Kids are under increasing pressure to grow up fast. Don't bother to apply to the best kindergartens if your baby doesn't already know everything, including the Robert Fulghum stuff. Ideally by twenty four months of age he or she should be cribbing for a PhD in his or her (or your) chosen field, between diaper changes and piano lessons. Naps are out of the question, there simply isn't the time for today's motivated, busy and successful baby.
The future applicant for a top, competitive preschool or kindergarten should demonstrate a pattern of achievement, outstanding communication skills and ideally, a sense of community through volunteer work or spiritual pursuits. Athleticism, leadership and a strong work ethic will also be factors. If your child is currently able to sit up on his own, you should be way past the Baby Einstein and well into the Baby Stephen Hawking. Don't just sit around nursing all day unless you want your kid to be playing cards at recess, betting their lunch money with the other tatooed, spiky-haired munchkins at Lenny's Exit 16 Preschool and Self Storage Units. (School motto: "Easy On, Easy Off").
For the truly serious parent it might be argued that if you're not halfway through the pop-up version of Proust's À la Recherche Du Temps Perdu by sixteen months you are hopelessly, irretrievably behind. There are no Cliff notes for this stuff; the rigorous admissions process for the more prestigious preschools will ferret out the unprepared. Ideally, you should begin your baby's education well before birth.
Here are several lessons your child should have mastered before his or her appearance in the world:
1. 98 degrees is about right.
2. You don't have to share a damn thing unless you have a conjoined twin.
3. Mozart is "thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa", Beethoven is "Thump. Thump. Thump."
4. Get a lot of swimming and resting in, every day.
5. Stay naked as much as possible while you still look good.
6. There is such a thing as a free lunch, and dinner and breakfast, but only for nine months.
7. Eventually things don't fit anymore and you're going to have to look elsewhere.
8. Moving day is hell. Get professional assistance.
9. Stay close to your mother's heart.
If your baby learns these essential life lessons, especially the last one, he or she will thrive. If he or she doesn't... hey, there are plenty of things to be learned at Lenny's Exit 16 Preschool and Self Storage Units. They say the kids there are awesome at Texas Hold 'Em.