How much of your kindergarten can you remember? The chances are, not too much. Bits and pieces here and there, all but some stand-out memories covered in a foggy haze. When you’re a mom, every decision you make can feel huge, and when it comes to kindergarten, although it’s the norm, that decision is no different. Is kindergarten necessary? And if not, why? At the end of the day, if not sending your child to kindergarten is more convenient or less costly for you, does it really matter?

Look Towards the Law

In America, only 15 states require kids to attend kindergarten. That is a resounding message from the US Federal government – kindergarten does not make too much of a difference. However, leaving it up to states does not necessarily give you a set-in-stone answer. Regardless of your own state government’s opinion, you should ask yourself whether that is a law that is based on fact and science or political convenience. Laws can take a long time to be put into motion, and sometimes, for whatever reason, lower urgency laws can be put on hold for decades. 

In fact, there is often tension between the state laws and the needs of their citizens. A good example of this is the case of Buffalo, New York, where kindergarten became mandatory for the first time about 50 years after the district’s systems needed to support this evolved. 

In the United Kingdom, they don’t have kindergarten, but they do have nursery school – a mixture of preschool and daycare. The UK government does not make attending nursery mandatory, but many parents send babies to nursery as young as 1 and 2. In fact, the official UK government stance is that nursery is good for babies due to results from government-funded studies looking into the matter.

Look Towards Science

The answer from psychologists is a resounding “yes” when you ask them whether a kid should go to kindergarten, preschool, and daycare (the equivalent of a nursery in the UK). There have been countless studies on the impact of social contact at a young age on kids and adults, and the results tend to be very thought-provoking. The number of studies across the world is in the hundreds, and meta-analyses do tend to support these findings. 

In short, children who attended kindergarten compared to those who didn’t tend to be less likely to be single parents, as well as more likely to attend college, have higher incomes, and have retirement plans. 

If you have had any experience in psychology, you will know that these sorts of results can be misleading. They are just correlations, after all – how do we know that it is a kindergarten that has yielded these positive impacts? We can’t; we can just make an educated guess. After all – what if the correlation is instead with money – what if wealthier parents are more likely to send their kids to kindergarten, and what if higher income and retirement benefits are related to their family’s connections? 

Well, these studies also report other interesting findings. One of which is that the quality of the teachers that kids had during kindergarten had an impact on long-term success. That means success in later life – the measures of income, retirement funds, etc. 

That helps to contradict the argument that wealthy parents are the reason for kids who attended kindergarten being more successful when they are older. 

Class size also has an impact – as does the wealth of parents when that was measured – but when you take the effects of these away, you don’t find that the positive effect of kindergarten disappears. 

The Implications of the Psychological Research

The implication of the psychological research that has been conducted into early education is that children who attend kindergarten and have quality teachers do get a very real head start in life. It means that kindergarten can have an impact that goes right into adulthood. 

That doesn’t mean that you’re not a good mom if you don’t send your kid to an expensive kindergarten with everything from swimming pools to Latin teachers; quality teaching at a kindergarten level is more about the attention that a teacher can give a young child, as well as how supportive they are. Their qualifications mean comparatively little. 

So, yes, kindergarten and nursery really do make a difference, they do really matter, but not all of them are made equal. You should do your due diligence as much as possible when you send your baby or child to an early learning establishment – make sure the teachers are nice, attentive, and responsible. It could be that your child’s future performance depends on it!