preschool children sitting on floor raising handsThe other night I went to preschool orientation. I felt like I was sitting in on a session for college applications. I listened intently, but slightly embarrassed, at the level of preparation many parents had put into their questions. Why was this SO serious? I wanted to shout, “It’s preschool, people — they’re 3 years old!”

I had done a total of ZERO preparation. As I listened, I became confused. Isn’t the start of school supposed to be kindergarten? Why are we concentrating on how a 3-year-old child holds a pencil? Or what the “curriculum” is? Despite the research and the fact that “everyone is doing it,” my feeling is that preschool should actually be play school.

Don’t you come home from work some days wondering what happened? Life was good when you were a kid — no responsibilities, just fun, discovery, excitement about the world. Then one day you grow up and some of that magic is gone. The daily drudgery sets in. As the French say, “métro, boulot, dodo” (metro, work, sleep). Why do I want to get my kid started on that track earlier than necessary? I can see that my kids are smart and that they’ll do fine. They have loving parents who read to them and take them on amazing adventures.

Yes, I want my children to learn to read. Yes, I want them to know their colors. Yes, I want them to be good, kind people and normal in social situations. But is sending them to preschool where they’ll “learn in a fun way,” really the answer?

We all want the best for our children. It’s hard not to want to send them to the “best” schools, dress them in the best clothes, give them the best experiences. But I think it’s getting WAY out of hand. People are actually willing to pay $20,000 for their kid to go to the BEST preschool where their child will get the best start and, therefore, surge ahead of others down the road. Really? Is that really going to happen?

I sometimes find myself getting caught up in the hype and have to remind myself (or my husband reminds me) to take a step back and really examine the situation. I’m going to go ahead and say that agonizing over which preschool is the “best” is definitely hype, and it’s time to shift our perspective. Something my type A personality doesn’t often allow.

It hit me while I sat in that room during “orientation.” What the heck was I doing there, anyway? I was getting caught up in the hype. This place supposedly had the best teachers, the best program, etc. But the more I listened and looked around, I realized this preschool didn’t align with my philosophy. It wasn’t a great fit for my values, either.

What our kids truly need is to spend more time just being kids. Playing together, developing their imaginations, and just being kids. To me, that feels right.

This post was originally published in 2016 and was refreshed in 2023.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. Instead of looking for the “best” preschool (if you choose to go that route) what you really need to be doing is looking for the best preschool for “your child.” You said it, the orientation you went to didn’t fit with your philosophies and values. The key then is to find a place that does. You value play? Then find a play-based preschool which puts emphasis on learning through guided play experiences. And ‘guided’ doesn’t mean strict. It simply means purposeful play. Some examples could be: functional play (running, pouring, dumping and repetition of movement), constructive play (art, blocks, building and creating) and dramatic play (the house corner and role-playing).

    There are many different reasons for choosing to put your child into preschool but if you can’t think of a good reason to put YOUR child there, then don’t. I’m sure there are many more adventures for them to come.

  2. Thanks Suzanne! Obviously everyone is going to have a different philosophy and approach – choosing the right one for your family is key. Play-based feels the most right for me and as one of our readers so aptly put it on our Boston Moms Blog Facebook page: ‘don’t get caught up in the hype!’

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