It’s that time of the year when one school year is coming a close, and we are preparing for the following school year. If you have a little one at home, this may mean it’s time to find them a preschool. But, where do you even start?
Relax! Choosing a preschool for your child isn’t as hard or as overwhelming as it may seem to be. The secret to finding a good preschool begins with preparation and knowing what you’d like to see in a preschool and knowing what you’d like your child to gain from his preschool experience.
Choosing A Preschool: Tips
I’ve put together some simple tips on ways you can choose the right preschool for your child. No two preschools will offer the exact same things, so the important things to do is check out 2-3 schools before deciding on one. This gives you the chance to see many different settings, curriculums, and classrooms.
1. Do Your Research:
Research, research, research. You’ll want to look for a few specifics that will work for your family BEFORE you call for a tour of the school.
- Where is the school located? Close to work or home?
- Is it part-time or full-time program?
- Are they state-licensed? (This means the school meets state facility safety requirements and provides adequate staffing)
- What are the fees? Is there a registration fee?
- Are they gold star accredited?
- Ask friends/family for recommendations. Sometimes the highest recommendations for good preschools come from word-of-mouth.
You may see some school promote that they are 2, 3, or 4-star accredited. The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the gold star standard of approval. If you find a preschool that is star-rated that means NAEYC evaluated the school very carefully on facility, teacher qualifications, education curriculum, class sizes, health and safety standards. You can search for NAEYC accredited preschools near you by visiting http://www.naeyc.org/families/search
2. What are some things to look for?
You’ve narrowed down the school and now you’re ready to tour! You get to the school, but what do you look for? Many preschools are going to brightly colored with child art work hanging on the wall (I hope!), so you want to know what you’re specifically looking for beyond the surface.
- Is the facility safe and clean?
- Ask the teacher if they have a first-aid kit. Many teachers are required to keep them in a locked cabinet, so you may not see it at a glance.
- Are there age-appropriate books and toys?
- Is there a safe outdoor play area with adequate shade?
- Does the classroom provide a variety of activities or “centers”?
- Is the atmosphere fun and inviting?
- Is student art work displayed?
- Do the children seem happy?
- Am I comfortable here? Trust your gut!
3. Who’s the Teacher?
You’ll be leaving your child in the hands of the teacher, so you want to know as much about him/her as you possibly can. The teacher is going to be your partner in teaching your child in these developmental years and you want to make sure the teacher is someone you can trust and that your child can grow to love.
- What are the teacher’s credentials? At minimum, I would require a teacher have an associate’s degree and formal training in early-childhood education.
- What are the teacher/student ratios? The less students they have in a preschool classroom, the more opportunities for one-on-one interaction with the teacher.
- How does the teacher individualize instruction? How do they adapt the curriculum for students who are well ahead or student who may need extra help?
- How does she keep you informed on your child’s progress?
- How does she communicate with parents? (Newsletters, emails, conferences?)
- Does she make the kids feel welcome? Is she warm and inviting? Does she talk to the kids patiently?
- Talk to the teacher about the typical classroom schedule.
Meeting the teacher is one of the most important aspects of choosing a preschool. If she answers your questions warmly and attentively, and you are happy with the feeling the teacher gives you, then it’s safe to say you found a good fit.
4. Visit Checklist
Here’s a quick checklist of things you’ll want to talk to the director about when you visit.
- Does my child need to be toilet-trained?
- How does the school keep the parents involved?
- What’s the school’s discipline policy?
- What are the safety procedures for dropping off and picking up children?
- Is the school accredited?
- What are the payment options and procedures?
- Does the school conduct monthly fire or weather drills?
Remember, choosing a preschool does not have to be an overwhelming or stressful task. Finding the perfect fit is easier when you go into the process prepared and ready to ask questions. Teachers love knowing that you are ready to partner with them in your child’s education, so ask as many questions as you can. Most importantly, make sure the school and teacher make you and your child feel warm and welcome. When you find the right preschool, get ready to embrace your child’s greatest adventure!