Young students building with blocks at South Coast Montessori School.
Young students building with blocks at South Coast Montessori School. Early childhood education gives students a developmental head start. (Contributed photo)

Economic advantage. Self-esteem. Literacy rates. Emotional intelligence. Independence. Those probably aren’t terms your preschooler knows. They may even be unfamiliar to some parents.

But they are just a few of the lifelong benefits you provide for your child by choosing to enroll your little one in an early education preschool program.

“Early childhood education is critical for a child’s development,” said Brian Cogswell, head of South Coast Montessori. “The studies are in; this is no longer up for debate. One could make the argument that choosing a preschool for your child is more important for a child’s fulfillment in life than choosing their college.

“Wiring the brain for self-confidence, self-efficacy, curiosity and an innate love for learning occurs at the youngest of ages.”

It may be hard to believe that such an advantage can be the result of just 10 months of schooling, but the data don’t lie.

The Wall Street Journal reported in late 2020 that preschool students are a full eight months ahead of nonattenders in academic learning, which in education is nearly a full grade level.

The report also included listening, planning and self-control skills as nearly a half-year ahead in development, and academically, the 45% of children who weren’t sent to preschool experienced a gap in math skills.

Although the pre-kindergarten classroom might, at times, look more like a playdate and less like traditional book-learning, the time your child spends wondering, playing, interacting, listening and even making independent choices contributes to a lifetime of advantages for your mini Albert Einstein.

A student learning about cursive letters at South Coast Montessori School.

A student learning about cursive letters at South Coast Montessori School. (Contributed photo)

Teddy Macker, a representative of The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara, shared the institution’s approach to learning: “The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara offers a love-based education that honors the whole child. Based on play, grounding rhythms, wholesome food, and the arts, our early childhood program is ‘developmentally appropriate,’ meaning our children are exposed to what nourishes them, what sparks joy, gratitude and wonder, and not what stifles or burdens them.

“Central to our early childhood education is love, an approach of reverence, in a beautiful, homelike atmosphere.”

Regardless of the preschool to which you opt to send your child, structured play, problem-solving and social skills will begin to flourish in a safe environment.

Activities such as playing house or building with blocks can be done at home, but with preschool providing a new place to explore, a set of different educational toys and a bookcase of new reads, your child’s synapses will be firing as they expand their understanding of the world, guided by these new sensory delights.

Adding new people, both big and little, into their lives will bring with it the introduction of emotional lessons such as sharing, helping, responsibility and compassion. Interacting with others also will expand vocabulary, and it will serve as a chance to make friends, learn new games, and gain tools such as compromise and respect — all under the watchful eye of a nonparental adult.

Two girls learning words and spelling at South Coast Montessori School.

Two girls learning words and spelling at South Coast Montessori School. (Contributed photo)

Preschool attendance helps parents, too, in some unexpected ways. Besides the obvious benefits of safe care for your kiddo while you are at work, leaving your youngster with someone versed in early childhood development may lead to a faster diagnosis of any developmental disorders — physical or mental.

Beyond that, early intervention in learning disabilities is made more accessible and can be performed by an early childhood teacher who has the skills set to make accommodations as needed.

Preschool serves as an opportunity to expand some one-on-one time concentrating on elevating an area of underdevelopment to a normal percentile. Regularly concentrating on learning colors, counting to 10, sorting objects or helping with speech — or whatever skill your child is a bit behind in — can result in a quick fix and prevent confusion as the child progresses in school.

Whatever the struggle, preschool typically can help get things back on track and even out the learning curve, ensuring your little genius is as ready as ever for elementary school.

When you and your 3- to 4-year-old are ready, your next step is in looking around the Santa Barbara area for a preschool whose approach to learning matches your parenting philosophy.

“At South Coast Montessori, our teachers strive to provide a supportive and individualized environment where the child is free to develop and learn at their own pace,” Cogswell said. “Our child-centered approach has been proven to create confident, independent children who develop a lifetime love of learning.”

Make an appointment with local schools such as Montessori Center School, South Coast Montessori or The Waldorf School to explore the campus, meet the teachers and discuss the daily routine. Make sure you include these important talking points when considering schools: 

» What is the classroom ratio of student-to-teacher/aide? 

» How long is the school day? 

» How frequently are formal student assessments done to measure student growth and ensure progress? 

It may be difficult and even scary to imagine your little one on his or her own, but the benefits of the preschool experience can change your child’s world for the better.

— Mara Pyzel is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be reached at

Mara Pyzel, Noozhawk Contributing Writer

— Mara Pyzel is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be reached at