Thoughtful Parenting: How important is preschool? |

Thoughtful Parenting: How important is preschool?

Do you ever wonder if preschool is really necessary? Is there a difference between preschool and child care? All they do is play, so does programming really matter? Well, the answer to all three of these thoughts and questions is “yes.”

A high-quality program using a research based curriculum should be something families consider. Resent research from a number of scholarly institutions has identified the No. 1 area of development that determines all later learning success in school is not literacy, math or even science. It is social emotional growth. 

A child develops most of their social/emotional skills between 3 and 8 years old. This means that as parents or guardians we need to be looking for programs that have a curriculum specifically teaching social/emotional skill development and success with peers. 

It also means that being enrolled in a program of your choice is very important as this is where your child will learn crucial social/emotional skills with their peers in the most critical time of their development.

There is a difference between preschool and child care. Preschool programs are typically a half-day with a specific focus on learning and preparedness for kindergarten, while child care offers longer hours. 

It can become very overwhelming and frustrating for families to choose a program — one that meets their family needs, while still providing a good start for their child. Every program should provide at least a half-day of well-planned learning opportunities for children. These opportunities should be designed around curriculum the center is using to ensure individualized growth and development is happening for your child.

When you first look into an early childhood room you will see a lot of play, as this is how young children learn best and with their peers. A high-quality program will provide a number of learning opportunities for your child with an ample number of toys in each learning center. These toys and learning centers should change regularly. 

Staff should be able to tell you why each learning center and various toys are present in the room. At different times of the year, different toys and learning environments are appropriate. A well-planned program will have teachers and group leaders that can always identify why they have various toys and learning centers offered in the classroom.  

  Here are some helpful tips as you begin looking.

  • Prepare yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure your family’s needs are met and your child will receive a great educational start in a licensed, high-quality program.
  • Your questions should include inquiring about the curriculum and how the program meets children’s needs, including social/emotional development.
  • Think about a variety of ways your child can interact and grow their social/emotional skills in a well-planned environment, including settings or opportunities that are more than just play dates. Preschool, child care, story hour at your local library or religious programs are a few ideas.  

A concern I often hear when families are enrolling is we are not sure we can afford it. Most child care centers will offer flexibility in the number of days you enroll. There are also a variety of programs that offer financial assistance, including free preschool, if your family qualifies. 

Contact Child Care Network for support in finding the right early learning program for your child at 970-879-7330 or

Tami Foth has been employed in the field of early childhood education for 13 years. She is the director, a classroom teacher, CPP coordinator and special education case manager at Hayden Preschool in the Hayden School District. 

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