It's time to begin thinking about whether your preschool age child is ready for the major step of attending preschool. Sure, it's only December but many preschool programs allow children to attend as soon as they turn three, and for the fall, preschools fill up quickly and you'll want to spend time researching schools and what they offer.

Most importantly, you need to take a hard look at whether your child can handle the change and challenge that comes from being in a structured learning environment.

Up until this point, your child has probably lived in a cocoon of fun, toys, food and family — all at her disposal for most hours of the day. In preschool that will change — there will be a routine. There will be a teacher who may not be as forgiving as Mommy & Daddy. And there will demands on her like sharing and completing certain simple tasks.

Is she ready for all that? Will she thrive in that environment? Even if she struggles at first, would she grow to succeed? These are some of the important questions you and your spouse need to answer before enrolling your child in preschool.

There are a few areas that your need to consider.

  • Is your child potty trained? Most preschools require children to be potty trained before accepting them into the program. If your child is not, this would be a good time to begin.
  • Is your child overly attached to you? If your child has difficulty with attachment issues, heading off to preschool might exacerbate the problem. Or it could alleviate it as she transitions to a new schedule and environment.
  • Does your child play well with others? Your child will be in a classroom for several hours a day with other children her age. They will be sharing toys, games and the teacher's attention. How do you think your child will perform? It's likely that a preschool setting will help your child grow socially and emotionally, as well as academically.

Here are some things to do prior to enrolling her in preschool:

  • Take her to the school and see her reaction. Spend some time there. Does she play or interact with the other kids? Does she gravitate to the teacher or to the activities?
  • Talk to other parents. How did their children handle it? Can they offer any tips? Also ask your pediatrician or trusted family members for their opinions and feedback.
  • Talk to your daughter about the upcoming transition for months ahead of time. Read books about preschool and ask her to share her thoughts. Let her know that some of her friends are also going to preschool and that may help ease any concerns she has.
  • Be on the lookout for any signs of anxiety. You should realize that your child might begin showing signs of nervousness in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of school. Make sure you reassure her immediately and help her to be more comfortable with such a major change.

Not all children are ready for preschool at the same age. Finding the right program and understanding your child will help you make the right decision.