$7,000 For Blocks and Play-Doh?

by Robert Pondiscio
October 24th, 2008

Parents pay an average of $7,000 a year for preschool education, a pricetag that leaves some parents reeling in uncertain economic times.  ”This is blocks and Play-Doh, essentially. What are we doing?” Elizabeth Henderson, a mother of three in Tustin, Calif., tells Smart Money.  She pays $500 a month to send her youngest to a nearby preschool for three half-days a week.

Forced to choose between paying for preschool and saving for college, the magazine notes, parents are increasingly looking at three options: Parent co-op preschools, where parents take turns working in the classroom with the kids and teacher; at-home day care with an educational bent; and homeschooling.

You can always try this too.  Play-doh not included.


  1. The problem I have with the preschools in my area is not so much cost but that they’re too much time in an institutionalized setting. When my brothers and I went to preschool back in the ’80′s and early ’90′s, it was a couple mornings a week for a couple hours at a time. Basically, it was a chance for us to socialize with other kids and for my mom to run errands without the hassle of a young child in tow.

    Today, however, the norm for “part-time” programs seems to be 5 days/week for 4 hours/day. I guess with so many dual-income and single parent families, that’s just where the market demand is :-(

    Comment by Crimson Wife — October 24, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  2. Well, it’s not just blocks and PlayDoh, its competent adult supervision. $500 per month for 3.5 days a week comes out to about $5 per hour. Say each adult supervises 10 kids — that’s $50 per adult per hour to cover salary (benefits, if any), rent, supplies, insurance, etc. That seems low enough that I’m guessing I’ve over-estimated the number of hours in a 3.5 day week…

    For a parent who’s not working outside the home, spending that kind of money many not seem worth it for more than a few hours a week. But it doesn’t seem at all an unreasonable price for the service itself.

    Pre-school was a good setting for my daughter — she an only child, and much more extroverted than either of her parents — five or six hours a day of hanging out with other kids seemed to work well for her, but it was a nice, not at all “institutional” setting.

    Comment by Rachel — October 24, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  3. Rachel is absolutely 100% spot on. Just because it’s more than someone feels like paying doesn’t mean it can magically cost less to provide.

    And, the $7000 isn’t for a country club fee or an imported hand-woven living room rug. That money helps to ensure that your child, your flesh and blood, will be safe, and that they’ll have the basic skills needed to succeed for the rest of their life. You can cut back on spending on clothing, you can turn your thermostat down, but is it really appropriate to say “If I stretch I can afford the day-care with a 6-to-1 ratio, but we’ll save so much money if we choose the day-care with the 18-to-1 ratio!”

    Comment by Dave — October 27, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

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