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Should I Put My 2-Year-Old in a Toddler Program?

The child should be developmentally and emotionally ready to handle separation from his parent or caregiver.

Many children benefit from going to a 2-year-old toddler program at a nursery school or Mommy and Me facility.

The child should be ready developmentally and emotionally to handle separation from his parent or caregiver and be able to place his or her trust in the teachers.

There are many types of programs available, from a Mommy and Me program that requires the parent or caregiver be present for part of the time and then gradually move outside the room, to a toddler program where the child is dropped off the whole time at a nursery school. If your child has an older sibling(s), or is bored or restless at home, they will enjoy a program which challenges them and allows them interaction with other kids their own age.

There are pros and cons to putting your toddler into a 2-year old program.

Pros

  • socializing with other children
  • developing language skills
  • learning appropriate behavior such as sharing and using words instead of hitting
  • identifying areas your child needs extra help with, such as speech, occupational therapy or physical therapy
  • familiarizing your child with the routine, the nursery school, what is expected of him or her, sitting still at appropriate times, participating in songs, etc.
  • learning independence from parent or caregiver

Cons

  • the child may not be developmentally or emotionally ready to be separated from parent or caregiver
  • the child’s nap schedule may be interrupted (if the program meets during nap time)
  • the parent spends less time with the child
  • less time to go on play dates since two of your days are partially taken up with the 2-year-old program

According to Ann Amengual, director of Garden City Nursery School, “The right time to start a program varies from child to child. However, placing a child in a toddler program helps develop a special awareness of other children and to introduce the young child to a classroom experience."

Amengual adds, "Our toddler program emphasizes the development of self-control and the ability to share, strengthens fine and gross motor skills, following directions, listening skills and enriches and improves language skills. We encourage children to solve problems and experiment with materials. We recognize each child's uniqueness and understand that separation from parents/caregivers is difficult for young children, especially those under three years old. Parents/caregivers can help by staying at school as long as necessary until the child feels comfortable and safe with the teachers.”

You may wonder “How will my son or daughter be understood by the teachers since he/she does not have much language?” The teachers are patient and do their best to understand the needs of the children. The teachers will work with them and give them the language they need to use.

For example, the teachers will advise the children to say, “more juice please” when the child wants more juice. You also might wonder “Does my child need to be potty trained?” It is not usually a requirement since they are still young. 

You know best if your child would benefit from this school setting, so trust your instincts. As a stay-at-home Mom, I did not want to put my twins in school at 2 years old. I wanted to spend time with them since they grow up so fast.

Therefore, my twins started in the 3-year-old nursery school program. My kids had a difficult transition to nursery school and I feel were at a disadvantage to the other kids who had attended the 2-year-old program. Those who had attended the 2-year-old program were relaxed and comfortable in the classroom setting and were already familiar with a routine. They were also easily able to separate from their parent or caregiver. I wish my twins had gone to the 2-year-old program.

What should you do if you place your child in a 2-year-old program and he/she is unhappy? If your child is not settling in, you can speak to the staff and take him or her out of the program. You can then start the program again in a few months. If your child is missing his nap on school days, try adjusting his schedule. He can either take a shortened nap before or after school.

My 2-and-a-half year old son takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half nap before his 12:30 p.m. school. If he naps after school instead, you want to wake him by 4 p.m. so he can get back to sleep by 8 p.m. (wake your child four hours before you want him to go to bed).

In summary, I believe attending a 2-year-old program is beneficial for most kids. If you have older children, I believe your child will greatly benefit, as will a child who is curious and needs more stimulation. My third child, who is almost 3, loves going to his toddler program at his nursery school. He greets his older brothers getting off the school bus and tells them “I went to MY school today!”

Also, a 2-year-old program encourages socialization with other kids the same age, helps them learn language skills and really eases their transition into the 3-year-old nursery school program. I also believe your child will benefit if she is shy or anxious. I was amazed at how comfortable the children were at my nursery school who had attended the 2-year-old program. I recommend starting your child in a two-year-old program in the nursery school where they will attend nursery school.

If you have any questions about this topic or would like to pose a question to be answered, please email beth@positiveparenting123.com or visit www.positiveparenting123.com

The opinions in this article are those of Positive Parenting, 123 Inc.  The information is meant as a guide and does not replace professional medical advice.  Always consult your pediatrician with any concerns you may have about your child.

Jaime Sumersille March 29, 2011 at 06:58 PM
My son attends two 2-year-old programs for a total of four days a week. One program is academic and another is a gym school. Both he attends on his own. While he was already pretty well socialized from day care, the rapid rate at which he is learning is unbelievable. He is my oldest, so it's always been hard for me to gauge what he's ready for next. With the school pushing them to do more independently, it helps me tremendously at home. They also worked with me on potty training and he was fully trained by 2 1/2. Manners, patience, helping, cleaning up, etc. - all things that we really enforce at home - are also taught at school. And he's learning how to play well with others, share, take turns, etc. He had a break from day care and was home with me for four months before starting this program so the separation anxiety was pretty rough. 2-3 weeks and he was in a routine and asking to go to school every day.
Charles Greco March 30, 2011 at 07:21 PM
My daughters had great experiences with 2-year-old programs. I was even lucky enough to attend some sessions with my daughters. I believe their early experiences at the Merrick Community Nursery School were very beneficial in laying the foundation to their future love of learning.

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