Choosing the right preschool or childcare center for your child can be overwhelming. There are many different styles, sizes and type of preschools and you may feel unsure of what aspects to consider and what questions to ask.
Whether you are choosing a new school for your child or you want to be sure that your child’s current preschool is a good fit, consider the following questions.
1. Are the children engaged for most of the day? There may be quiet time and independent play time but they are not expected to sit for prolonged periods of time without interaction with peers or teachers. Technology can enhance the learning experience, but should not be used to entertain/occupy the children for extended periods.
2. Do the teachers work with smaller groups of children at certain times instead of trying to engage the whole group for the entire day? This way the teachers can get to know your child personally, understand his or her style of learning and set reasonable and achievable goals. What is the teacher-to-child ratio?
3. Are there creative toys easily accessible including blocks, dress ups, books and puzzles? Imaginative play is so important for children at this age, look for a school that values curiosity and creativity.
4. Do the children have outside time every day with plenty of opportunity for running, climbing and jumping? Staying in from recess is not usually a productive punishment for misbehavior at this age.
5. Do the teachers read books to children regularly, not just at “story time”? Is literacy a focus of the program?
6. Although it is normal to have periods of separation anxiety/ discontent during the day, are most of the children in the classroom engaged and happy? What discipline methods are used?
7. Check the visiting policy. Can you drop in any day to observe? Can you visit for snack? Can you volunteer in the classroom? How do the teachers communicate with parents? If you are leaving your preschooler for a full day, you will want to know their activities, how well they ate and other details of their day.
8. Is the curriculum experience based? The children should not be doing a lot of worksheets, rather they should be learning numbers by counting the trees, learning letters by reading together, and practicing social skills by natural interaction and assigned roles like snack person, clean up duty, etc. Think about your child’s temperament and learning style and how it works within each program.
9. Are the teachers pleasant, positive and happy to be with the children? Taking care of preschoolers is a demanding, exhausting job and the people who do it well are truly amazing. Don’t settle for someone who is impatient, short-tempered or disinterested.
10. Is the school accredited by National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)? The school/childcare center must undergo a multi-step quality assessment including site visits to earn this accreditation. Although there are good preschools NOT accredited by NAEYC, they do some of the work for you to make sure that the school meets certain standards.
Remember, the preschool/childcare center needs to fit your child and your family. Be sure to apply and visit several schools before making your decision. There may be more than one school that fits your standards on paper, but sometimes you need to go with the feel of a school in deciding what is right for your child and family.