Alternatives To Preschool

preschool aged child with a book

My daughter is almost 5 and starts school in September. Both my wife and I decided together that she didn’t need to go to preschool. Although my daughter is very sociable and would have enjoyed it, she has a great relationship with her childminder and we decided it was better to carry on like this until she starts school.

Is this the right decision? It’s too early to say as there are clearly benefits to preschool. However, we figured she will spend at least 13-14 years as a school pupil so there is no rush to be in this setting straight away. She can learn at home through play, with a childminder and besides, she has attended Russian school once a week since she was 3 which has given her the opportunity to learn in a group and see her friends. This has given her a nice balance in her weekly life.

But if you’re thinking of doing something similar and skipping preschool altogether, what are the alternatives? In this article let’s look at this in more detail.

Is preschool necessary?

Preschool isn’t necessary at all, although it remains a popular option for many families. There are clear advantages, such as allowing your child to socialise and interact with other children, learning through play, and getting them ready for school. However some preschools are pricey, your child gets less one-on-one time and some children aren’t ready to spend hours away from home in this type of setting. You have to decide what is best for you and your family.

Preschool vs no preschool statistics

In the USA, 54.5% of all 3-5 year olds were enrolled in preschool in 2018. This figure hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years, but it does drop off in previous decades going back to 1970 when only 26% attended preschool. This might be because more households had a stay-at-home parent and it was easier to manage on one full-time income.

Is it OK to skip preschool?

Looking at the statistics above you can see that only about half of all children go to preschool, so a lot of parents decide to skip it altogether and use an alternative option (see below).

What can your child do instead of preschool?

Here are 5 alternatives to sending your child to preschool.

Use a childminder

My daughter has had two childminders over the past 4 years. We’ve been incredibly lucky with both of them; one is English and one is Russian. My daughter has been able to play with other children in this setting, have some one on one time with a childminder reading books and doing various activities.

For me, a childminder is a perfect blend of having some social interaction with children, and having enough individual attention to aid their development. Another advantage of a childminder is the cost. In the UK childminders don’t usually cost as much as using a nursery or preschool.

The main drawback is that they can be hard to find, or to find one you are happy with. It seems in some areas there a lot of childminders to choose from but very few nursery places. In other areas, the situation is the opposite.

Hire a nanny

A nanny can give your child their undivided attention every hour, but it is the most expensive option. Some nannies will cook and clean, as well as read to your child and help to develop them. Others might only do some of these things. A good nanny can really help develop your child. Although we live in London, one of my wife’s friends has a daughter who can speak excellent Russian. This is because she has had a Russian nanny who has spent the last 3 years with her.

However the downsides to having a nanny are the cost (it’s more expensive) and they don’t get as much opportunity to play with other children which can hinder their social development. If you decide to go for a nanny, bear this in mind. Maybe there are some toddler groups they can go to with your child, or they might know other nannies who they can meet up with who have similar age children to yours.

Spend time with grandparents

If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who live nearby, they could look after your child a couple of days a week. Grandparents have a special bond with their grandchildren and many enjoy spending time in retirement with family members. However, a lot depends on the age of your grandparents, your relationship with them and how good they are with children.

If your grandparents are elderly, are they going to have enough energy to keep up with a toddler? Also, what about developing your child? While they can read stories and play some games, it’s unlikely they’ll have the know-how of a childminder, a preschool teacher or a nanny to really develop your child. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable having my daughter spend long periods of time each week with my in-laws or my parents. I know they would find it too draining.

Spend time with another family

If you know another stay-at-home dad or mum who has a similar age child to yours, maybe they can look after your son or daughter once or twice a week. You might need to come up with some financial arrangement for this, or offer to look after their child in return. Similar to a childminder, your child will get some social interaction with other children. The only downside is you really have to trust this family and know your child is safe. This might be an option just to do for half a day a couple of times a week.

Educate them yourself

The final option is to be a stay-at-home mum or dad and educate your child yourself until they start school. In fact plenty of parents actually go on to homeschool their child throughout their whole education, which you might want to consider. This is only really an option if your partner is a big earner, or you have a very small mortgage as in most households you simply need both mum and dad to work full-time, or one full-time and the other part-time.

Being a stay-at-home parent costs you nothing to be with your child, apart from buying food and going out to various shops and places. You also get to choose yourself how to plan the day so your child can learn and grow in the comfort of your own home. In addition, you may wish to combine looking after your child yourself with one of the other options listed above, such as spending time with grandparents, or using a childminder or nanny. This may suit you if you have a part-time job.

alternatives to preschool