The preschool years are the most important of a child's development. Students who start kindergarten without preschool experience are more likely to need special-education services, repeat a grade, or even drop out. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician who directs the Seattle Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, says that for children the impact of Covid-19 will be felt for years.
Before this pandemic, many preschoolers were already behind, and for American low-income kids, high-quality options to prepare for kindergarten were already in short supply. As many as half of them were entering kindergarten without being prepared for such a challenge. Children are considered "kindergarten ready" when they are able to speak complete sentences most of the time, identify at least five colors, and know their first and last name, amid basic examples.
Most of human brain development occurs before age 5 (this incredible organ triples in size during the first two years), and this explains why kids' early experiences are so important and so predictive of their success later on. "Children are born wired to learn; early learning experiences lay the foundations of their minds for the rest of their lives," says Christakis.
A lot of studies have revealed that kids who attend quality early-learning programs tend to enter kindergarten with a better grasp of math and language, have more positive relationships with their parents, and are less likely to suffer behavioral problems. Other research has shown that kids who start kindergarten without having learned to listen to instructions, share with others, and to express their emotions are less likely to graduate high school thereafter.
For all of these reasons, it is presumably not a good strategy to just wait for things to work out without taking immediate action, for the sake of our youngest children.
Picture: Teacher teaching students in an early childhood setting (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)