I believe it is mainly for social skills. Anything else can be taught one on one at home. Then again, playgroups can cover the social skills department, so I'm not sure if I answered your question or not. Sorry.
Preschool provides children a headstart on basics, like colors, shapes, alphabet, and numbers. Just as important, if not even more so, it provides familiarity with structured environments and peer socialization, which is particularly important for 'only' children, who have little or no contact with peers.
They can better developed in terms of social skills, being more independence and academically. I send my older child to preschool when she is 3 yrs old and my youngest child when she is 2. The younger one seems to have wider vocabulary able to do much more comparing to my older one when they are at that age.
I wrote a hub on this recently.
http://hubpages.com/hub/Why-Preschool-E … Your-Child
Preschool is the foundation, in other words the beginning of education. This is where a child starts the learning process. Numbers, alphabets, learning to read and write. It's a jumpstart or preparation for first grade. Whithout out this preparation, everything will appear foreign to the new first grader unless it's taught at home.
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