When Stan and Dorothy Libby had their first child, they were overjoyed. “We were not thinking about the future or anything else,” said Dorothy. “We just played with him, and brought him to see his relatives and took about a thousand photos.” They never thought that they were potentially risking Mikey’s future, until they tried to enroll him in preschool shortly after his third birthday. “We thought we were on the ball,” said Stan. “I mean, he had just turned three, and we thought a year in advance would have been plenty of time.” They were soon to learn how wrong they were.
These days, reputable preschools and day care centers fill up almost instantly. Most of the best preschools have waiting lists that can take years to materialize. “We were looking for child care in Trumbull CT or maybe preschool in Monroe CT,” said Dorothy, “but we were terrified that we would have to send Mikey to preschool in Peekskill NY, as that was the closest school with an immediate opening.”
The rush to enroll children in preschool is largely research driven. Preschools are not a new concept. Modern day care as we think of it, began all the way back in 1854 with the New York Day Nursery. What has changed is our knowledge of just how important preschool can be. Studies have shown that early childhood is perhaps the most important time for a child’s cognitive development. By the age of three, a child will have already developed about 1,000 trillion connections between the cells in the brain. Put another way, that is about twice as many neuro cellular connections as the average adult.
Day care and particularly preschool are also crucial to the development of personality and social and emotional stability. In fact, preschool is actually a solid predictor of future health and wealth, particularly among low income children. A study in Chicago found that low income children who attended preschool were 28 percent less likely than their non preschool peers to fall into drug and alcohol problems, and they were also far less likely to spend time in jail.
Stan and Dorothy learned about all of these benefits a bit late. “We were not able to get Mikey into any preschool in Trumbull,” said Stan, frowning. “Child care in Trumbull CT is just packed right now. We immediately put him on a waiting list for a school near my work.” In the meantime, they have been looking at day care centers in CT as a potential stop gap. Their second child, however, is already on the waiting list for child care in Trumbull CT. She is due to be born in November.