Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Many pre-schools in Singapore start accepting children from between 18 months old to 2 years old. While times have changed and the age for entering school has become earlier both here in Singapore and in the rest of the world, child’s developmental needs remain the same. There is also some research indicating that children should, ideally, not start school until after they turn 3.
If you are consider enrolling your child into a pre-school, here are a few things to think about.
Remembering that you are your child’s first teacher is important. If you are caring for your child’s various developmental needs, your child may not need to attend pre-school at 18 months or even at 30 months. First, consider your motivations. If you are a stay-at-home parent, would pre-school give you a break? If you work, does your child need greater stimulation or socialisation with other children that their current caregiver cannot offer? Are they craving for more activities that cannot be provided at home?
INDEPENDENCE AND COMMUNICATION
How independent is your child? Can they feed themselves, play independently or use the toilet (many pre-schools require children to be potty-trained upon joining)? Can they communicate their needs well, and ask for help, if needed? Unlike you, a teacher may not be as attuned to your child’s needs. Therefore, their ability to communicate their needs is crucial to their well-being.
Has your child spent significant amounts of time away from you, at a grandparent’s or friend’s home? Do they suffer from separation anxiety easily? If you are your child’s primary caregiver, are you ready to separate from your child? It is completely normal to feel some anxiety and sadness about your child starting pre-school. Take time to familiarise yourself with the school’s staff members so that you can establish trust and have open lines of communications if and when your child is ready to join them. Once you have decided to go ahead, run trial tests at a relative’s or close friend’s home prior to their start date.
Is your child in good physical health? If your child is prone to minor illnesses, you may consider keeping them away from a school setting for a while as most children tend to get more ill upon entering pre-school.
A huge part of the pre-school experience revolves around interaction with other children. Is your child used to being around other children? Do they socialise well with others?
Can your child listen to and follow simple instructions? If they have difficulty understanding and following simple instructions, consider whether a pre-school setting is appropriate for them. Remember that a pre-school teacher may not able to read your child's cues as well as you if they are still non-verbal.
Young children have difficulty regulating their emotions and can be prone to meltdowns and tantrums. Does your child cope well under stress or during transitions? If they often breaks down, consider whether their emotional needs will be met adequately, given that they will no longer have a dedicated caregiver just to themselves.
Are you looking to place your child in a pre-school which has a fair amount of academic instructions in their curriculum? Recent research indicates that early academic training may be detrimental to a child. Consider whether your child is ready to be immersed in such a program.
Can your little one manage a pre-school schedule? A majority of pre-schools run on fixed timetables, with activities, snacks, outdoor play, circle time, music class, mandarin classes etc. Does this sort of scheduling accommodate their nap or rest times? If your child’s schedule will not fit into the pre-school's schedule, consider working on ensuring that thye have a regular schedule with a nap which can happen after they come back home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shumei is a local girl of Sri Lankan-Chinese heritage. Married to a British architect, she is a working mum by day and a serial multi-tasker by night. She is known in her local neighbourhood as the mother whose kid is always dirty from running around. She believes that she was born to be a mama, and loves being one! She has a heart for pregnant ladies and new parents and wants to support them as they start on their parenting journey, remembering how overwhelmed she felt as a new parent.
Shumei holds certificates in Early Childhood Education and Playwork Perspectives. She also co-founded the Respectful/Mindful Parenting Singapore group on Facebook.