Is Preschool better for children than staying at home?

Parents of little ones often struggle with the question of whether it is better to have their children stay at home or send them to Preschool. In previous generations, such as when the baby-boomers grew up - it was often the exception that mothers worked full day. Nowadays the situation is very different - apart from the fact that many women prefer to pursue a full-time career, it is often impossible for both parents not to work due to financial constraints. However, this does not take away from the fact that many mothers (and fathers) feel guilty about the fact that they drop their children off at a preschool everyday, instead of keeping them at home. This guilt is often fuelled by grandparents and family members who feel that “they grew up perfectly well” without having gone to preschool. Often there is an additional sub-text that parents who do send their children to preschool are passing on their responsibility to others - because no one can look after your children as well as you do. Luckily we do not have to decide this based on emotion and presuppositions. Although there is a lot of research showing the value and necessity of preschool attendance for later cognitive development, I want to focus on a specific article which appeared in 2019 that provides an interesting perspective on the value of full-time preschool.

The effects of full-day preschool

The research in question went a bit further than just comparing preschool vs non-preschool attendance - it actually compared the effects of full day preschool for 4-year olds vs only half-day preschool in a randomised trial. The authors summarise the results of full day preschool compared to half-day as follows:

(it) “produced substantial, positive effects on children’s receptive vocabulary skills (0.275 standard deviations) by the end of pre-K. Among children enrolled in district schools, full-day participants also outperformed their peers on teacher-reported measures of cognition, literacy, math, physical, and socio-emotional development. At kindergarten entry, children offered full day still outperformed peers on a widely used measure of basic literacy. The study provides the first rigorous evidence on the impact of full-day preschool on children’s school readiness skills.”

So although the aim of the research was not to compare stay at home children with children who attended preschool, the comparison between those that attended full-time with those that attended half-day provides indicates quite strongly that those that did not attend school at all would be even worse off by the time they get to primary school. If losing half a day compared to your peers has such a dramatic impact, just imagine what the impact would be if you do not attend preschool at all. The fact of the matter is that most parents simply do not have the time or skills to ensure their children receive a proper preschool programme which includes the vocabulary, mathematical, cognitive and math development that will ensure they are properly prepared for school. A good preschool with a proper curriculum will ensure that this is the case.

So in answer to our question - “Yes, preschool is good for your children - and as other research has also shown, it lays the foundation for a sound schooling experience in the years to come!”