I was just about absorbing my new role as a service provider to an extremely demanding and alarmingly tiny human being when I was asked a question. “So which playschool will she go to?” I remember looking all around to verify whether I was still in a hospital room having just delivered a baby. Then I looked down at my swollen belly which still looked like it had a baby inside it. Now convinced that I was very much where I thought I was, I turned to the lady who had asked me this question. “She is a day old. She doesn’t even have a name yet. How could I possibly know what playschool she will go to?” My innocent laugh was met with a look comprising three quarters disdain and one quarter pity. “You don’t know what you’ve done. She won’t get admission in the best playschool now.”
That, right there was my personal introduction to the frightening, nebulous and often hilarious world (according to me!) of early education, injecting fear and anxiety in the bravest of parental hearts.
What is the best age to send your kid to Playschool?
Borrowing from what I had seen while growing up, all I knew was that children start school when they’re about 4 years old. There’s Nursery, Junior kg, Senior kg and so on. Little did I know that to accommodate diverse needs and parenting preferences there were now a plethora of options to choose from. You can send a child to ‘experiential’ playschools when they’re less than a year old. Of-course they might roll around like tomatoes if they still can’t sit up on their own, but they can socialize with fellow tomatoes. Then there’s mother toddler playschools for infants and mothers to bond and socialize with others in this life-stage. You can start playschool as early as 1.5 years.
Having the luxury of taking a break from work, I chose to navigate my tot away from these options and let her start playschool only when she was 2.5 years old. There are definite advantages to sending them at this age group.
- They have already started communicating and can to a certain extent convey their experiences to you, which makes it easier for them to adapt with your guidance and even from a safety stand point.
- Chances are that by this age you’ve already potty trained them so their reliance on school washrooms/multiple hands/ exposure to additional bacteria will be lesser.
- Yes, children fall sick and that’s how their immunity builds. But the immunity of an older child will always be better than a mere infants. Frequent illnesses are known to hamper growth.
Why the hysteria?
The hysteria at-least starts from a good place. Every parent wants the best for his / her child. The earlier the head-start, the better. Everyone wants their children to go to not just the best schools but the BEST playschools. It doesn’t matter if they have to spend the equivalent of what it cost them to complete their entire Master’s degree to ensure this happens. The problem starts when this good intention takes on a competitive edge and transforms into a mania. I remember the day when someone else had asked me over tea about whether I had signed my daughter up for tuitions for playschool entrance exams. Horrified, I distinctly remember swallowing the entire samosa I had intended to take a dainty bite of. I lamented all the times I could’ve put a headphone on my pregnant tummy and baked an Einstein in advance!
But there is an interesting trend emerging. While parents will do anything to help their children cram in more, through TV shows, gadgets with age appropriate apps and content, the tide is flowing in the opposite direction as per playschool curriculums. The emphasis in most self-respecting and decent playschools is in-fact to learn less. There is only an introduction to alphabets and numbers, absolutely no writing, only tracing in some schools and the maximum focus is to help them learn concepts through fun and games and understand their environment. Some schools have introduced Phonics as a learning aid as a more effective preamble to alphabets and words in future classes.
What to expect?
My daughter has been in playschool for a year and a half now. Let’s be very clear. There is not one vegetable, not one animal, not one freedom fighter and not one god that my daughter has not dressed up as in this time. My cupboard looks more like a Poshaak bhandaar (costume market) than my own wardrobe and I can easily start an alternate livelihood given the variety of masks, accessories, costumes etc that I have in stock thanks to all the ‘special’ days my daughter’s playschool has organized.
Whether I travel domestically or internationally, I always have my costume scan ‘on’, always fearing the next circular when she needs to become the next hot fruit of the season. So I’d say get a box ready. Fill it with craft essentials, masks, ribbons, glitter, spray paint, sheets, different types of paper, strips of cloth etc. You’ll be able to accessorize and put together any kind of costume on a short notice instead of renting out or buying them all the time.
Playschools also organize a lot of interactions and workshops for parents and children. From Peppa pig paathshaalas (never mind that Peppa pig was their favorite animated teacher, doused in pink paint with a plastic cup on her nose), to child abuse workshops, to sports meets where you have to strap your tots on your backs and run like mad, there are quite a few of them. Attend them. Enjoy your time with your little babies. For very soon, they’ll grow up, you’ll be in meetings and they won’t have to be dressed up as cute little princesses/ princes anymore.
You know best.
I promised myself to never judge another parent. It’s hard enough being any kind. So whether you child goes to playschool at 2 years of age or 3, whether they go to the fanciest one or the one next to your house, just remember that this is not the time for them to be part of a rat race. Let them have fun, learn in their own way and take as many holidays as you can before proper school starts (Junior kg) and you start getting comments in their diary for non-attendance! And now that I have hopefully shared something useful with fellow mothers, I must take your leave and look for some hay to transform my daughter into a scarecrow for tomorrow’s class!