Every child is different and every child responds differently to the preschool environment. When selecting the preschool for your child, take into consideration your child’s unique personality.
Shy and Quiet Children
The shy child seems withdrawn and a parent might consider keeping the quiet child from a loud preschool class rather than subjecting her to so much stimulation. But this is a mistake for many children as a structured preschool class is actually a wonderful thing for the quiet child.
In a preschool that is well structured, the routine and consistency will make your quiet child more confident. If she knows that snack time follows outside time and that rest time follows lunch time, there is less for her to process. A trained teacher will also be aware of the needs of a quiet child. She won’t force interaction with other children if it is making your child uncomfortable, but will find ways for your child to interact at her own pace.
The child that doesn’t have much to say especially might blossom in a preschool setting. Being around other children who are constantly speaking as well as using chorus style approaches to stories, songs and lessons will encourage her to find her own voice. There is safety in numbers, and the child who is withdrawn around adults might find she has a terrific voice around children her own age. Again, being around others at the same stage she is a terrific confidence booster.
When you begin searching for a preschool for your quiet child, worry not only about the quality of the program and the design of the school setting – structured versus not, but spend some time with the teacher as well. The experienced teacher who is comfortable around quiet children will know immediately how to respond to a shy child. While it can take many repeat visits for your child to feel comfortable in the school setting, a teacher who is warm, caring and takes extra time to help your child adjust is ideal.
Outgoing and Active Children
Children who are loud and outgoing especially love preschool. The active child has an outlet for all of that energy that he might struggle to find at home, and organized games and activities are great for the outgoing child who is always searching for new forms of entertainment.
Active children can struggle initially in a preschool setting as the structure might conflict with their independent nature. Help your active child prepare for a more structured setting by teaching him how to sit still, listen, wait his turn and to share. These are lessons all children need, but the sitting still and listening can be especially hard for the child who would rather “do” than anything else.
There are two options that are ideal for the active child. The child who is overwhelmingly curious and is seeking new information and discoveries at all times will do well in a discovery, or unstructured, preschool setting. A Montessori style school is a great opportunity for these children to learn and explore at their own pace guided by a trained teacher. In your unstructured program, however, be sure there are lessons in self control as these will be important for your child once he enters primary – unless you plan to enroll him in an unstructured private school that continues the exploratory style of learning. Following directions, sitting still and learning to learn are important foundations for future learning.
The other option that works well for children with high energy are highly structured programs. A child who tends to push limits does best in a program that has strong structure. This is because a program that has little or no structure is an open invitation to chaos for this child and he will actually struggle to feel comfortable if there are only minimal consequences to his more outrageous behavior. A strong program will help your child learn what is and what is not appropriate and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily he fits into the pattern.
A strong program does not break a child’s spirit or take away his creativity. Instead, it offers him much needed limits to confine his behavior so that he can have better focus on the task at hand – be it creative or instructional. An added benefit to the highly-structured preschool is that you can take many of the same limits and rules home to make your child’s settings more consistent. Be sure, of course, to allow him some unstructured time as he plays outside or in his room to encourage him to learn his own limits and how to behave appropriately without being told.
The Special Needs Child
The child with physical, emotional or mental disabilities should not be excluded from preschool activities. With the help of your doctor and social services in your area, find programs that not only allow, but welcome children with special needs. Children who need constant care might not be able to interact as others will, but the change of scenery will help them grow.
Special needs children will need highly-trained teachers who are sensitive to their special needs, and finding these programs can be a challenge in some areas. Encourage your child’s growth and development by having him interact as much as possible with others his own age and children of all ages. Many children who fall into this category can enroll in a traditional program and benefit greatly.
If you are seeking special skill development, however, a traditional preschool likely does not offer the style of services you’re considering. Look for others in your area that are certified in the areas you need as these will likely provide the best care and skill development possible for your child. Recommendations from other parents can be a tremendous help as well as you work to find solutions.