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Is Your Child Ready to Start Preschool?

Jon Whittle

You may have found the preschool of your dreams several months ago, but now that the school year is looming, will your child be ready to head off, even for a few hours a day? Some questions to help make sure she's all set when September rolls around:

Is she potty trained? Some preschools not affiliated with daycare centers require it. If yours doesn't and your tot has almost mastered the toilet, she's probably good to go.

Has she spent time away from you? Kids who go to daycare or have a regular sitter while you work outside your home often take to preschool without a backward glance. But if your child has been home with you since birth, start introducing her to the idea of being separated from you now by leaving her with your mom while you shop, for instance. Most schools build in a few shorter transitional days during the first week or so.

Can she take instructions? Preschool isn't as structured as kindergarten, but your child will be expected to follow simple rules, such as straightening the play area and hanging her coat in a closet. If you think this might be tough for her, start making her responsible for some of her daily routines, such as leaving her shoes by the front door or putting dirty dishes in the sink.

Does she interact well with other children? If your child's used to being around other kids and has at least a dim awareness of concepts like sharing, she should be fine at preschool. If not, sign her up for a playgroup before she starts so she can "practice."

Is she comfortable switching gears? Take a look at how your child reacts when it's time to stop one activity and start another, as she'll have to do with relative ease at school. Does she throw a fit when she needs to put away the dolls for naptime? Giving her advance notice might help her learn to handle transitions a little better ("After you dress that doll, it'll be time to rest.").

If you're worried that she's not ready, it's okay to start her next semester or even hold off another year. Mara Bensing of Reno, NV, was dying to go at age 2, but it was a different story with her younger brother, Zane, who was happier waiting until he was 4½, says their mom, Lia. Both made the transition to kindergarten just fine -- and your child will too, whether she starts next month or next year.

Could your child have ADHD? Read our Parents' Guide to ADHD to find out

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