New parents struggle with all the choices available to them for daytime care of their little ones. One decision is whether to put your child in a preschool or another care option (such as a nanny or regular daycare).

If you choose the preschool route, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages you should consider:

 

Advantages of a Preschool

Because preschools are focused on providing a strong learning environment, the people providing care to your child typically have degrees or accreditations as instructors. Therefore, the quality of the caregivers is usually much higher than someone who has just passed a basic background check (as is the case at a daycare center).

Another advantage of a preschool is that most include a structured learning day with a lot of varied activity—with a significant portion of it focused on learning. Daycares usually provide activities (including recess, naptime, and lunch). Preschools will include more educational opportunities to foster early reading abilities, art, and even some math and science concepts.

Socialization can also be a good advantage of the preschool. When children are learning together, it provides a stronger foundation for building functional relationships (versus ones that are solely focused on popularity or playtime). Children who learn together struggle and succeed together, which provides a more fulfilling social environment.

 

Disadvantages of a Preschool

The disadvantages of a preschool environment typically only impact the parent. The structured environment of a preschool can limit drop-off and pick up times, and there could be significant monetary penalties for late pickup. This protocol can present a challenge to a working parent who may fight traffic to be at the preschool every day. However, to offset this challenge, you may be able to carpool with other parents who live in the neighborhood, and trade pickup and drop-off duties.

Costs can also be another disadvantage. Because preschools provide a higher-quality teacher (versus just a caregiver), they’re more expensive to employ. Curriculum and learning materials also add to the cost of the educational experience. So preschools typically carry a higher price tag that can be double what a traditional daycare would charge. As an alternative, some churches and nonprofit organizations offer lower-cost options for parents, and scholarships are available at some preschools to help offset the expenditure.

Also, early categorization and social stigmas can begin in preschool. Watch for a discrepancy between teacher preferences and categorizations, as well as any bullying that may take place among your child's peer group. Because children may not know how to express their feelings, it could be good to watch for signs—such as avoidance, lethargy, and lack of enthusiasm about a particular subject (that the child previously enjoyed). Silence can be very telling, so be aware of what the cause could be.

Overall, a parent has to ask themselves what kind of experience they want to provide for their child during their early development. If you can afford a good preschool option, your child should come out of the experience reading, writing, and doing a bit of arithmetic. They should be ready to start school—or even be ahead of their peers. In the end, you just have to decide what’s best for you and your family.