The idea of your young twins spending a couple of hours in a classroom setting away from their parents, siblings, and possibly each other can be quite a change for everyone involved. If your twins have spent time in a child care setting, the transition may not be as dramatic as for those who have been cared for at home or in a smaller group setting. Our generation may or may not have attended preschool back when we were young. Today, however, education experts agree that the experience of a preschool program can help kids learn more effectively when kindergarten comes along. We’re talking about a fun, relaxed preschool atmosphere, and not any sort of rigorous academic curriculum! Three-year-olds usually participate 2 or 3 half days a week, while 4-year-olds can participate 3 or 4 half days a week.
Preschool registration happens at different times depending on where you live. In general for most areas, looking at preschool options a year before you plan on enrolling your twins is a good idea. Busy urban settings can be more competitive, and infants on preschool waiting lists are not uncommon in big cities.
In the months leading up to preschool, you’ll want to provide your twins with some practice for the experience. Look around your community for options. Public libraries usually offer a story hour or craft sessions for each young age group. These story hours are a great way for your twins to practice sitting quietly in a group while listening to a story. The fact that these programs are usually free is a bonus. Your twins will learn some social etiquette by being in a room of 3-year-olds. Twins may be accustomed to close physical contact with one another—but they’ll need to learn that they can’t be quite so cozy with others around them.
Another way to get your twins ready for preschool is to visit your area’s public and school playgrounds after school hours. Get to know a variety of parks around your home to keep the trips interesting. Your twins will have fun on different types of equipment and feel quite comfortable at their preschool playground when the time comes. Your twins will also gain a little experience meeting and playing with other kids at the playground.
Look into your local park district youth offerings and recreational youth sports. Always ask if they offer a twin discount! Soccer is a great gender-neutral choice that boy-girl twins would enjoy. Park districts often offer a 3-year-old “class” specifically for a parent to drop the child off so that the child gets used to the idea of being on his own for a bit. To ease the transition, if your twins are in the same class, they can provide some comfort for each other when their parent leaves. At these types of classes, my twin boys were so excited to see new toys to play with that they didn’t mind at all that Mom was leaving for a while. I had tears myself, though, the first couple of times, and didn’t know if I felt better or worse that the boys weren’t crying at these goodbyes. With a little practice getting out there with your twins, you’ll all be ready to make the leap to 2 mornings a week of preschool quite smoothly.
Many parents of twins wonder if they should keep their twins in the same classroom for preschool, or separate them into 2 different classes. If your preschool is a small program, you may have no choice because all the 3-year-olds may be together in a single class. If there are 2 separate classrooms, you’ll have to decide for your family on the best strategy.
For our family’s situation, our decision for class placement was pretty straightforward. We felt that our identical twin sons looked so similar that the teachers and other students would be confused all year as to who each twin was. We didn’t want our sons to hear the question, “Which one are you?” all year long. I wanted to de-emphasize the boys’ “twinness” and give the boys a chance to show others who they are as a person, as an individual. I also felt that 2 mornings a week of being in 2 separate classrooms wouldn’t be that big of a deal, considering the boys are together the other 5 days a week, 24 hours a day. In addition, I felt that after some practice with separate preschool classrooms, the transition into separate classrooms in the higher grades should be a little easier. The issue of twin placement in classrooms is currently a very hot issue as many families feel that their kids would do better in school if their twins were in the same class. These families argue that the family, not the school, should make the final decision of class placement. New legislation has been popping up in various states giving families the final say in whether twins are placed together or separately. Each family must assess its own situation and decide what will work best for it. Some families find that keeping twins together in the early years helps smooth the way for eventual separation in the higher grades.