For many families, preschool is the first time you will send your child off alone with another person for most of the day. For those who previously attended day care, a preschool can be a whole new adventure with a bit more structure, curriculum, and independence. Choosing the right preschool can be daunting (In my search I saw some outright scary places called preschools!) but finding a good fit can offer your child endless fun, social skill building, and learning opportunities. Here are some top tips for choosing a preschool:
- Before you walk into the building take a look around. What type of neighborhood is it located in? What sort of safety features does the building have? Security codes only parents will know, fences around play structures? Do the grounds look well kept and cared for or are there broken toys scattered all around?
- Notice who attends to your first visit and how you are treated. Is there a friendly director who greats your child personally and proudly tours you around the building while answering your every question with a smile? Or is there a harrowed teacher whose doing double duty of caring for screaming kids without much direction while offering you the option to take a quick look around while she frowns and yells over the noise to “sit down and stop running around.” In the first case you should sign up right away, you’ve probably found a gem, the second you should run from immediately.
- Take a look around the rooms. Do there seem to be sufficient staff to care for the children? Are the rooms well kept, with some semblance of organization (they are preschoolers after all)? What type of toys and resources are provided? What type of training do the teachers have?
- Does the teacher talk respectfully to the children and get down on their level, even play along? Are the children learning through play, song, and imitation activities or are they sitting at tables doing worksheets. While you may have ideas on which of these is best, there is increasing evidence young children’s educational outcomes depend more on ample creative play time, self led outdoor activities, and a subtle curriculum-based routine, rather than a strict curriculum –focused education, drilling the early introduction of school skills. The latter tend to burn out by 3rd grade while the former take on a love of learning, creative problem solving, and interest in a variety of topics.
- Do they have a school policy book you can look through? Take a close look and see how the schools’ routine meshes with your family’s beliefs. You are unlikely to change the school, but the school can certainly change your child, make sure it’s for the better.
There are so many wonderful preschool programs to choose from among public and private schools. Take a little extra time to choose one that fits with your family and child. This is the first investment in your child’s educational future. Good luck!
What was your experience while searching for a preschool?