The Benefits of Preschool

The Benefits of Preschool
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The Benefits of Preschool

Every parent wants their child to have a great education. Elementary, high school, and college learning are all undoubtedly important, but the path to a successful education can start as early as the toddler years—long before a child steps into a kindergarten classroom. 

Preschool learning—also known as early childhood education—is a great option for many families, and can offer a strong foundation for a successful academic career.  

What is Preschool?

It seems like a silly question, but it’s important to define what preschool actually means these days. In the past, preschool was considered by many to be just a time for children to play.

Some critics have even referred to it as a form of “babysitting service.” While preschool can provide an excellent and enriching child-care opportunity for working parents, the belief that preschool is just a time for free play has changed. 

Nonetheless, play is extremely important for healthy child development.

“Preschool should be a place for focusing on all the areas of development. Play is how children learn, interact with their environment and acquire new concepts and skills,” Jeannine DiBart, co-owner and co-director of Katonah Playcare Early Learning Center in Katonah, NY, said. 

“Play is essential in development, but only works this way if the preschool is planning, evaluating, and utilizing play with an educator’s eye. Play must give the children hands-on opportunities to learn and develop and the educators must set up purposeful experiences.”

Benefits of Preschool Learning

Some parents grapple over whether to send their child to preschool or keep them home in their toddler years. Of course, every family has its unique circumstances and its own factors to consider when making this important decision. 

While there are definitely pluses to keeping your child at home, many social workers and education experts agree that preschool offers children many lasting benefits. 

In fact, children who attend high-quality preschool programs reap benefits that can last through school and their lives, according to a review of research by the Learning Policy Institute, a Palo Alto, CA, nonprofit that conducts research in the field of education policy and practice. 

An overarching benefit of preschool is the vital role it plays in the development of the whole child. The pre-kindergarten years provide a time in a child’s life where social, emotional and cognitive development needs to be nourished and developed equally, many educators say.

It’s important to note that preschool is often the very first time a child is apart from his or her parents and in a group of peers, which as many parents know can be stressful for a child, but an experience that will pay off in the long run. 

“All preschools should have as much of a focus on this social and emotional component as cognitive development. Preschool gives the child a chance to acquire interpersonal and language skills needed in order to function outside the family unit,” DiBart said. 

Another similar benefit preschool provides is an opportunity to socialize in a group setting, which is something that most likely can’t be achieved at home.

“Preschool gives children an opportunity to practice social skills and develop those social skills in a real-world kind of way that also reflects what it’s going to be like once they enter into school,”  Michelle Felder, LCSW, a parenting therapist and founder and CEO of Parenting Pathfinders, said.

Problem-solving and negotiating are two important skills children start to acquire in preschool, Felder explained. 

Learning these two critically important skills at a young age will help provide a strong base for healthy and successful interpersonal, academic and professional relationships well into adolescence and adulthood. 

“Kids have the opportunity in preschool to practice negotiating time and space with other kids, which really helps them become more prepared when they enter kindergarten,” Felder said. 

“This sets a really wonderful foundation for learning how to interact with other people, how to negotiate, problem solve, cooperate and listen. Preschool also builds those foundational conversation skills for kids as they’re talking to peers and grown-ups. They get so much practice in preschool.”

Another benefit of preschool learning is that professional teachers on staff are trained to identify problems a child may have—problems that might go unnoticed by parents. 

“There’s a difference when it’s your own child versus a teacher who is trained to spot areas of growth, things that your child might need support in and ways that they can be prepared for kindergarten in a way that a nanny or parent can’t do at home,” Lisa Samick, director of the Early Childhood Learning Center at Temple Israel of the City of New York, said. 

Preschool Learning: It’s Not Necessarily About Academics

Parents shouldn’t expect their child to become a whiz at reading, writing and counting in preschool. Early childhood education is much more about socialization, cognitive and emotional development, curiosity and learning through play. 

Preschool also helps foster a child’s creativity, which is a big part of early childhood development. Teaching art to preschoolers nurtures an array of important skills. 

“Children feel a sense of emotional satisfaction when they are involved in making their own art and their self-esteem is boosted by giving them opportunities to express what they are thinking and feeling,” Gail Porter, who co-owns and directs alongside DiBart at Katonah Playcare Early Learning Center. “As well, art requires decision-making and self-evaluation when the children decide what to portray, the media to use, when they are finished, and how to evaluate their art.”

While reading isn’t usually in a preschool curriculum, literacy skills are often taught through art. Since art is symbolic, children use art to represent real objects, events and feelings.

“This use of symbols provides a foundation for children’s later use of letters and words to symbolize sounds, and words and sentences to symbolize objects and actions,” Porter explained. 

Tips for Choosing a Preschool 

Now that you have an overview of what preschool can offer, it’s time to choose a school. The search for the perfect preschool can be quite overwhelming, but our experts shared some tips to help make the process a little less daunting. 

To start, make sure the school aligns with what’s important to you as a parent, whether it offers indoor programming, opportunities for outside play, arts-and-crafts, among other activities. Many parents might also want to consider cost, location, and teacher credentials. 

Other tips for choosing a preschool include:

  • Visit the school in person. Parents should have a warm and welcoming feeling when visiting a school and should feel free to ask questions.
  • Look at the student-teacher ratio. Consider how important class size is to you. 
  • Consider toys and materials. Ask the staff if there are toys available that encourage children to be creative. These can include dolls and plush animals to foster imaginative play, LEGOs of preschool complexity levels, puppets for storytelling, and easy-to-use drum sets, among many other options. 

Changing a Preschool Mid-Year

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to find a school that suits your family’s needs, the one you chose just isn’t the right fit. While your child might be blissfully happy, it can also be the case that sometimes their school isn’t working and you may be considering a mid-year jump to a new school.

The first step to switching schools is to figure out what isn’t working. Reach out to your child’s teacher or school principal. 

Be honest that you’re considering a change of environment and bring up your concerns about the school. Keep in mind that you only see one side of the story as a parent and that they might have valuable insights to share about your child’s life at school. 

Once you’ve laid out your concerns, listen carefully to their response and ask them whether they have any suggestions for improving the situation. 

If you aren’t convinced that change will be possible and still have the same desire to make a move, ask what the process for leaving mid-year might be. If you’re at a private school, understand your billing notice period and how you will retrieve school records.

Once a new school has been chosen, mentally prepare your child for the move. Alicia Sharpe, a New York City-based Education Consultant, says, “Mental preparation starts at home. Speak with your child about this new coming transition; even if the child is too young to communicate with you verbally, they will understand. If possible, bring your child to visit the new school, meet the teachers, and introduce them to their new classroom before the start of the new school term. If you have an older child, help them understand that moving schools are not abnormal, but it will be an exciting fresh start. Reassure them that it’s possible to maintain friendships even when they’re at a new school, and consider how you can help them to participate in activities that current friends take part in.”

Psst… Check out The Best Places to Live In and Near NYC

Preschool Directory

Manhattan

BASIS Independent Manhattan
795 Columbus Avenue (UWS)
556 West 22nd Street (Chelsea)
manhattan-admissions@basisindependent.com

Students receive the best possible start to their education at BASIS Independent Manhattan, a PreK–12 private school. The Early Learning Program offers engages PreK and Kindergarten students in an advanced, comprehensive curriculum featuring Mandarin, STEM, literacy, music, art, and more. Students are led by nurturing, expert teachers who encourage intellectual curiosity, creativity, and independent thinking from day one. 

Battery Park Montessori
21 S End Ave.
New York NY 10280
212.235.2320
admissions.bpm@greenivy.com

Battery Park Montessori is New York’s only trilingual Montessori school, offering Spanish and Mandarin language exposure. Montessori-trained teachers nurture each child’s social, emotional, cognitive, academic, and physical needs, fostering their independence, natural curiosity, and problem-solving abilities. Partnered with Learning Beautiful’s hands-on, tactile, and age-appropriate materials, students are introduced to STEM and coding without ever touching a computer. 

Chelsea Day School
319 Fifth Ave, 2nd Fl.
New York NY 10016
212- 675-8541
Admissions@ChelseaDaySchool.org.

Play-based learning permeates all aspects of the program. Children play to make sense of their world, to learn about themselves and each other, to develop language, to gain self-confidence and self-control and to understand and express their feelings. The program provides a strong foundation for our children that will support future academic pursuits and a lifetime of learning.  

The École
111 E. 22nd St., New York, NY
646-410-2238
bonjour@theEcole.org

The École is an independent, French-American bilingual school serving an international community of Maternelle-to-Middle School students in New York City’s Flatiron District. Through their unique dual program, which incorporates both the French and American curricula, The École offers students the lifetime benefits of bilingual education, empowering them to create and connect to a world filled with possibilities.

Lycee Francais de New York
505 East 75th Street
212-369-1400

La joie means joy in French, joy in learning and joy in growing at one of NYC’s historic bilingual schools. In nursery, pre-k and kindergarten, each class is taught by both French- and English-speaking teachers. Preschoolers learn reading, math and writing; and self-expression through art, music, and movement in both French and English, with plenty of time for play. Children do not need to speak French to enter the Lycée’s Preschool. 

Manny Cantor Center (MCC)
197 East Broadway, New York
646-395-4187

Early Childhood @ MCC is an inspired, responsive, progressive program built on the principle that all children are competent, capable, and curious. Teachers create safe, joyful learning environments that foster inquiry, exploration, and reflection following a Reggio-Emila-inspired emergent curriculum. 

The Montessori School of New York International
347 E. 55th St., Sutton Place, Manhattan
212-223-4630

A multifaceted program that inspires curiosity and a love of learning, classes are equipped with didactic Montessori materials that encourage the absorption of concepts through play, leading children to become well-rounded and confident. Programs includes science, music, foreign languages, musical theatre, swimming, dance, yoga, chess, cultural events, and robotics!

New Canaan Country School
635 Frogtown Rd.
New Canaan, CT 06840
203-972-0771

New Canaan Country School is a co-ed, independent day school for students in pre-k (ages 3 & 4) through ninth grade living throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties. Graduates excel at top day, boarding and public secondary schools and go on to lead lives of impact and purpose. For more information about their Early Childhood program, please visit their website.

​​Pine Street School
25 Pine St.,New York NY 10005
212-235-2325
admissions.pss@greenivy.com

Pine Street School is an International Baccalaureate World School with Spanish and Mandarin language immersion for students ages 2 through 8th Grade. Their curriculum embodies transdisciplinary learning and integrates voice, choice, and agency into everything we do. Students are capable, confident, passionate, and compassionate changemakers embracing technology, intellectual rigor and a global perspective.

Pusteblume International Preschool
244 W 14th St.,New York, NY
212-206-1137
info@pusteblumenyc.org

A licensed, non-profit, independent preschool for children ages 2 to 5 with German and Spanish language immersion. Dual language is an option as well. Our school also offers after-school and enrichment programs for all ages that are open to students from other schools.

Trevor Day School
1 West 88th Street and Central Park West
212.426.3355
LSAdmissions@trevor.org

Trevor’s Preschool welcomes children starting at age 2.8 for half day, full, day, and extended day programs. Two expert teachers in every classroom guide foundational and joyful learning experiences through music, exploration, art, and play.

Twin Parks Montessori
Central Park Montessori -1 West 91st street
Park West Montessori School – 435 Central Park West
Riverside Montessori School – 202 Riverside Drive
cpoffice@twinparks.org

Twin Parks Montessori School serves families with children from 3 months to 5 years old.  It is  an accredited Montessori school, with three campuses on the Upper West Side. The schools are across the street from Central or Riverside Parks for daily play and exploration. Twin Parks Montessori Preschool offers summer and late-day programs.

Brooklyn

A.Fantis
195 State St
(718) 624-0501

The Fantis Preschool celebrates 60 years with a play-based learning environment with daily Greek langauge and weekly Art, Music, and Physical Education. Our PK3’s can secure a seat our UPK4 classrooms, including NYC’s first Greek Dual Language UPK4 where instruction and enrollment are balanced equally in Greek and English. Our program offers five full days with extended day option, outdoor playground and after-school clubs like soccer, chess and more. 

BASIS Independent Brooklyn
405 Gold Street (Downtown Brooklyn)
556 Columbia Street (Red Hook)
brooklyn-admissions@basisindependent.com

BASIS Independent Brooklyn is a PreK–12 private school. The Early Learning Program engages Pre-K and Kindergarten students in an advanced, comprehensive curriculum featuring Mandarin, STEM, literacy, music, art, and more. Students are led by nurturing, expert teachers who encourage intellectual curiosity, creativity, and independent thinking from day one. 

Cortelyou Early Childhood Center
1110 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn NY
718-282-6077
info@mycecc.com

CECC provides an environment conducive to the growth and development of your child. It is ensured that while your toddler is having fun, they are learning the skills needed to begin building their academic foundation. The experienced and qualified staff will respond proactively to your toddler’s physical, social, cognitive, and emotional needs and help him/her grow as an individual. 

City Kids
240 Meeker Ave, Brooklyn, NY
718-885-4404
enrollment@citykids.nyc

At City Kids, learning takes place at the intersection of inquiry and play. Inclusive, age-appropriate, modern classrooms and enrichment spaces invite hands-on exploration, critical thinking and problem-solving while having fun! Students will develop the necessary skills to become collaborators, innovators, and good citizens. City Kids…Education {re}imagined. 

Dillon Child Study Center at St Joseph’s College
Clinton Hill
718-940-5678
sstrautcollard@sjcny.edu

A half-and full-day, mixed-age programming for 2-5 year olds. Classes are in an atmosphere where children are free to express their feelings and ideas. Children learn through play, developing confidence, competence and dispositions for future learning. All programs offered are led by NYS certified teachers, and assisting in the classroom are students from SJC’s Department of Child Study. The laboratory preschool is composed of modern, spacious classrooms with a beautiful outdoor space.

​​Elemental Arts Montessori
364 Argyle Road
Ditmas Park/Flatbush
718- 484-0942

Located in the historical Victorian section of Beverly Square West, this is a Full Member School with the American Montessori Society, for preschool and kindergarten children who will be 3,4 or 5 years old by 12/31 of the year they’re enrolled. EAM has a small class size of only 12 children per session with 2 Montessori teachers, offering a warm, nurturing and stimulating environment with an emphasis on individual attention for every child.

Elite Minds Montessori
director@eitemindsmontessori.com

Elite Minds Montessori is a private preschool in Carroll Gardens for children ages 2-5 offering a nurturing multilingual (English, French and Spanish) environment where children can engage their minds in art, music and play in a traditional Montessori setting. There is a 5-day, half-day program 8:30-11:30am or 1:30-4:30pm and a 5-day, full-day program 8:30am-2:30pm plus early drop off and extended day. The summer camp is now enrolling (2 week min.) for July 11-Aug. 19. Email to schedule a tour.

Little Thinkers Montessori
Clinton Hill & Park Slope
347-996-2688
718-858-8961

Little Thinkers Montessori offers a summer program with full or half day sessions running for seven weeks. Activities include gardening, science, art, yoga, music, dance and outside play with extended care available. During the school year, the LTM  preschool curriculum is individualized, multi-aged, and thoughtfully guided to match each student’s needs. An afterschool program for pre-K-5th grade is available.

Maven Valley Prep
348 13th. St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
347-335-0000

This brand new daycare facility in South Slope offers a small daycare experience in a structured setting and a well-developed curriculum based on theories of Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Bloom. Schedule your individual in-person tour online. 

PAL Head Start Programs 

These programs provide a safe, secure, developmentally appropriate environment and emphasize active family engagement and strong collaboration with the local community. Staff is composed of certified teachers and social service staff. Providing Early Childhood education for more than 50 years. There are seven programs throughout Brooklyn & Queens.

New Canaan Country School
635 Frogtown Rd., New Canaan, CT 06840
203-972-0771

A co-ed, independent day school for students in pre-k (ages 3 & 4) through ninth grade living throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties. Graduates excel at top day, boarding and public secondary schools and go on to lead lives of impact and purpose. For more information please visit their website.

Pusteblume International Preschool
244 W 14th St., New York, NY
212-206-1137
info@pusteblumenyc.org

A licensed, non-profit, independent preschool for children ages 2 to 5 with German and Spanish language immersion. Dual language is an option as well. Our school also offers after-school and enrichment programs for all ages that are open to students from other schools.

Rivendell School
277 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, NY
718-499-5667, ext. 14

This pre-primary Montessori offers an excellent student/teacher ratio school provides a respectful, inclusive community, helping children feel powerful and confident as learners and as social and emotional beings. Toddler, half-day, and extended day programs are available for ages 2 to 6. 

Queens

Countryside Montessori School
354 Lakeville Road, lower level, Great Neck
516-466-8422
Email info@cmsgn.com

Countryside Montessori School offers children, 18 months to 6 years, a well-balanced and enriched curriculum which includes traditional subjects, art, and music. They are located on an estate-like setting with an outdoor playground and nature walks. Classrooms are fully equipped and spacious. Countryside Montessori  is offering in-person camp for children ages 18 months to 6 years old. There are morning academics for the older children and playtime for all children. 

Ivy Day School
65-01 Kissena Blvd. Flushing 718-460-6366
70-44 Kissena Blvd. Flushing 718-880-1888
104-70 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills
718-997-1997
dinam@ivydayschool.com

Books and blocks, music and dance, art and creativity! At Ivy Day School (three locations)-the school provides a decade-long standard of academic excellence to children ages 2-5. Ivy Day School envisions students will develop essential skills for a lifetime of achievements via fun, stimulating activities.

Kuei Luck Early Childhood Centers
NEW LIC: 2-03 Borden Ave, Long Island City, NY
718-670-9919
Rego Park/Forest Hills: 99-39 66th Ave, Rego Park, NY
718-679-9909

A new location in Long Island City is now open only one block away from Hunter’s Point South Park. Kuei Luck Early Childhood Center is a Reggio-inspired, Mandarin Immersion Nursery & Preschool and believes that early learning experiences have a profound impact on a child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. Their student-led immersive language model is rooted in exploration, experimentation, and play. Students are encouraged to explore learning through art, music, play, and nature and their approach encourages young learners to deepen their knowledge of subjects they are most curious about.  Now enrolling for 2022-2023. Contact the school for more information.

PAL Head Start Programs 

These programs provide a safe, secure, developmentally appropriate environment and emphasize active family engagement and strong collaboration with the local community. Staff is composed of certified teachers and social service staff. Providing Early Childhood education for more than 50 years with multiple locations.  There are 7 programs throughout Brooklyn & Queens. 

Westchester

A Child’s Dream
10 Mill Road, New Rochelle
914-633-4332

A Child’s Dream goal is to create a secure and structured environment where your child will enjoy socializing and interacting with other children while learning. The curriculum includes, Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, Developing Motor and Social Skills. They offer Morning Sessions from 9am-11:30am for 2 and 3 year olds and 9am-12PM for 4 year olds. They also offer an afternoon session. Lunch Bunch and Enrichment Classes Available; Art, Soccer and Movement.

Ann & Andy’s Childcare
2170 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford
914-592-3027

Ann & Andy’s provides childcare for ages 2 months to 14 years old. Their center offers an infant, toddler, and preschool program, and an afterschool program for school-aged children. Regularly planned group activities meet the natural, physical, emotional and cognitive needs of children at play. Staff is trained to promote a positive environment and to keep a balanced routine that does not stress or overstimulate children.

Ardsley Community Nursery School
21 American Legion Dr., Ardsley
914-693-4932

The Ardsley Community Nursery School is proud of its caring staff and dynamic enrichment program. Creative and developmentally appropriate academic activities are based on weekly themes and geared toward recognizing the talents of each child. A lovely playground and local field trips enhance programming. Soccer, dance and yoga classes are included with tuition. Summer camp offers water activities and air conditioning.

Blue Rock School
110 Demarest Mill Rd, West Nyack, NY 10994
845-535-3353

Blue Rock School has been fostering confident critical thinkers for over 30 years.  Their hands-on curriculum is infused with art, nature, and play in small dynamic class settings from Kindergarten through Eighth grade. By nurturing children’s love of learning and encouraging deep thinking, Blue Rock School prepares them for a changing world.

French-American School of New York
Manor Campus (Nursery-Grade 3)
111 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont
914-250-0469

FASNY’s bilingual preschool program begins at 3 years old and is play-based with an emphasis on language acquisition. The focus is on the development of fine and gross motor skills through targeted activities that are thematic and connect to the students’ developmental milestones. Through play, FASNY students learn skills and investigate problems. 

German International School New York
50 Partridge Rd, White Plains, NY
914-948-6513

At GISNY, pre-k and kindergarten children are welcomed into a bright and nurturing environment and enjoy most of their school day outdoors exploring, learning, and playing on the beautiful 20-acre campus. Entering pre-k and kindergarten children are not required to speak or understand German and will build the foundation for being bilingual by first grade. GISNY is Pre-K to Grade 12. 

Hudson Country Montessori School
340 Quaker Ridge Rd., New Rochelle, NY 10804
914-636-6202
info@hudsoncountry.org

Hudson Country Montessori School inspires and promotes innate curiosity and a love of learning. HCMS also strives to help children grow into respectful, socially-adept and compassionate leaders. The curriculum is designed to empower students to become independent, creative thinkers and confident achievers. Private, co-educational school, toddlers (18 months) through 8th grade. Flexible scheduling, full & half-day sessions and extended hours.

Kiddie Academy of White Plains
222 Bloomingdale Rd Suite 108, White Plains, NY
914-688-1600

At Kiddie Academy, your child’s natural curiosity is nurtured to explore and investigate. With developmentally appropriate curriculum, character education, STEM-infused technology and health and fitness experiences fundamental to a child’s growth, they encourage inquisitiveness, creating momentum for learning that continues well after the child leaves the Academy. Care from 6:30am-6:30pm, nurturing staff, onsite kitchen, outdoor play areas, indoor playroom and private parking lot.

Liberty Montessori Schools
155 Beechmont Dr., New Rochelle
914-636-3461 631
Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck
914-777-1382 

Liberty Montessori offers programs for up to grade 3 a unique enrichment curriculum that includes a special music program and the Challenger Program for advanced students. They also have special multilingual programs in Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Call now to make an appointment, meet the school director, tour the facility and learn more.

Lightbridge Academy
529 Central Park Ave., Scarsdale, NY 10583
914-653-6719

Lightbridge Academy in Scarsdale is enrolling now for infant, toddler, preschool and pre-k from 6 weeks old through 5 years old. They are opening by the fall of 2022, so it’s time to save your spot. Call or schedule a virtual tour online to learn more about their programs.

Mazel Tots Early Childhood Program of Scarsdale Synagogue
2 Ogden Rd, Scarsdale, NY 10583
914-723-3001
mazeltots@sstte.org

The Mazel Tots program provides a warm, stimulating environment for newborn to kindergarten-bound children, encouraging children’s growth socially, emotionally, and intellectually, and featuring developmentally appropriate activities including sports, games, music, creative movement, sign language, nature, yoga, karate, science, and art. Spiritual growth is enriched by learning about Jewish holidays and values. 

Montessori School of Pelham Manor
1415 Pelhamdale Ave., Bronx, New York
914-738-1127
pelhammontessori@gmail.com

The most crucial years in a child’s development are from birth to age 3. Montessori School of Pelham Manor has small class sizes which means lots of individualized attention. Your child will get the personalized attention they need to learn and grow at their own personal pace, with instructors who cater to your child’s unique learning needs. Developing confidence and a love of learning is the hallmark of Montessori education. 

Ridgeway Nursery School and Kindergarten
465 Ridgeway, White Plains, NY
kemmert@ridgewaynsk.com

RNSK offers early childhood programs designed to help children gain a positive self-image while encouraging social, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual development. 2’s, 3’s and 4’s classes recognize play and exploration as basic learning tools. RNSK’s NYS accredited kindergarten program tailors relevant curriculum according to the needs of each child.

Yellow Acorn Montessori
46 Fox Meadow Rd., Scarsdale, NY
914-725-2173

Yellow Acorn Montessori provides a comprehensive Montessori education, cultivating independent thought and foundational skills as well as awareness of their environment, empathy for others, and social ease and confidence. The Early Childhood Program (3-5 years) and Toddler Program (18mos-36 mos) include Language, Math, Science, Geography and Culture, Practical Life, Sensorial, Music and Art and more.