“Two” Young for School?

I am aware that there is an ongoing debate about the wisdom of having two year old children in a nursery school drop off program.

I looked on line to see if there have been any conclusive studies done that would lend credence to either side of the debate. While I couldn’t find any studies, I did discover convincing arguments on both sides of this sensitive issue. There were postings from educators who felt that two year old children were too young to separate from their mothers and be integrated into a school program that might prove too exhausting for them. Some, who were teachers of two year olds, stated that they felt more like caretakers than educators. There were others who were excited about the challenge of working with very young children and designing developmentally appropriate programs for them. I read a posting from a mother who had second thoughts about enrolling her child because the child was experiencing separations issues that left her feeling guilty and uncomfortable. Several postings from educators and parents stated that it depends on the child or the school. There were moms who stated they thought their child was ready but their husbands disagreed. There were dads who thought their child was ready but their wives disagreed. Ultimately there appeared to be much ambivalence about this subject on the part of both educators and parents.

Consequently I’ve decided to weigh in and share my opinion as an early childhood educator, mother and grandmother. I think what is missing from this debate is that for many moms there isn’t a choice on this issue. Many young mothers today are working moms, single moms or simply moms who need a break (motherhood doesn’t magically give moms the skills or temperment to deal with the demands of a young child). I think we can comfortably assume that most mothers want what is best for their child. It becomes a decision about leaving their child in the care of a babysitter, hiring a nanny, or sending their child to a daycare or a nursery school program. I am glad that quality programs for two year old children have been developed to address this need.

When my first grandchild turned two, my daughter needed to go back to her teaching job as she had been on an extended leave of absence. She and my granddaughter had attended “Mommy and Me” classes regularly for a year and a half. She ended up placing her daughter in a two year old program at a synagogue near her home. Although, there were initial separation issues, her daughter thrived in the program and currently her second child is enrolled at the same school. As an educator, I recognize that all children go through separation anxiety. My experience has shown me that whether a child enters a preschool program at two, three or four years of age, they will have some separation issues.

I applaud the school I recently worked at for instituting a program for two year olds. To underscore my feelings, my son recently told me that an attorney at his firm has her two year old enrolled in the program and is delighted with her child’s experience. I believe that preschool programs must meet the changing needs of their demographics.

As educators, we can provide important support for those families who wish or need to enroll their child in such a program. We are the ones who have been educated to recognize which activities are developmentally appropriate for the very young child. We can offer warm, nurturing environments where children flourish and parents feel reassured that their child is in the hands of a capable, competent professional.