Prince George had his first day at preschool (a Montessori centre) when he was 2 years 6 months of age.
It would be unlikely that Prince George would suffer if he did not start preschool until 3 years or 4 years of age - and this is the same for all children unless children are from low socio-economic homes with parents who are not available to provide a good standard of care.
Starting preschool or an early childhood centre at an earlier age gives little added academic benefit in the long-run. Emotionally it can be tough unless the child has first established a secure attachment with his/ her parents or caregiver and is able to receive personal attention and care from the educators/ teachers during the initial period of setting-in. Many thousands of children under 2 years of age in NZ are in early childhood education programmes and supported by their families and educators/ teachers they make the adjustment successfully.
In New Zealand some parents involve their children in Playcentre from birth. Parents are welcomed and expected to initially stay at Playcentre until their child is old enough and settled, and this can be a big support for parents as they cope with the huge challenges of parenting. Playcentre can provide a fabulous opportunity to meet other families and gain advice and good information about child development.
For families new to an area, enrolling with an early childhood centre can be helpful for builidng new networks of friends.
If you are not seeking childcare or an in-home educator because you have to be back at work but you want your child to get a head start for school then do what many in our parents generation did – they sent us along to a part-day preschool for 2 – 3 hours, 3 - 5 days a week from about age 4.
Whether or not your child has reached all his/her developmental milestones for his/her age does not matter for starting in an early childhood education programme. Teachers [should] work with and support children where there are at in their development and will help to get any extra support your child might need.
The early childhooed education programme experience will help your child to:
- develop confidence to be alone without you,
- get an introduction to life within an institutional setting,
- learn to talk and listen in group discussions,
- develop strategies to cope with being part of a large group of children from different families/cultures/abilities, and
- learn many other things too.