The Value of Pre-school

The Value of Pre-school

Picture of Meri Wallace
Meri Wallace

Meri Wallace, LCSW, a parenting expert and child and family therapist for over thirty years, grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Meri completed her Masters degree in Social Work at NYU, specializing in child development. Meri writes a blog for “Psychology Today”, and is the author of “Birth Order Blues” (Henry Holt and Co.) and “Keys to Parenting Your Four Year Old” (Barron's Educational Series.) She has been a columnist for Sesame Street Parents, New York Family Magazine,and Brooklyn Parent and has been a consultant to Children’s Television Workshop. She is frequently interviewed by national publications including Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, and Parents Magazine.

The teacher helps the children to build their social and emotional skills

At this time of year, I always like to reassure parents of young children who are starting preschool, that they are making a good choice. Parents often wonder if it is okay for them to send their child out into the world at such a young age. As I reaffirm the value of preschool, it helps them to feel more comfortable.

The beauty of nursery school is that it provides small children with the opportunity to interact with peers in a structured group environment,(one that has specific rules, routines and values,) under the guidance of a warm supportive professional.

The teacher helps the children to build their social and emotional skills, stimulates their love of learning, and their self-expression, and teaches them how to function effectively as a group member. Many early childhood educators believe that these are the important goals of a quality preschool program, because they are the cornerstones for building a happy and successful life. Programs that focus primarily on academic skills at this age are developmentally premature. Another plus of preschool is that the teachers are trained to detect any area in which a child requires extra assistance, for instance eyesight, following rules, or impulse control, and through a joint effort of the parents and the teachers the problem can be remedied early on.

The teacher’s positive phrases and respectful behavior set the tone and standards for the social interactions within the classroom. Building upon what they have learned at home, the children absorb the teachers approaches and school’s values overtime. Then, as they practice their new skills with one another, the preschoolers become teachers too. They model positive behavior for their friends and constantly instruct one another about the rules.

As your child sits in the circle at group time, she’ll be instructed, “We all need to sit quietly and pay attention to one another,” and her listening skills will improve. She will enhance her ability to express herself as she is encouraged to answer questions, state her opinion, or stand up and tell the class about her special toy. When she sets the table at snack time or reads quietly on the rug while the music teacher sets up, she expands her capacity to cooperate.

The result of all these positive experiences, is that your child will develop emotionally. He will gain greater impulse control when he’s told, “It made Maria feel sad when you told her that you hate her.” In an atmosphere so focused on and accepting of feelings, your child will grow in his ability to tell others how he feels and will develop skills for self-expression.

The end result of her preschool experience should be that she feels good about herself, socializes well, trusts authority figures, and, very importantly, enjoys going to school.