The summer is liberating! Hibernating neighbors venture outside with their little ones, anxious to seek out those with common interests and similar familial burdens. The community park is “kiddie central” in my daughter’s neighborhood. In the mornings I can be found at the toddler playground trying to exercise both arms equally as Charlie sits in his swing asking for “more.”

It is here that I learn about the community and what is expected of its progeny. The young mothers, trying to socialize as they eye their children (most of whom are 1 to 3 years old), discuss a variety of child-related subjects. As I exercise my arms, I eavesdrop listen.

The topics of late have centered around the choices of September programs at the local pre-schools. In one conversation I could sense motherly peer pressure at work; a new mom seems reticent about enrolling her 15 month old, but defers to the more experienced moms promoting their point of view.

I wonder: If a parent thinks his child is not quite ready to enter the “school scene” at this young an age, will that mean that he will fall behind in social skills? I had to check this out, and I was amazed at what I found.

In an article entitled, “The Dark Side of Preschool” in ‘Parenting Science,” Gwen Dewar sites a host of published research that indicates pre-school is not all that it is cracked up to be in terms of social skills. In fact, she reports,  ”Researchers found that the more time kids spent in non-maternal care during the first 4.5 years of life, the more behavioral problems they developed.” But it is not that kids can’t benefit from opportunities to play with peers.  She says,  ”The key is balancing peer play time with plenty of affectionate, sensitive parenting.”

So, if I were in on the conversation, I’d advise that reticent mom to go with her gut. Instincts can be liberating.


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