Preschool Programs

Carol Osborn is an early childhood educator and president of CAO Training Associates which offers workshops on parenting and early childhood education. She is the mother of six grown children and grandmother of thirteen.

Dear Carol,

My little boy is 2 years old and I have him in a preschool program two mornings a week. The staff is very nice and he loves it there, but I am concerned that he is not learning enough. Some of my friends have children in programs that do coloring sheets and focus on letters and numbers. Should I switch programs so he will be ready for kindergarten?

Worried Mom

Hi Worried Mom,

With all the focus today on academic success and readiness for school it can be confusing to first-time parents who want their children to learn all they can early on in life. It is true that children learn the foundations for language, literacy, and school readiness within the first three years. How they learn can be confusing for parents. Research shows that infants and toddlers have a curriculum all their own. They are sensory learners and pick up information by exploring their environment. As long as the preschool environment gives your son every opportunity to make choices indoors and out, explore using art materials, and exposes him to print and books, then he is learning.

Toddlers between the age of 18 and 36 months are in the social-emotional stage of autonomy. This means they are learning about their world and who they are in it. Some early childhood writers have referred to this as establishing their “personhood.” Your son is a unique person, and the fact that his early childhood caregivers recognize that and value him, supports his competence, confidence, and curiosity. These are characteristics that are required for success in school and life. In addition, being able to communicate, make friends, and cooperate with others will prepare him well for kindergarten.

One of the best ways to support your child’s learning is to become a partner with his preschool teachers. Tell them about his likes and dislikes. Share some of his favorite books, songs, and the activities that he does with you at home. As they incorporate these things into the early learning environment and add new experiences, he will learn and develop in all areas: socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.

Very young learners are not ready for worksheets to learn their numbers and letters. They learn best through everyday conversations, environments rich in pictures and print, experiences that expose them to new ideas, and opportunities to explore at their own pace. Social-Emotional skills are the foundation for academics and school success.

Being a concerned parent is good when you balance that with helping your child to learn through everyday experiences, conversations, stories, and interactions with you. When this happens at home and in child care settings, young children are preparing themselves for kindergarten.

Do you have a parenting question that you’d like answered?
Email Carol Osborn at


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