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Ready for Preschool?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter just turned two, she knows the whole alphabet and the numbers from 1-12, she reads out loud the letters on signs, magazines, posters and so on. My question is, should I put her in a school? And what kind of school -- regular preschool/daycare? I just find that it is more playtime than learning in that age group! I am not looking for babysitting but a school. What should my next step be? I want to take advantage of her ability to learn fast and make it fun for her!

A: It's very exciting to see our toddlers' learning at such a rapid rate. You are feeding her natural curiosity by giving her a stimulating home environment and encouragement. Please don't feel pressured to place her in a formal school setting. She has just turned two and she does not need to attend a school in order for her to continue learning and growing at a healthy pace. At her present developmental stage, reading to her, conversing with her, playing with her (and letting her play with peers), keeping her physically active, and offering her sensory stimulation are the cornerstones of her overall growth and development.

If you think that she would benefit from a preschool environment, on a part-time or daily basis, conduct a personal investigation of the best in your area and give it a trial run. Don't think that because all you see in a preschool is "playtime" that there is no learning taking place. Toddlers learn best and are most intellectually stimulated through play and play-like activities rather than formal instruction. Educational psychologist Jane Healy cites recent brain research suggesting that the more kids move their bodies, the more they stimulate their brains. Healy says, "When you stimulate the cerebellum [through exercise], you make your child smarter." In addition to preschools' providing ample opportunities for kids to achieve this body movement/cognitive development connection, they can provide youngsters opportunities for social competence and encourage their zeal for learning. Unfortunately, many preschools have become more like kindergartens, emphasizing academic skills and accomplishments. David Elkind has documented this disservice to children in his book, Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk.

For more detailed scientific information on brain research and how parents can use these findings to promote readiness in their kids at home, I suggest that you read Jane Healy's superb book, Your Child's Growing Mind: A Guide to Learning and Brain Development from Birth to Adolescence. Keep up the great work providing your little one the attention, love and stimulation she needs for her overall growth and development.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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