The percentage of American children going to preschool has remained steady since 2000. As of 2019, here are the following percentages by age of children who go to preschool in America:
Roughly 88% of 5 year olds attend preschool.
Roughly 69% of 4 year olds attend preschool.
Roughly 40% of 3 year olds attend preschool.
Research has discovered that preschool helps children learn, develop social skills, as well as emotional intelligence. But the problem is that preschool can be very expensive.
With the cost of childcare and preschool ranging from $800 – $2,500, depending on quality of care and amount of care, not every family can afford to send their toddlers to preschool.
The reason why there’s a higher percentage of 5 year olds and 4 year olds going to preschool is large due to cost. But there is also a thought process that says that children only need one year of preschool before entering kindergarten at age 5-6.
The Cost Of Preschool By State
As you can see from the chart below by Fatherly, the average monthly cost of full-time childcare ranges from as low as $865/month in Alabama up to $2,452/month in Massachusetts.
$865/month isn’t exactly cheap in Alabama given the median home price in Alabama is only $135,000.
We pay $1,950/month in San Francisco, where the median home price is roughly $1,600,000. Although our absolute dollar amount is higher, income levels in San Francisco are much higher as well.
Preschool Attendance By State
Here’s another interesting about preschool attendance by State for 4-year-olds. What’s interesting is that some states like Wisconsin, Vermont, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Florida are zooming ahead of others due to the passage of universal preschool.
While some states like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Mississippi, and Utah have a shocking 0% of 4-year-olds served in State preschool.
Preschool Attendance By Parental Education Level
The parental education level that sends the greatest percentage of children to preschool is a Bachelor’s degree at 47%, followed by a Graduate or professional degree at 46%. It’s interesting that parents with graduate or professional degrees don’t have a greater percentage of children going to preschool given they are in school longer.
The greater your education, the greater your income. The greater your income, the more you’ll be able to afford sending your kids to preschool.
But one of the greatest costs is not being able to spend as much time caring for your children as you would like.
Preschool Attendance By Race
The final interesting chart shows preschool attendance by race. It’s great to see that Black folks have the highest percentage of children attending preschool.
Hispanic folks have the lowest percentage of children attending preschool, partially due to the prevalence of a larger support network to care for their children.
Why Preschool Is Worth It
Although we pay $1,950/month or $23,400 a year for our toddler to attend preschool, we believe it’s worth the cost for the following reasons.
1) Preschool will save a parent’s sanity. It wasn’t until we finally dropped off our boy, wiped away our tears, and left did we start to appreciate preschool. Initially, during the first month of preschool, we finally both got three hours of free time. We used this time to catch up on errands, tidy up the house, relax in the hot tub together, go on brunches, and to write.
Preschool gave us the vacation from parenthood we so desperately needed. When he started going for 6 – 8 hours a day, I felt like the heavens had parted. My happiness went from a 6 out of 10, back up to an 8 out of 10 on average.
2) Your child will learn to be more independent. It must be scary for a child to go from always being around his parents to suddenly be in a room full of strangers. But over time, your child will adapt, learn the names of everyone, and figure out how to stand his or her ground. Our children also need to learn how to interact well with others.
3) Your child will develop social skills. There are lots of weird people out there who lack emotional intelligence and social skills. More time in a social environment will inevitably improve one’s social skills.
As the son of foreign service parents I clearly remember the scariness of being the new kid in school every 2-to-4 years. But I believe the frequent moves forced me to develop social skills and greater self-confidence. Today, I love going to all types of social gatherings and have no fear of talking to anybody.
4) Your child will experience and learn conflict resolution. Amongst toddlers, inevitably bad things will happen. The first time I was told a child had bitten our son, I was shocked and angry. But these unfortunate incidences are used as teachable moments by the teachers to explain to the children what they should and should not do. These moments are used to teach kids how to apologize and offer forgiveness.
5) Your child will learn new habits. One of the biggest reasons why my wife and I were so exhausted as stay at home parents was because our boy didn’t take regular naps after he turned 18 months old. Therefore, one fear we had was that our son would be disruptive during the preschool’s nap time between 12:30pm – 3pm. But surprisingly, our boy napped the very first day and has continued napping every day for months!
We postulate the reason why he naps at school and not so much at home is due to peer pressure and conformity. At home, he has more freedom to do as he wishes. But at school, he has to listen to his teachers and follow the habits of his peers.
6) You’ll learn how well you’re doing as parents. For first time parents, preschool can be particularly helpful to know where you stand as disciplinarians. You can learn from the good and bad habits of other parents by observing how their children act in a school setting. From your observations, you can better calibrate what you should be doing more or less of.
My wife and I are probably on the softer side because of our personalities and also because we don’t have a strict schedule to follow. For example, since we don’t have to get to work by 8 am, there was no urgency to wake our boy at a set time, prepare breakfast, brush his teeth, and so forth. The absence of routine probably hurt all of our ability to sleep more soundly.
You may also learn what you’ve been doing right as parents. They say that speaking to your child as much as possible is good for learning. Therefore, we both talked to him all day long in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese. But we really didn’t know how useful our efforts were until we went to school after our teachers said they’d be teaching the class how to count to 10.
My wife and I looked at each other funny because months early we had already taught our boy how to count to 1,000. We aren’t tiger parents. We just continued on with the counting once he understood the progression. This is one of the benefits of having 1:1 instruction and not having to wait for other children.
7) Your kid won’t get “dumbed down.” One of my concerns was whether my son would regress or get bored if he was being taught something he already knew. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be how the young brain works. Instead of regressing, it continues to absorb new information.
For example, even if your daughter already knew how to count to 10, she could learn how to enunciate the words better. She could also learn how to combine the numbers to form new numbers.
Another concern was how our son would interact with one of the less verbal kids at school who also happens to bite others. Would that kid, who benefits greatly from preschool, drag other kids down with him? So far, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
If parents continue providing supplemental education at home, I think our kids will continue to grow just fine.
8) You’ll develop a support network of other parents. Spending the vast majority of your time only with your partner and child can get mundane after a while. Just think back to how much fun you had going out at night with your friends before you had children.
By sending your child to preschool, you join a community of people with a strong common interests. There seems to always be a fundraiser or a birthday party to go to, which is a great way to vary your weekend routines. It’s nice to be able to get tips and advice from other parents who have gone or are going through your same issues as well.
9) Your child will participate in new activities. You can do plenty of fun things with your child at home, but there are certain activities like painting, claymation, and science water experiments that are much easier to do in school. Your child will also be exposed to new books and toys to keep him or her more stimulated throughout the day.
Our preschool has a special activity after nap time every day such as music class, Spanish class, and dance class. It’s really nice to give your child consistent exposure to as many new things as possible. You never know what might stick!
10) A lifesaver if you are pregnant or have a baby. Being pregnant or caring for a baby is already difficult. Concurrently caring for a baby and a toddler who won’t stop running around and getting in trouble takes Herculean strength.
By sending your toddler to preschool, not only do you feel great that a highly qualified person is teaching and caring for him, but you feel great that you get to spend more time taking care of your body or your baby.
It is also natural for the older sibling to get jealous of the baby sometimes. Therefore, this separation may help lessen the jealousy and increase the harmony at home. When in doubt, child specialists say to pay more attention to your toddler than to your baby, since your toddler better understands what’s going on.
The Negatives Of Preschool
Nothing is ever perfect. Here are the downsides of preschool you’ll likely experience.
1) More sickness. Despite a “don’t come to school if your child is sick” policy, I’m sure some kids still do because parents have to work. Also, nobody knows exactly when a sickness stops being contagious.
2) More chance of danger. At home, our boy is as safe as can be. We’ve padded all corners and edges, hold his hand on walks, and always have our eyes on him. At preschool, even with a small 6:1 teacher:student ratio, that’s still not as good as having a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
Your little one will probably get hurt more often in preschool. Your child will probably experience physical altercations like hitting and bitting as well.
3) Activities at home may change. One of my favorite activities I used to do with my son before he went to preschool was go for a 1-1.5 hour walk around the neighborhood. We’d go for a walk every day and he’d be so excited to describe all the different garage doors he’d see.
Now, he hardly ever wants to go on a walk with daddy. And when we do, it’s for maybe 15 minutes and then back home we go because he misses mommy.
4) Cost. Most cities in America don’t have universal preschool. Therefore, expect to pay between $800 – $2,500 for preschool a month, depending on location and amount of care.
The Percentage Of Americans Attending Preschool Should Grow
Cities are slowly rolling out universal (free) preschool because local governments recognize the benefits of helping education children during the first five years of life.
There is also a need for parents to send their children to preschool as more households have dual income-earning parents.
I’m very much in favor for preschool if you can afford it. If you can’t afford to send your child to preschool, look at having them join preschool-like classes at places like Gymboree. Take them to your local public library where they host free activities. There are also other city-sponsored activities for children as well.
Good luck! And bless your children! They will grow up incredibly fast.
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