Now that your tod­dler is ap­proach­ing 18 months old, you may won­der if he is ready for preschool. To help you de­cide, ask your­self these ques­tions, sug­gests DR RICHARD C. WOOLF­SON.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

signs that your tot is ready for child­care.

If you an­swer “no” to most of the ques­tions, con­sider de­lay­ing en­try un­til he is more ma­ture.

Has my tod­dler had pre­vi­ous temporary sep­a­ra­tions from me?

The start to preschool may be more dif­fi­cult for him if he has hardly spent time away from you.

You should try to drop him off with Grandma and Grandpa for a few hours, or leave him with one of your trusted friends for an af­ter­noon.

Such sep­a­ra­tions get him used to not hav­ing you by his side all the time, and pre­pares him for preschool.

How are his so­cial ex­pe­ri­ences?

It can be quite chal­leng­ing for lit­tle one to mix with others his own age, if he isn’t used to it.

That’s why it is help­ful to take him to tod­dler play­groups long be­fore you think about en­rolling him in a preschool. Ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion with his peers builds his re­silience for meet­ing the so­cial de­mands of preschool.

Does he get on well with other chil­dren his own age?

If your tod­dler has played with his peers al­ready, you’ll have been able to ob­serve his so­cial skills. Even at this young age, some chil­dren are more so­cially adept than others.

En­cour­age him to share his toys with his pals and to take turns, where pos­si­ble. The grad­ual de­vel­op­ment of so­cial skills pre­pares him for preschool, en­sur­ing that he mixes well with others.

Does he cope well with change?

At­tend­ing preschool in­volves many dif­fer­ent changes for your tot. For ex­am­ple, he will have to meet new peo­ple, adapt to a new build­ing and fol­low new rou­tines.

All these changes make preschool life in­ter­est­ing, but at the same time can ap­pear threat­en­ing. Some chil­dren cope bet­ter with changes than others.

Is he quickly at ease with strangers?

Tod­dlers vary in their level of shy­ness – even the most out­go­ing 18-month-old can be­come anx­ious when meet­ing un­fa­mil­iar strangers for the first time.

Maybe your lit­tle one smiles and chats hap­pily with any­one he meets. If so, he’ll re­gard the start to play­group as an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity.

But if he hides be­hind you, or re­fuses to re­spond when­ever an un­fa­mil­iar adult tries to en­gage him, play­group may un­set­tle him at first.

Does he stay calm when he doesn’t get his own way?

Man­ag­ing in­tense emo­tions is dif­fi­cult for tots – that’s why they tend to ex­plode with rage the mo­ment some­thing doesn’t go their way. Ag­gres­sive tantrums are com­mon at this age.

Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, a tod­dler who lashes out the mo­ment he can’t get what he wants may find him­self so­cially iso­lated in play­group. As a re­sult, he could feel lonely and ex­cluded.

Does he cope with­out need­ing your at­ten­tion all the time?

Preschool teach­ers un­der­stand that the typ­i­cal tod­dler is at­ten­tion­seek­ing, and they do their best to give each child the at­ten­tion that they need. Yet there are lim­its.

A child who de­mands at­ten­tion at home when­ever he wants will also ex­pect the same sup­port level from the teach­ers. When that doesn’t hap­pen – be­cause they have lots of chil­dren to care for – he may be­come dis­tressed.

If you an­swer “yes” to most of the above ques­tions, your tot is prob­a­bly ready for preschool and will set­tle in eas­ily.

Oth­er­wise, con­sider de­lay­ing en­try un­til he is more ma­ture. Still, you could en­rol him in a half-day pro­gramme first and hope that it will en­cour­age his ma­tu­rity.

The de­ci­sion is yours.

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