SEATTLE -- How seriously should parents consider preschool for their little ones, especially if they don't need to send their children to daycare?
Early learning experts say a good preschool is the best possible preparation a child can have for kindergarten.
The final touches are under way at the Educare Learning Center in West Seattle, slated to open at the end of this month.
The center will serve Headstart eligible children ages 4 weeks to 5-and-a-half years old. And even before the walls are decorated with art and alphabets, it's clear the goal is to fit the needs of the little people who will spend their days here.
"A place that they feel like is their very own, a home away from home," said Rafel O. Hart, program director for Educare Early Learning Center and Highline Headstart.
After 18 years working in early child education, Hart says whether it's here or anywhere else, a quality preschool is the best preparation a child can have for kindergarten.
"Not just the academic portion, but the social, the emotional, and the physical development that a child can get when they attend a good, high quality early child education program," said Hart.
Hart says even more important than studying numbers and letters, a preschool's key value lies in teaching children how to interact with others, share, solve conflicts, and learn how to learn.
He suggests parents shop around as they look for the right daycare. Consider a center's reputation and licensing history, and pay close attention to the quality of the staff and the philosophies they practice.
"You should look for a program that is designed for learning for a child - whole child learning," said Hart.
He says whether parents settle on a full-time or part-time program, it's an opportunity for children to be one step ahead when kindergarten rolls around.