Every child develops at his own pace, so preschool readiness and social readiness can blossom at different rates. Some children are more than ready at 18 months, while other children need to be three or four years old before they pick up a mini-backpack or lunch box.

Take the following into consideration:

  • Can your child work on his own? He should be able to focus and complete a puzzle, a drawing or a block construction by himself without direct supervision or support from an adult. If he can't, try to help him develop this skill at home, working toward the completion of a five- to 10-minute activity without you in the room.

  • Can he do basic self-care? Most centers want kids toilet-trained or at least showing strong signs of readiness. (If a child is on the verge, the example of the other kids often works as a motivator.) Can he wash and dry his own hands? Can he eat a snack sitting quietly in a chair or on the floor without constant supervision?

  • Can he participate in group activities? While this is a skill he'll be developing in preschool, he has to be ready to start. He should be able to sit in circle time listening to the teacher and the other kids, and to follow stories and activities presented in a group. Library programs, play groups and organized ""moms' morning out"" activities are examples of settings where you can observe whether your child can be a part of a group.

  • Can he separate from you for a few hours at a time? If your child accepts babysitters or goes readily to day care, there's a good chance he will be ready to separate for a preschool experience, although all children will need some support and time to adjust. However, if your child still clings and screams without letting up, you may want to get him used to shorter separations first. You'll also want to work with the preschool in developing a gradual transition plan.

  • Can he manage a preschool schedule? Preschools are busy places, usually with activities, a snack, outdoor play in the morning and a quiet time or nap in the afternoon. If you have a child who is still a morning napper or has trouble with several activities in the morning, he may not be ready for preschool.

Every child is different; they mature and develop at a different pace. If your child isn't ready for preschool, wait it out so that he can have a happy, positive experience when goes for the first time.