home. Before I owned a preschool I was a stay at home mom and both of my children craved outdoor stimulation with their peers. They became very bored at home so they both went three mornings a week to preschool and loved it!!! I see nothing wrong with your daughter going to preschool if she is happy and enjoys going.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I'd strongly encourage you to keep her in the program or to perhaps look for another one if you collectively feel this one isn't the best.

We've always been working parents, both my husband and me, so some kind of day care was always something we had to do, but we have several friends who have SAHP and have their kids in preschool.

I know it doesn't appear to make sense if you have a parent at home why you would want to send them off a few hours/day a few days/week. But, I honestly think our kids are as advances as they are because of being in the environment they are. Even our SAH friends say they wish their kids had more structure because they're (parents) distracted during the day with other things that need to be done.

Even though our son's been in day care at the same facility almost 2 years, it took about 6 weeks for him to be able to like his new class. He has one of the best teachers and is in with other kids who he's known for years, he still freaked out because it was "different" than what he was accustomed to. Our daughter (2) had no problem leaving her old class behind. Different kids, different comfort levels.

Hope you figure out what's best. I think you're doing the right thing and would encourage you to stick with it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

From experience, reading, and learning from my grown daughter (who has worked years as a YMCA kids counselor, little kids gym coach, pre-school teacher, and is a mother of a 4 year old(, I think that part time socializing with other kids in a good school with good teachers is a great experience for the child. Perhaps when families were bigger and they had brothers and sisters and were around their friends too, those things kind of took care of themselves. It can help a babyish child develop and learn how to "negotiate" with people and their peers who aren't mommie and daddie. They get friends to be invited to birthday parties and vice versa. They learn to respect authority, follow rules, stand in line and be orderly when needed, and overall, they will progress further because they mimic kids and are braver because of it. Your child gets exposed to coughs and colds and things which can strengthen their immune system now while daily attendance at school isn't going to be sacrifieed as much. You get to find out if your child is too shy, too violent, too anything that your parenting style could help correct now. And please, to all parents out there, learn a bit about good parenting. You have no idea how much overspoiling them hurts them, and lack of quality time, how to raise self esteem, and good parenting skills. Read some books. You can't know what you don't know. All you know is how your parents raised you andd yet the studies and experts have learned so much since then. Keep in mind what kind of adult and spouse you hope your child will be and raise them with that in mind.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

Hi. Great question as I posted the same back in Oct I think. It is very important for your daughter to go to Prek. My daughter is the oldest in her class(she is 4 1/2), and most of her classmates are 3 1/2 turning 4, and she will be 5 in Sept. It was more important for me to make her feel like the oldest and mature while learning. My daughter LOVES school, although she hates getting up and getting ready....she still tells me she does not want to go, but it was not about the school....
It was about the little things like she did not want to clean up, she did not want the other kids mess to clean up, etc...
I think you should talk with the teachers, and just find out if she is playing with the kids, etc....
They will tell you if she is ready to move up.
Also, you can still do play dates...picnics, etc with children.
As for your hubby, back then, we did not have 2 and 3 year old programs, we do, socialization, confidence(all that you stated) is very important, cause kids are alot meaner these days.....Keep her up with the programs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I am sure I am going against the current norm here, but here it goes....
I personally don't believe in pre-school. I am with your husband, if a parent (not necessarily mom) is home with the child then the child should be at home. This doesn't mean you can't have 2 or 3 "play dates" a week (good for parent and child) so that you both can socialize. I think this new craze to "socialize" kids under 4 years old and the push to make sure they are "educated" is ridiculous. Let your child bond with YOU first. They will have plenty of years ahead to socialize. And guess what? You will discover that it is fun to teach your child ABCs and 123s! You don't need a degree in Child Education to do that.
Two of my children didn't attend school until 1st grade (believe it or not Kindergarten is NOT required) and were at the top of their class, I don't feel it hurt them one bit to be home. Our babies don't stay babies long, I don't understand this need to push them out of the house so quickly.
I find it very sad that so many moms agree with you. Your child has an opportunity that most children don't have, to get to know their father. I definitely was born in the wrong era....=(


answers from San Francisco on

A co-op nursery school could be just the ticket. I put all three of my kids through one, and it was the most valuable experience for them and for me! Your husband will find parents dealing with the same craziness as he is (in parenting) and get advice from experience parents and ECE experts. Your daughter will get to choose what she wants to do with no pressure--she'll have the opportunity to try out something she's never done before and find that she loves it or find that it's not for her and go on. Your husband will get to 'work' in the school one day a week and experience other kids and your daughter, see her interact with them and they will learn together how to deal with life. And you can come too, if you can get off work! And you can both go to the parenting night classes and learn together! Your husband is a lucky guy to be a SAH dad, but he's not expected to be an expert!

If you want to find a co-op preschool in your area, you can google 'Parent coop nursery school and put in your city, or you can go to which is the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools and they have a directory.

There's nothing better for everyone in the family than a coop nursery school!

Good luck!



answers from Modesto on

My 2.5-yr-old only daughter is in a similar type of preschool 1.5 days/wk. She started in Mid-January, so she's been at it for about 3 months. She's very attached to me (the stay-at-home parent) and the transition was tough--she would cry every time I dropped her off. But she would be fine in a minute or two, and I observed her playing happily with the other kids right after I walked out (through the window). After about 2 mos she started asking to go and we rarely have crying in the morning now, though sometimes she says she doesn't want to go when she first wakes up (but she says that about everything when she's just waking up). My point--even with a sensitive girl, the "resistance" gets better, and it's not really resistance to preschool, it's resistance to being separated from me--she'd love to have me stay there with her!

I know what your husband is going through, but since she started, I've seen such wonderful changes in her. Her confidence in social situations has really improved, as has her comfort level and ability to communicate appropriately with other adults. The school has taught her great things I hadn't thought of at home, and she gets to do messy crafts and things I don't do at home either. I look at it as enrichment for her--I provide so much at home (including playdates, park, library story time, etc.), but she gets even more by spending a few hours away from me each week. The change in her has been so positive I don't regret it in the least. It's about opening up new worlds to children who are otherwise stay-at-home with no siblings. My daughter is the youngest in her class and also at the top as far as how advanced she is, but she's still getting so much out of it. See if your husband can see positive changes in your daughter since she started (besides the resistance in the morning). If he can, it's probably worth continuing.



answers from Sacramento on

You could likely get as many different answers to this question as there are people to answer. I will give you my perspective, but please realize it is only an opinion. First of all, since you asked for an early childhood education 'expert', let me tell you my credentials. I have studied and earned an associate's degree in early childhood education. I have also been working in that field since 1987 gaining more 'education' from experience. I have continued attending various workshops in order to stay as current as possible. In addition, I have the advantage of being mother to a daughter who has earned her bachelor's degree in child development and she has worked for twenty years in the field. Currently she and I work together in a home based childcare and are constantly working to enhance each other's experience and knowledge.
Now, having said all that, I can assure you that I don't always feel like an 'expert', but know I have some good ideas to offer.
Your child won't suffer from not going to preschool as long as you and your husband are able to offer her some other good experiences in socialization. If, on the other hand, your husband intends to simply keep her home with him and not get out to a park, playgroup or other setting where she can socialize with other children as a routine (daily if possible) basis, then I think she would be missing a lot.
Personally, as long as you already have her in a preschool, I would recommend keeping her there. Three times a week for 2.5 hours is not a lot, yet gives her some good playtime with other children and the opportunity to get used to being around other adults as well.
The fact that she cries and shows some resistance in the morning is quite natural. Children of this age do not deal with transitions of any kind very well and I wonder if she wouldn't be just as distressed if he were to tell her she couldn't go to preschool that day. Most children will settle into their class routine within five minutes of arrival and be perfectly fine and happy for the rest of the day. Some even cry and resist going home at the end of the day, just as much as they cried and resisted going to preschool in the first place.
From what you have told us, I think your daughter is doing well in her preschool. The fact that she may be more advanced than her peers shouldn't be a worry. She can learn to be the leader in this situation.
I have to say this, but please don't take it as a criticism... I wonder why your husband would be concerned that she is too advanced for her preschool, but rather than wanting to find another, more advanced, program he seems to want to simply keep her home?
I'm neither a big preschool advocate, nor a big keep them at home advocate. I've even been known to say that in a perfect world children would always be able to stay at home with their parents until they are old enough to go to Kindergarten. However that was in regard to children having to be in full time daycare because both parents work outside the home. I know that's a necessity for many families, and am a care provider for three children who are in that situation. However a good preschool is not a problem in my mind at all. I do appreciate that you have chosen a play type preschool rather than a more academically oriented one. Children of this age learn much better through play than they do from sit down book work.


answers from Sacramento on

I'm not a professional expert...but my oldest had some major social anxiety...and is a smart cookie as well...before I got her into pre-K.....I started my own playgroup on that she could experience playing with children, with me being the time preschool started...we only had to deal with a month of the crying and throwing fits...and throughout the year we sometimes had to deal with the "I don't want to go to school"....but she's in Kindergarten now and loves it, loves school and loves learning.....She's not the social butterfly at school, but doese have friends....hope that helps.

maybe your hubby can help add more activities by joining a playgroup....most will except stay at home dads.



answers from San Francisco on

My son was 3.5 yrs old when he started preschool and he LOVES IT!!! He went from being at an at home child care to Preschool. He would ask me everyday if he can go to school and I would tell him that he would start soon. He has learned soooo much!! I am so happy. He will attend his 2nd year starting in Septemeber and he can't wait to go back, he has made friends and the teachers are really wonderful! Going in he already knew his colors, ABC's, animals, numbers. Preschool is a really great experience for any child, that's my opinion, they experience so much: social skills, sharing, good behavior etc...



answers from San Francisco on

Hi M.
If she is an only child, she will need to socialize with other kids. A regular play group or pre school will accomplish that. I would look for a coop pre school were your husband can go at least once a week and work while you daughter plays. That way he gets to observe how she is playing and learning. The great thing about this kind of pre school is that you get organized activities that you might not normally set up at home on a daily basis (like really messy art projects). I did this with both my daughters and we all loved it! It was not academic at all! But it was educational. We even had gross motor skills development and exercises to encourage crossing the midline and all those things that I would know nothing about if it weren't because they also had parent education classes at night every other week. Your husband is right, she doesn't need pre school but it is very beneficial for the child. If she had other siblings close in age then it would not be as important, but even then, it is nice for them to have their own friends.

Good luck with you decision.


answers from San Francisco on

Why go what are the benefits? Is a break for your husband? Most doctors agree young children do not need lots of socialization! They have a lifetime of it later! And we all have to go to school unless we are fortunate to be home schooled! So what are the benefits if any? Plus does it not cost money to attend? Happy parenting!



answers from Sacramento on

My son will be 3 in June and I am currently looking for a preschool for him. He craves the opportunity to play with other kids. I also think it is very important for him to understand that all adults are authority figures, not just Mom and Dad. I have a nephew who never went to preschool and he had a hard time adjusting to the fact that he had to listen to anyone other than Mom and Dad. I do think that part time is also a good idea at this age. Maybe the compromise is to only do 2 mornings a week instead of 3. That way she gets more time with Daddy but also some time with other authority figures and kids. Good luck!


answers from Fresno on

I don't know if this is the case with your family or not, but if your husband expresses his dissatisfaction with preschool, your daughter is probably picking up on that and playing into it. If she has a great time when she gets there, then what you are seeing at home is likely a show put on for your benefit.

I say this because my husband used to do that all the time. For instance, when I signed my daughter up for swimming lessons, he said (right in front of her), "She is way too young for lessons. She'll never learn how to swim at this age." Well, after he said that, even though she'd been excited before, she suddenly decided she would be afraid of swimming and that she couldn't do it. Sigh. It took a good week or two for her to even get into the pool, however she did indeed learn to swim that summer. I've talked with my husband pretty extensively about the fact that kids will live up to your expectations of them - good or bad - and he has gotten a lot better about believing in them and their independence and abilities.

If she's having a good time while at school, I'd keep her in the program. Why not? Preschool is fun, and a low-stress way for her to interact with other adults and children, learn how to follow rules, how to share, etc. She still spends most of her time at home where she can interact with you.



answers from San Francisco on

I think that they don't NEED pre school until pre K @ 4 years of age. My daughter is 3.5 now and will go in the fall when she is 4. We found a coop pre school -that may work better for your situation so that your husband could be more involved and your child could make some friends that way.
Aren't there other small children in your neighborhood? I haven't had to do formal play dates because my daughter plays with the other kids in our neighborhood that are close in age.
I think stay at home dads get left in the cold when the sea of moms just sort of ignore them. I see it happen at my daughters dance class all the time.



answers from Yuba City on

Sorry, honey, but I'm going to side with your husband on this. Preschool is not much more than glorified daycare, in my mind. If he's willing to be present for her at home, maybe provide some opportunities for limited interactions with other kids/parents, no school will work harder than he to provide opportunities for growth and development for your daughter. Summer's coming: how about playdates in the park, swim lessons, dance classes, Music Together classes, etc. Possibilities abound. School can wait. Preferably a long, long time. 2 and 3 year olds are never going to provide the lessons in socialization that you want for your daughter. Think about it: social skills taught by preschoolers? Huh? That will come from you, primarily. She wants you guys for now: enjoy the moment. It WILL pass, and, when she goes forth into the world, it will be with confidence and not fear, because you listened to her, read her cues, obeyed your own instincts, and gave her a most excellent start in life. If you still insist on taking her to school, at least allow dad to stay with her there, preferably the whole time, but maybe transition to part time if you feel she's ready for it. You'll know that she really wants to be there when she is running in, eager for the day to start, and reluctant for it to end. Simply not crying so much is not good enough. She'll only be learning that resistance is futile, conformity is best, and it doesn't matter how you feel, so try not to feel at all. Please don't do that to your daughter. She sounds amazing, and you both sound like wonderful parents who are trying to figure out what's best for her. School isn't it: you are!
I am a mother of 2 homeschooled daughters, ages almost 11 and 15, and have worked in early childhood education throughout my life in various settings.



answers from San Francisco on

I am not an early childhood education expert but am the mother of a happy, well-adjusted 8 year old who is doing phenomenal in 2nd grade. AND the aunt of a shining, confident, competent 6 year old who is thriving in kindergarten. Neither of them went to pre-school until they were four years old and in fact, our pediatrician - a "traditional", Western medicine practitioner who has a wait list of parents that want to get in to her practice - told me, upon my inquiry as to whether preschool was necessary, "If you have afford to stay home with your son and enjoy him, go for it! Preschool was created to help parents who need to go to work and have to send their kids somewhere." That said, if your daughter doesn't go, you may have to trust that she will "catch up" on the academics that many who have gone to preschool for years will have mastered by kindergarten.


answers from San Francisco on

My older 2 kids did not go to preschool until they were 4 (preK program). I am a SAHM and we had a variety of activities and playgroups for social stimulation (and sanity for me - lol). They are now 13 and almost 11 and I think that was the right choice.
My youngest started preschool when he was 2 (almost 3) 2 days a week. I am very involved at the school and much more busy because of the older kids and so have not been a part of a playgroup, so I thought it was important. He was playing with older kids all the time and I wanted him to have his own friends, too. I think this was also the right choice, although he almost never says he doesn't want to go; he is disappointed when he doesn't have school.
Does your daughter "need" preschool? Probably not. Is she too young for preschool? Probably not. Maybe your husband can find some "daddy and me" programs through parks and rec department, or a dance or music class for youg children. She will still get interaction with other kids; he can talk with other parents and develop relationships so that play dates happen more often. There are more options!


answers from San Francisco on

I am a retired life long teacher and a parent of two girls who are now grown. Both of my children had to go to pre-school when they were younger than 3 yrs. because my husband and I both worked just to make ends meet. I wish I had the luxury of staying at home with them more when they were that age and I felt guilty about it for a long time. My girls are both well adjusted and extremely successful in their careers and happy healthy well adjusted adults. I do think it is important to transition children at a young age into a school environment as long as they can just have quality play time and the sessions are limited. Sounds like a good schedule. You could have transitioned her easier if you had stayed with her in the pre-school volunteering until she felt more secure in her new environment but she has adjusted somewhat. Have you asked her why she does not want to go? Why do YOU think she may not want to go? Have you observed her in her school? Is she happy? You might want to back this truck up a bit and ask her if she would like you or your husband to go and be with her and work in the classroom for part of her time there helping the teacher. Kids love it when their parents are involved. She obviously wants more attention at home from you both and this may be the reason she is not wanting to go all the time. It is a way for her to tell you that its a bit too much, and you can shorten her time she spends there and spend it with her one on one. Children are all different and have different needs to feel safe and secure and she may be trying to tell you that but is too young to verbalize what she is feeling. Tell your husband that he may not have needed to go to pre school until later but its a new day and times have changed. Children need a leg up when entering Kindergarten. Studies have shown that there is a significant advantage for kids who have gone to pre school than those who have not. Most kids these days go into Kindergarten and know there ABC's and counting and even how to spell and write their name. The kids that stayed home did not do as well and fell behind. It's not a reflection of the intelligence of the child but rather the teachers who have upped the ante on what kids should be learning because of the children who have come into Kindergarten with lots of knowledge from attending pre-school. They have changed the curriculum to meet the needs of the population. They now teach what used to be 1st grade curriculum in Kindergarten and the State Standards have changed to reflect this as well. I hope this was helpful to you. W.



answers from Modesto on

I think preschool is a must, even for 3 yr olds, ESPECIALLY if they have no siblings or other regular friends to learn social skills with. Kids always say they don't wan't to go - the question is does she seem happy when she is picked up? If she seems miserable then maybe reassess her maturity level or the preschool. If she seems relatively happy then just keep going. My 3.5 yr old son has been going to the same daycare/preschool since he was born. He goes through spurts of wanting and not wanting to go. He finally doesn't complain anymore. When he could express himself more, he always said he would miss me. However, he would then get busy with the other kids and forget about it. When I picked him up he said he missed me. Teachers said he was happy, fine and participating etc. It was the fact that when I picked him up he re-remembered I had been gone. I always told him it was ok to miss me and that I would miss him. I told him that even though I missed him, it made me happy that he had fun at preschool so it was ok.There were times it was a real fight to get him to preschool. But upon careful questioning afterwards, it was clear he had had a good time. Children do not always carry the memories forward like we do. If adults like something, we look forward to it again. Kids live more in the moment - at this moment is this what they want to do? SOmetimes kids just don't want to be taken from their toys or their tv at that moment to go to school, even thought they have a good time and live in the moment when they are there. Good luck to you!

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