What Effect Does Preschool Have on a Child?

IQ and School Success

Numerous studies over 25 years have determined that kids who attended preschool score seven to eight points higher on IQ tests, according to a September 2008 policy brief by W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Children who go to preschool are also less likely to repeat a grade and more apt to graduate from high school than students who didn't attend preschool.

Long-Term Effects

University of Minnesota professor Arthur J. Reynolds and colleagues conducted a 25-year study of more than 1,000 children in inner-city Chicago. The findings, published in 2011 in the journal "Science," showed that children who attended preschool were more likely to go to college. By age 28, study participants who'd gone to preschool had more prestigious careers, higher wages and socioeconomic status. Males and children of parents who didn't complete high school reaped the greatest benefit from attending preschool programs, the researchers noted.

Disadvantaged Children

Growing evidence verifies the influential effects that preschool programs can have on a child's life course and subsequent well-being. Disadvantaged children who attend Head Start -- a federal program promoting school readiness for children up to age 5 from low income families -- and other preschool programs are better prepared to make a smooth and academically sound transition into elementary school. Further research is needed to learn how to best organize programs for disadvantaged children to ensure they are easily accessible.


The predictable routines most preschool programs provide help a young child adjust to a structured setting that will be the norm during the school years that lie ahead. Preschoolers generally thrive on schedules and respond positively to the daily rituals of preschool. For example, some preschools start the day by sitting in a circle with the teacher, spending a few minutes to talk about how they spent their time the day before and share plans for the day ahead.

Objectives and Goals for a Preschool Parent & Child Relationship


Repetition is important when learning new skills. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health website, adults should make repetition positive and fun by engaging in activities such as cooing, singing and touching with preschool children. Combine these activities with kind words, smiles and affection to make the environment safe for exploring and learning. Try to be understanding when your child wants to read the same book or watch the same video repeatedly as this is the way preschoolers master concepts.


Take the time to listen to what your child has to say and help her identify her wants, feelings and needs. Responding to her requests helps her learn that she can interact positively with her environment to meet her needs. These positive experiences encourage further risk-taking and learning. Listening, validating and responding positively to your preschooler helps her learn cause-and-effect relationships, which lay the foundation for understanding the consequences of her actions.


Playing with your preschooler gives him the opportunity to imitate adult behaviors and develop motor skills. It also gives him an outlet for expressing his feelings and helps him feel loved and respected. Encourage cooperation by taking turns with him during play and reward cooperative behaviors with a smile or hug. Allowing your child to pick a game and direct the play builds independence and self-confidence. Physical games, such as peek-a-boo, for younger preschoolers and tag, for older preschoolers, helps develop motor coordination.


Teach your 3-year-old fundamental skills during the preschool years such as how to ride a tricycle, how to catch a ball and how to balance on one foot. When he's a little older, at around age 4, he may begin to use silly words and even profanity, if he has been exposed to this sort of language. Lovingly teach limits to help him develop self-regulation and continue to encourage him trying new things. Fun lessons can be offered to teach concepts such as numbers, sizes, colors and distances by playing interactive games such as "Tell me the red things," or "How many oranges do you see?"

The Most Important Things Parents Need to Think About for Preschool


The physical environment of the school affects your child's safety, health and ability to learn. A clean preschool environment free of dangers, such as sharp corners or broken equipment, keeps your little learner safe. The layout of the furniture within the classroom is another consideration. The teacher should have a clear view of the entire room from different vantage points to provide adequate supervision of the children. Be sure the school has a secure, locked door and policies in place on allowing children to leave with someone other than parents. The preschool should also have working safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and first-aid kids. Look for a preschool that practices safety drills with the students in preparation for an emergency situation.


The teachers and administrators guide the preschool program's philosophy, goals and atmosphere. Review the qualifications of the teachers and administrators to ensure they have experience and certification in early childhood education. Beyond knowledge of child development, teachers should engage the students with various hands-on learning activities. Administrators are responsible for setting and enforcing the policies regarding safety, teacher training and student learning. The program manager, if there is one, handles licensing regulations and general program operation.


The National Association for the Education of Young Children includes relationships between students and adults in the standards for early childhood programs. Creating positive interactions develops a supportive community that allows the young children to take risks as learners. The program should focus on authentic and caring interactions between teachers and students, but parents are also a key part of the equation. Look for a program that encourages parent and community involvement. This includes visiting the classroom, volunteering and attending special events.


Not all learning takes place the same way in preschool programs. According to, preschools are usually either academic or play-based. Many preschools fall into the play-based category, which is also described as "child-led learning." Children learn both academic and social skills through self-selected activities arranged in a learning-center format. Academic programs use a teacher-led approach and focus more on structured learning activities. Seeing the classroom in action can help you decide which type of program is most compatible with your child's learning style. Regardless of the type of program, the preschool curriculum should incorporate a variety of learning activities to meet the needs of young children.

Checklist for Preschool for a Toddler

Mental Prep

Before you send your toddler off to preschool, ensure that he's ready for this transition. The University of Georgia Extension explains that parents can set the stage for success in preschool by ensuring that toddlers are well-nourished and well-rested. Implementing consistent rules at home can prepare your toddler for classroom rules. The UGA Extension also recommends that toddlers know how to follow simple directions, feed themselves, sit still for short periods and cooperate before entering the preschool classroom.

Social Skills

A valuable part of preschool is the social experience it provides for toddlers who are still navigating the complexities of socialization. In fact, the University of Georgia Extension explains that preschoolers often learn through play and exploration. Make sure your child has basic social skills, which will help her excel in the classroom. Between 24 and 36 months, your toddler can express feelings and empathy, and you can encourage such expression by teaching your child to express feelings in an appropriate way, according to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Equipping your toddler with these skills can make preschool socialization simpler.


Your state and preschool will have specific immunization requirements for your preschooler, so it is important to ensure that he's immunized before school starts. For example, Missouri requires preschoolers to have seven immunizations -- some in multiple doses -- including Dtap/DT, Polio, Hib, Hepatitis B, PCV, MMR and Varicella. Take your child to his pediatrician before school starts to make sure your little one is properly vaccinated.


Make the transition to preschool easier for your toddler by supplying her with everything she needs to feel comfortable in the classroom. Her preschool will likely provide a supply list, but consider sending her to school with a backpack, lunchbox, water bottle or sippy cup, change of clothes and diapers and wipes, if she's not potty trained. Properly label these items with her name -- and maybe even her picture -- so that she knows which items are hers to enjoy.

Developmentally Appropriate Behavior Guidance in Early Childhood Settings

Builds Relationships

High-quality preschool programs take time to build and foster positive relationships between teachers and students. Teachers will be warm and genuinely interested in the students. Teachers will also devote time in the day to fostering successful relationships between students. Young children are learning the sometimes complicated rules of social interaction. A good teacher will guide children through the problem-solving process as conflicts may arise. Instead of simply taking a toy away, the teacher will help the children find a way to share the toy or take turns. Teachers know that strong relationships are the foundation to building positive behavior in the classroom.

Clear Expectations

Guiding positive behavior is most effective when the classroom expectations are clear and consistent. Spend some time in your child's classroom. Are the rules and expectations clear to you? Maybe the teacher has pictures of appropriate circle time behavior posted in the circle time area. Maybe there are pictures of classroom materials posted on the shelves and walls, allowing the students to independently clean up after themselves. Most preschool teachers design the classroom environment and schedule to encourage success. Activities should allow for student choice and contain interesting and engaging materials. The schedule should contain times for whole group, small group and individual activities.

Teaches Social and Emotional Skills

It is not appropriate to expect young children to enter preschool with fully developed social and emotional skills. High-quality early childhood programs understand this and devote time to teaching these important skills every day. Teachers should have planned activities to teach social skills. These could include stories, role-play, games or songs. Teachers will also be prepared to teach social and emotional skills as situations demand it. Good teachers expect conflicts to occur and embrace them as teachable moments.

Stays Positive

Developmentally appropriate early childhood settings do not focus on the word "no." Unsafe or inappropriate behaviors are addressed immediately, but the teacher also explains why the behavior is not allowed and offers an alternative behavior. Instead of screaming "No running!" at the back of a fleeing child, the teacher may say, "I need you to use walking feet in the science area so you can keep yourself and your friends safe. It's almost time for recess. How about we run some races outside?"

Preschool Versus Homeschool


Around the country, preschools are available in a variety of forms. For example, all-day preschools operate from early in the morning until late afternoon and follow a full curriculum, including meals and nap time. Other preschools offer half-day programs or class time that meets only a few days a week. This is considered an enrichment option that provides children with social interaction and exposure to literacy instruction and other activities. Such schools are offered in private centers, religious institutions and colleges.

Home Schooling

The home-school option for pre-kindergarten children is flexible and depends on the family's interests, goals and resources. Parents who choose to home-school their preschooler likely are not required to meet any state benchmarks for achievement and can set the curriculum and activities. This option is ideal for families with young children and at least one parent at home who can provide a comprehensive education, along with fundamental skills such as numbers and alphabet.


Educational research regarding early childhood development and education is diverse in opinion and focus. Some theorists believe that introducing literacy and math concepts before the age of 5 or 6 is not productive, while others push early introduction of reading, writing and math skills. Waldorf and Montessori schools favor a holistic and creative approach and are structured differently from traditional preschools that follow a curriculum that specifically prepares children for public school.


Regardless of a family's choice of education for their preschool-age child, resources are abundant in the U.S., both publicly and privately. Home-schoolers can obtain materials from online academies, education retailers and some public programs. Parents of preschool children may also receive supplemental books and activity ideas from the same outlets. In any case, parents can educate themselves on state education requirements to plan for the long-term outlook of their child's education.

How to Make a Simple Portfolio for Preschoolers

Rummage through your child's artwork collection and other home activities — amazing how that pile has grown!

Choose a few different pieces from each area of learning to highlight your youngster's academic and artistic abilities. While you may be tempted to pick a few that you helped out with, pick the pieces that best demonstrate his abilities and academic level.

Choose artwork samples and work that demonstrates your child's abilities in sorting, patterning, counting and other math-related talents. Pick out a printing sample and a sample of sequencing as well. Finally, add a few pieces of work that demonstrate his early learning in science.

Use a three-hole punch on each piece of work and insert all of the pieces together into a folder or binder. Try to avoid work that needs to be folded into funny shapes to fit in the folder. Remember, if you try to cram too much in there, you'll end up looking like the queen of clutter rather than a neat, organized mom of a future preschooler.

Label the front of the folder with your child's name and any pertinent information — date, preschool name, application number.

Things You Will Need

  • Child's work
  • Folder, binder or duotang


Many preschools have eliminated child portfolios in the application process. Check with each individual school prior to submitting a portfolio. Those that do currently accept portfolios may have different inclusion requirements. Check with the school before assembling your child's portfolio — preschool applications can be stressful enough; you don't need the added stress of having to remake the portfolio.