Scientific Studies Reveal Best Age to Start Preschool

According to the results of three studies, it is suggested that starting preschool at age 3 years, but not for prolonged or intensive hours, is most beneficial for children's acquisition of intellectual skills while not having negative impacts on their behavior problems, which attending at a younger age may have. It is suggested that children should not attend preschool later than 4 years because the findings of one study showed that children attending preschool at age 3-4 scored significantly higher in a school readiness test than children who attended at age 5.

Created on November 21 2015 at 08: 00 AM

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1: "How Much Is Too Much? The Influence Of Preschool Centers On Children'S Social And Cognitive Development," Economics of Education Review, 2007, by S Loeb, M Bridges, D Bassok, B Fuller. (Citations: 373).

This paper examines the effects of different child-care arrangements on children's cognitive and social proficiencies at the start of kindergarten. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we identify effects using OLS, matching and instrumental variables estimates. Overall, center-based care raises reading and math scores, but has a negative effect for socio-behavioral measures. However, for English-proficient Hispanic children, the academic gains are considerably higher and the socio-behavioral effects are neutral. The duration of center-based care matters: the greatest academic benefit is found for those children who start at ages 2–3 rather than at younger or older ages; negative behavioral effects are greater the younger the start age. These patterns are found across the distributions of family income. The intensity of center-based care also matters: more hours per day lead to greater academic benefits, but increased behavioral consequences. However, these intensity effects depend on family income and race.


1: "Success Outcomes Of Full-Day Kindergarten: More Positive Behavior And Increased Achievement In The Years After," Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1992, by JR Cryan, R Sheehan, J Wiechel. (Citations: 154).

This statewide longitudinal study was designed to investigate the effects of kindergarten schedule (half day, alternate day, and full day) and prior preschool attendance on elementary children's success (achievement, incidence of grade retention, provision of special educational services, and classroom behavior). Academic data are summarized from two phases of the study: a retrospective analysis of children's outcomes related to kindergarten attendance in 27 school districts in the years 1982, 1983, and 1984; and a prospective analysis of two cohorts of children, one entering kindergarten in fall 1986 in 27 school districts and one in fall 1987 in 32 school districts. Behavioral outcome data are reported in detail. Existing data found in cumulative folders, representing scores from 13 different standardized tests, and various outcome data were analyzed for the retrospective study. Outcome data for the ongoing study were gathered from the Metropolitan Readiness Tests (administered in kindergarten), the Metropolitan Achievement Tests (administered in first grade), and the Hahnemann Elementary School Behavior Rating Scale (administered in kindergarten). Results from the longitudinal study indicate that children who attend preschool prior to kindergarten experience greater subsequent success in elementary school than those who do not. Results from both phases of the study indicate that participation in full-day kindergarten is positively related to subsequent school performance, at least through first grade. Additional analyses demonstrate the significant impact of age at entrance to kindergarten and of gender.

2: "Age Of Entry, Preschool Experience, And Sex As Antecedents Of Academic Readiness In Kindergarten," Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1992, by DF Gullo, CB Burton. (Citations: 77).

Readiness, or preparing young children for the formal curriculum, is garnering much attention and controversy in the field of early childhood education. Many factors have been examined in efforts to determine what affects academic readiness. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of children's age of entry, number of years of preschool, and sex on academic readiness at the end of kindergarten. A total of 4, 539 children participated in the study. Of these, 104 children started public school at age 3 (K3), 1, 234 started school at age 4 (K4), and 3, 201 started at age 5 (K5). At-risk status was determined using the Cooperative Preschool Inventory (Caldwell, 1974), and first-grade readiness was determined using the Metropolitan Readiness Test (MRT; Nurss & McGauvran, 1974). Controlling for risk status, regression analysis revealed that age of entry and number of years of preschool accounted for a significant amount of the variance, while sex did not. Analyses of covariance indicated that children who entered the public school preschool program at K3 or K4 scored significantly higher on the MRT than children who entered at K5. The findings also indicated that if children were the youngest in their class they did not score as high as their older counterparts in the K4 and K5 cohorts. However, no difference was found on achievement scores between the oldest and the youngest for the K3 cohort.

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