Online preschool is coming to a town near you! But wait, should we be replacing face-to-face preschool with online preschool?
The Audacious Project, which is housed at TED, recently released the names of 8 organizations that will receive grant funding. One of these is Waterford UPSTART. An organization that promises to provide high quality online preschool to all children.They even claim that the average graduate enters kindergarten at a first grade level. From a social emotional learning perspective, this raises alarms.
Why The Need For Online Preschool
There is around 2.5 million 4 year olds with no access to publicly funded preschool. Online preschool bridges this gap. Most of these organizations claim that in just 15 minutes a day, they can prepare your child for kindergarten. This sounds like a dream come true. You don’t have to worry about scheduling, driving, or which preschool to send your child to. They learn in the comfort of the home.
But Is It Really In Your Child’s Best Interest
Overwhelming research shows that preschool children learn best when they are socializing with their peers and engaging all their senses. This just cannot be replicated online.
- The Importance of Play: Preschool is made up of on open-ended play and structured activities that foster positive childhood development. Yes, teachers introduce some concepts to children but that is not the focus of preschool. Their day is largely spent socializing and playing. Through play children learn social, emotional, and cognitive skills like problem solving and creativity. A child’s ability to read can easily be tracked but these other important areas of development aren’t so easily tracked. And these areas are vital to your child’s future success.
- Social Development: Social skills are organically learned through interacting with others. Preschool is a great opportunity for children to interact with others in an enriched environment. Rooms are filled with toys and games to promote play. In this play children learn friendship making skills,, language skills, self-control, handling conflict, dealing with stress, and so much else. All of which are important for future success.
- Emotional Development: Emotional development is the ability to recognize, express, and manage emotions and feelings. This development is largely related to a child’s interaction with others. During class teachers read books about feelings, help your child navigate situations, modeling appropriate behaviors and responses, and provide cues as needed. All of these help your child learn to self-regulate their emotions.
- Physical Development: Classrooms are filled with toys and games. Children physically develop as they run, climb, and jump with peers. They learn to balance on gym equipment and improve fine motor skills by using scissors, writing, and practice drawing in the lines. All of these are important as they prepare for kindergarten
What Parents Need to Know If they Go The Online Route
- Limit Other Screen Time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers spend no more than 1 hour a day in front of a screen. This includes the computer, tv, etc. If 15 minutes of that hour is spent on online preschool, make sure they spend no more than 45 minutes the rest of the day on a screen.
- Schedule Playdates: Make sure to schedule playdates for your child or take them to a local park. They need social interaction with their peers in order to develop crucial social and emotional skills.
- Supplies: For the majority of us, it’s not financially feasible to replicate a classroom full of toys and games. But the good news is, it’s not necessary. There are many inexpensive items that will encourage their imagination and creativity. Have plenty of paper, scissors, markers, crayons puzzles, play dough, etc. on hand and allow your child the free play they need for positive development.
On a final note, although not my first choice, online preschool in and of itself does not have to be a bad thing. Parents who go this route, rather by choice or necessity, just need to make sure to supplement it with the necessary socializing and play time children require for positive development.
Life Coach and certified School Counselor, M.S.