For a child who goes to preschool, are there any scholarly recommendations on how much preschool is recommended for a child? I know that every child is different, and that disadvanted children may benefit differently.

Perhaps how much structured group educational instruction is a better question?

I.e. 4 hours a week? 10 hours? 15 hours?

  • 1
    No references, so this is a comment not an answer. The scholarly evidence I am most familiar with points to unstructured play as the best learning environment for preschoolers. Most kids aren't even really ready for structured leaning environments at 1st grade (6 years old).
    – pojo-guy
    Apr 19, 2018 at 20:29
  • Similarly, I would say, "As little as possible". Sometimes work schedules and other things necessitate the need for the child to be in preschool, but I would say the ideal situation is for them to be with their parents as much as possible before they start school. Apr 25, 2018 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


I disagree with purple rain's statement, even if it has some published backing. I've seen what keeping your kids home until the second they go into public schools does. If you have not raised them to be considerate they can go in being total d-bags and having to adopt a behavioral pattern after one is established may be far worse of a nightmare than an earlier introduction via a pre-school. This depends on the structure of a preschool as well. Some are play oriented and handle guidance well. Some might as well be a prison court yard where anything goes.

A lot of what preschools do is develop patterns of time. Typically a preschool is not an all day program. At first it may be a couple hours a day, a couple days a week. It may have a nap time. After a couple years, which is generous, your child may not lose their feces every time you walk out of a room. If nothing else, preschool may ween them out of separation anxiety in a way where you're not violating a truancy law if you cave in and take them home.

Both my girls went to preschool. Both did exceptionally well there, and had plenty of kids to play with, activities that we didn't really have at home, and the freedom to play without us hovering over them. They got used to us not being there all day. And they got used to trusting that we would show up later to get them. The patterns of a routine that is different than the one they knew while developing at an age where they can be distracted or in general may be more receptive to change.

Our preschool was 2 years. Year one was 3 days a week. Year 2 is 4 days. Both years a "day" was defined as 3 1/2 hours. 8:30 to 12 noon. I happened to have a job that allowed me to adopt that schedule. I felt any more than this would have been too much preschool.

If it helps to know, both of my girls were born at a time of year that makes them unable to register for kindergarten until they are 6. Both of them took the early entrance exam, and both were accepted into kinder at 4 years old. Both turned 5 within a month or so of entrance so don't get too excited there. Point is, the entrance exam was not an aptitude test. It was a maturity evaluation and a general verification that they can walk in a single file line, take turns, raise hands, share, count to a certain degree, identify shapes, etc. Very basic things. All of which they learned at their preschools.

I don't have a control study here. I don't have an identical family with identical situations choosing the non preschool path, so I can't say if preschool is the deciding factor in why my kids did so well, and are doing so well now. Could be, but could also just be coincidence.

Their cousin... they can't afford preschool. That girl is NOT ready for public school. Just saying...

  • I am certainly not saying that children still require learning and maturing in order to be ready for school; I'm simply saying that the ideal place for it to happen is in the home, with adults that they trust and can be vulnerable with. It sounds like you helped your children a lot with their maturation, so that they were able to handle being away from you at preschool. I don't think it was the preschool that did that. Apr 25, 2018 at 18:43
  • I'm also not advocating that you should smother your children, or never let them be around peers; only that a structured preschool away from parents may not be the ideal environment for a child that young. Apr 25, 2018 at 18:44
  • No but to definitively say preschool played no part also equalizes all preschools and children alike. Chances are it helps some and does nothing for others. I haven't seen much along the way of preschools doing nothing for kids, but I have seen what not going has done to a few. Parenting styles could play a role in that but personalities are probably more responsible for unpreparedness. You can be an accommodating parent while having your child grow in an unruly way. I guess all I'm disagreeing with is that any publication can prove or disprove it without a huge data set to follow
    – Kai Qing
    Apr 25, 2018 at 19:35
  • Fair enough. Like I said at the beginning of my answer, "Scholarly opinion will definitely vary." You make some good points, although I would still argue that no "structured group educational instruction" (as per OP) is beneficial to a preschooler. Apr 25, 2018 at 20:03

Scholarly opinion will definitely vary, but the following article citing a well-respected child psychologist makes a lot of sense to me:

Nurturing children: Why "early learning" doesn't help

The basis of the article is that preschoolers aren't developmentally able to learn many things. The things they do need to learn (like socialization) are best learned in an environment of adult attachment, not an environment of peers.

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