A Current Age Debate: Preschool or Not?

Hey guys! All of you have talked with your child’s health care provider about milestones, and there are milestones for lots of different areas: gross motor, fine motor, social, and speech. We all think about sitting up, walking, babbling, smiling and talking. But what about some group social skills and exposures to stressors and illnesses? For example, how does a child learn to share or take turns? What about separation anxiety and learning how to cope when a parent is not there? And what about illness exposure and your child’s immune system? Let’s address some ideas about getting young kids exposed to other kids and some pros and cons about the exposure!


First, it is vitally important for kids to have peer exposure at all ages. Whether it’s through large group daycares,  in-home daycares, half-day preschools, full-day preschools, Mother’s Day Out, church nurseries or play groups, they have to learn how to interact with others in terms of playing, speech and communication, sharing, and creative play. One of my favorite things is to ask my kids what they did at school that day. I will oftentimes get fantastic stories of playing Batman on the playground, or playing “baby doll” with Annie and Mrs. Becky!

And what about things like art projects, music and dancing. I love to see how kids express themselves both individually and in the group when they do projects.

Finally, it’s critical for all kids to learn expected social behaviors. Taking turns, waiting in line, sharing, not hitting or biting, and not always getting your way or what you want are all so important in the development of a child. I’ve been asked time and time again how to stop temper tantrums when a child wants something. Here’s the trick- it’s expectations! If you give them everything they want, then they will expect it every time. So…stop doing that! I believe that group exposures can help temper unreasonable expectations and let them have a more reasonable outlook!

So, you’ve decided to send your kid to get some group/peer exposure. You walk them in to the classroom on the first day and your kid freaks out—I mean freaks out! The non-stop crying, flailing of arms and legs, giving you those terrified puppy eyes. So what should you do? Take them home immediately right???? Wrong! It is a normal response for a child to have some separation and stranger anxiety and for them to be upset. But, it is very important for them to learn how to adjust to these exposures in a healthy way. Just think, it’s the first day of Kindergarten and you walk them in, and as you leave, it’s meltdown city! Believe me, it’s much, much easier to deal with a two year old not wanting to be at Mother’s Day Out than a 5 year old in Kindergarten. I’ve seen both, trust me!

Finally, an article was just published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine by Sylvana M. Cote basically stating that kids who attend daycare or preschool get more colds when they are young, but have less colds when they are school age. And, the flipside is true: kids who do not attend any daycare or preschool have less colds when they are young, but have more colds when they are school age. So, from an academic standpoint, it’s better to miss daycare or preschool than actual kindergarten and first grade!

I’m not saying you have to put your kids in daycare. All I’m saying is it is a really good idea to get your kids exposed to other kids so they can learn vital social behaviors, figure out how to react when you are not with them, and finally, to catch a cold or two! If you have questions, please talk to your healthcare provider and check out resources at AAP.org.

 

 

Robert L. Rux, M.D.

Robert L. Rux, M.D. is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Magnolia Springs Pediatrics. Originally from Mobile, he attended medical school at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB) and completed residency at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama (UAB). He is married to Jaime and has three children, Adler, Walker and Mary McAtee.

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