How Preschool Works

Why Is Preschool Important?

The benefits of preschool are well-documented. Let's look at what the experts say.

Research and reports have shown that preschool can have an impact on whether kids turn to crime and how long they stay in school, according to Public School Review, a free online tool for finding schools in your area.

James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, says there's an enormous cost-benefit advantage in decreased jail time for those who were low-income children and attended preschool. He asserts that, in general, preschool attendance can lead to fewer behavioral issues, better self-esteem and a higher IQ. It even has been shown to increase literacy among families, as parents become more involved in their children's education.

W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., works with the National Institute for Early Education Research and is a proponent of universal preschool for all children. He cites other benefits of preschool: higher test scores; superior social skills; better graduation rates; fewer incidents of teen pregnancy, abortion and smoking; and less need for special education and grade repetition.

There are so many big pluses for sending kids to preschool. When isn't it recommended?

Perhaps your child isn't potty-trained. Or maybe there isn't a quality nursery center near you that you trust. Or, you're excited and able to provide a similar structured experience at home. There are certainly great reasons to skip preschool altogether -- it's a personal choice.

But both sides of the preschool debate acknowledge the importance of providing a child with a preschool-like experience -- whether that's in preschool, your home or somewhere else.

If you decide to go the home-preschool route, check with your local YMCA or community center for parent-and-child courses, and visit a playground frequently where your toddler can interact with others his or her age.

Keep in mind that because preschools are regulated by state and sometimes federal law and held to a high standard, the caliber of what they offer is likely to match or exceed that of other establishments.

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