The social and emotional benefits of sending children to pre-K at age 3 are immeasurable. It is an age when children are ripe for learning and are absorbing information at a rapid pace, says Vanessa Jones, head of the Mary K. Chapman Primary School at Holland Hall.

“It’s a magical age, a time of discovery and wonder,” she says. “Early pre-K is so important because it lays the foundation for lifelong learning.”

Oklahoma has long been a pioneer in early childhood education, launching its statewide 4-year-old program in 1980. It was the second state in the nation in 1998 to offer free preschool for 4-year-olds.

Since then, brain development research has shown that children are ready for pre-K education at an even earlier age. Synapses are formed at a faster rate at ages 2 and 3 than any other time in their lives, according to the Urban Child Institute. And 80% of a child’s brain has developed by age 3.

While the percentage of educational programs for 3-year-olds in the nation is low, more early childhood education programs for this age are gradually being implemented across the country.

As brain science advances, schools are beginning to see the benefit of starting children in school earlier.

Today, 3-year-olds are learning and grasping concepts that years ago weren’t taught until a child entered kindergarten. It’s not because kids are smarter now but because brain science has shown they are ready to take in the information earlier.

“I think what sets Holland Hall’s 3-year program apart from others is that teachers are encouraged to be autonomous innovators,” Jones says. “Because we do not prescribe to one particular pedagogical or curricular style, teachers are able to incorporate current, research-based practices into the daily workings of the classroom.”

Jones says Holland Hall teachers stay current on the latest research findings to ensure children are getting the best education possible.

“When you’re 3, the world revolves around you,” she says. “So when they come to pre-K, they learn about sharing, taking turns and other important life skills. The initial exposure to academics — for instance, learning that words make sentences and sentences tell a story — is also especially important.”

Children are also encouraged to play, an organic and natural way for them to explore and learn about the world.

The pre-K program for 3-year-olds at Holland Hall caters to the age group and the individual. Teachers get to know and develop relationships with the students so they can target learning experiences for each child’s abilities and interests, Jones says.

“We take each child right where they are,” she says. “We get to know them individually and provide specific learning activities and challenges for each student.”

The school has dedicated playgrounds for each age designed by teachers who are well-versed in child development. Every class has a teacher and a teacher’s assistant, and another assistant floats among three classrooms each day to help out on various activities.

“Our curriculum aligns intentionally and vertically from our 3-year-old program all the way through our seniors in the upper school,” says Justin Butler, the school’s director of enrollment management. “Our goal is to develop and cultivate skills of lifelong learning and students who are prepared for the challenges that await them upon graduation. It really does start as young as 3 years old.”

Holland Hall is an Episcopal school founded in 1922 and is committed to being within the reach of any citizen of Tulsa. To learn more about Holland Hall’s program, visit hollandhall.org/admission or contact the admission department at 918-879-4755.