Pre-school or nursery is often the first educational experience in a child’s life and there has long been a debate on the positives and the ‘not so positives’ of sending young children to this type of setting.
It is very important that a child’s first educational encounter is a pleasurable and acceptable experience, especially because the child is about to leave the comfort of their home environment,” Dr Tahir explains.
The interaction with children of the same age provides an opportunity to develop some important skills, he explains. “Pre-school and nurseries provide an initial experience for toddlers to mingle with other children of the same age. It helps them experience a new environment, and to break the routine of being at home. Social interaction helps them to learn to participate in group play, accept winning or losing, and learn to share. Toddlers also learn discipline through a structured environment, which helps them to develop responsibility.”
Sounds great, but Dr Tahir believes there is more to consider. “On the flip side sometimes the toddler is not ready, and parents do not realise. Going to pre-school or nursery under these circumstances can make the toddler develop anxiety symptoms, coupled with a negative experience towards such establishments,” he said. As parents how can we tell if our little one is ready for nursery or pre-school? Dr Tahir shares a few of his thoughts on this crucial subject.
“All children are different,” Dr Tahir says, “but there are a few simple questions parents can ask to detemine if their toddler is ready. Can he or she put their clothes on and be mindful that they must not take them off in public? Can the toddler listen and is able to follow instructions? Can they hold a pencil and cut with safety scissors, and can they write or scribble (demonstrating fine motor skills)? Can they share and play with other children, and are they curious and willing to find out about new things?” If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then the toddler may thrive in pre-school.”
Of course, when a toddler starts preschool it is also a big change for the parents, and this can cause a lot of different emotions. So what can parents do? “They may want to arrange a couple of visits for both the toddler and themselves to get acquainted with the environment and routine,” says Dr Tahir. “It is also a good idea to get access to a live camera if there is this option in the pre-school you choose, so that you can view your child during the day. Even after doing all of this, it still may be difficult for many parents to adjust, but they do not have to cope alone, there is plenty of professional help available in order to overcome the anxiety.”
Dr Muhammad S. Tahir is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at the American Wellness Centre, in addition to being the chairman. He has also taught at The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell New York as an assistant professor.