How Important Is Pre-K to Childhood Development?

Pre-kindergarten (also known as pre-K or PK) is an educational program for 4- and 5-year-olds. As the name suggests, the goal is to prepare children for kindergarten and future success in life.

Pre-K is a classroom-based education designed to help children build social, physical, emotional, and cognitive skills. At the same time, it introduces classroom learning so that children are familiar with the process when they get to kindergarten.

Pre-K is not mandatory, so many parents may wonder about the benefits of pre-K vs. staying at home. To decide whether pre-K is right for your children, you should look closely at the available programs and see if your children can benefit from them.

Here is a look at the benefits of early childhood education to help you decide if your child should take this important step in their early education and development.

Before looking at the benefits of early childhood education, it is important to distinguish between the different options available. Some people use the terms pre-K and preschool interchangeably. Though both qualify as early childhood education, there are some subtle differences.  

Differences Between Pre-K and Preschool

A preschool classroom focuses on children who are between 3 and 4 years old. Though the curriculum can vary from school to school, most preschools offer a less structured environment where children learn through semi-directed play.

Pre-K, on the other hand, is for 4-and 5-year-olds. Like preschool, it offers children a chance to develop social skills, but it is generally more structured than preschool. Pre-K teachers typically introduce reading, math, and phonics topics that the children will see again in kindergarten. The structured schedule helps children become familiar with the flow of a school day so that they know what to expect when they get to kindergarten. 

What Children Get Out of Pre-K

Pre-K programs are different from other preschool or daycare-based programs. Children who go through pre-K are often better prepared for kindergarten. Here are some reasons why.

  1. Pre-K boosts school readiness – Numerous studies show that attending pre-K helps to increase a child’s school readiness. The introduction to both subject matter and classroom processes help children prepare to enter kindergarten.
  2. Pre-K helps children perform better  Since they are already familiar with the topics, children who attend pre-K are better equipped to succeed in kindergarten. This early start can help them stay in front of the curve for their entire academic career. 
  3. Pre-K positively influences children’s behavior – Children who receive high-quality pre-K usually have better attendance, better responsiveness to their teachers, and fewer behavior problems than their peers. 
  4. Pre-K helps with self-care and responsibility – In pre-K, children learn basic skills, such as keeping their workspace, desk, or cubby organized. With basics in hand, they will be able to adjust more quickly to kindergarten.
  5. Pre-K helps define areas for improvement or extra care – Some children need extra assistance to reach development milestones. Teachers can define these areas for extra focus or direct the child to a special program so that they can get the necessary instruction and support.
  6. Pre-K enhances print awareness – Children who participate in pre-K programs before kindergarten have an 85% increase in their print awareness, improving their chances of reading at or above grade level.
  7. Pre-K nurtures creativity and curiosity in a structured environment – Pre-K lets children be creative and curious but in a more structured environment than preschool. This helps them learn to be creative in a way that will further their success in a school setting.

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