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Many parents feel pressure to send their children to preschool because of its reputed cognitive benefits. You hear that day care makes for better-socialized kids, higher-testing kids, even smarter kids. But don’t let that sway you too much. A loving home environment with a few activities and play dates will be just as good for Jimmy at a young age if not better. While there’s nothing wrong with structured activity and challenges, it’s just as important for him to learn to balance work and play and to develop a healthy appetite for learning.
I always favor smaller, more intimate environments. A two- or three-year-old is not meant to be around twenty other kids during the day. Kids adapt remarkably well to various situations, but large facilities can be factory-like and impersonal, and they can foster aggressive behaviors. Having five or six close friends to play with builds stronger peer relationships by reproducing a family setting. For that matter, day-care facilities in private homes can be an excellent option (assuming they’re well run), because they provide a more intimate and lower-pressure environment.
But won’t Jimmy catch every viral infection under the sun at day care? Maybe, and that could happen whether he’s with five kids or twenty-five kids, but look at it this way: He’ll either develop immunity now, or he’ll develop it later. When I started my residency, I caught virus after virus for the first six months. Now I barely ever get sick, even though I kiss a good dozen coughing toddlers daily. Jimmy may as well get started early.