Deciding whether or not to send children to preschool is a big choice for parents. Most preschools in the United States are not free and the expense can make parents think twice about whether early education is worth the investment. In some states, preschool even costs more than the average college tuition. If you have your childcare needs met—maybe you're a stay at home parent or you have a nanny—you may find yourself asking if it's critical that you send your child to preschool.

Early education is important for children's development and that can happen at home or in a school setting. Children who attend preschool can be more prepared for kindergarten and better setup for the rest of their lives, too.

Here are some of the benefits of preschool that contribute to that outsized impact:

1. Teach independence.

For some children, preschool is the first time they are away from their familiar caregivers for an extended period of time. While there, they learn to do new things on their own, whether it's making friends, practicing letters or tying their shoes. They'll also practice making choices, like what toys to play with and who to sit by at snack time. This independence can create confidence as they become more comfortable.

2. Develop social skills.

Often preschool provides children with a lot of social skill development. While parents can teach their kids at home, it can be easier to have peer interaction while attending preschool. Children learn cooperation and how to resolve conflicts with other kids. And, about social norms, like raising their hands and following line leaders.

But social skills go beyond just learning to be social with other kids in the class. Preschool can be a time when kids learn to develop trusting, consistent and safe relationships with adults outside of their families. This sets them up to be able to trust and learn from adults throughout their schooling career. On the flip side, it means it is super important that these adults be kind, loving and supportive as this builds a foundation for establishing healthy relationships in life.

3. Curate language skills.

At preschool, children advance their communication abilities. For example, their vocabularies grow from hearing new words and talking to new people. They spend time working on writing, following multi-step instructions, and correctly labeling objects, such as animals, colors and letters.

Preschool teachers are trained in implementing activities that can successfully improve their communication skills, whether written or verbal.

4. Gain experience in a structured environment.

Most preschools, including those that are play-based or child-led, have a structure and rhythm to their day. Kids often thrive with structure and preschool can provide them with an organized schedule. Additionally, preschool helps children develop self-discipline, understand what is expected of them, practice organization and understand boundaries.

5. Prepare the immune system.

Any parent of a preschooler will tell you that there are germs that float around classrooms. When you send your child to preschool or daycare for the first time, it may seem like they're constantly getting sick. While this may feel like a downside, these germs could actually be preparing your child's immune system and making it stronger for the future. If they aren't exposed to germs, studies show your child may have sick days in Kindergarten at a time when missing school can count against them.

Bonus: How to make preschool more affordable.

Unfortunately, preschool in most of the United States isn't free. However, with a few tricks and planning, the cost need not be prohibitive.

If cost is an issue, there are some ways to qualify for free or reduced-cost preschool. Co-op preschools are often much cheaper or even free and in exchange, you volunteer your time in the classroom. Some states and cities offer subsidies for parents who can't afford preschool and many preschools offer scholarships as well. Preschool provides children with an important foundation for their lives and there are a variety of programs out there to help you take advantage of preschool for your child.