Choosing a preschool
Choosing a preschool can be overwhelming as there are many options, different styles of preschools, and most often questions of…where do I start, what do I do first, what should I look for, what should I ask? As a veteran teacher and a parent myself, I know what that is like. Here are some steps to take to start the process, questions to ask, things to look for, and my own personal opinions on what I would look for based on my years of experience.
How to choose a preschool
Decide what you want out of a preschool, what is deal breaker, for example maybe you want a secular preschool versus a religious preschool. Then decide where you want to look and how far you are willing to travel for the right preschool. Then ask for referrals from family and friends familiar with preschools in your area. Once you have decided this then you can narrow down your search.
Once you have compiled your list, start your research. You can check to see if the preschool has a website, or social media page, many times this will answer some of your beginning questions, things such as cost, classes offered, etc. You are then ready to contact the preschools, you can do this by phone call, email, contact form etc. Most preschools will likely have a web page that will give you information on the best method of contact, and some even will have registration process information.
"Set up a tour"
Set up a tour of the preschool you are interested in, and I always recommend touring several preschools. You may find that one preschool that you thought was the best fit, isn’t and you find another preschool is a better fit. A tour is very important, this gives you a chance to ask questions, see how the preschool is set up, and you should bring your child with you to the tour. This is also important. The teacher and your child should meet so you can see how they gel. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have heard “Well the preschool looked great, the teacher was very nice, but something just didn’t fit” and that is ok! Preschools and teachers are not “one size fits all”. It is about the best fit for your child and your family. Preschool is a child’s first exposure to a school like environment and a positive first experience is key to setting the child up for a successful future school experience.
When you arrive for your tour, take note of your first impression walking in. Do you feel welcome? Is the preschool bright, clean, inviting, and well organized with materials accessible to children?
Here are some questions to ask.
~What is the preschool’s educational philosophy?
A well rounded preschool will be play based with age & developmentally appropriate academics woven in, along with opportunities for outside play, dramatic play, group activities, and social & emotional growth and support.
~What experience, training, and education does the teacher have?
You will want to look for a teacher who has experience, education, and who participates in continuing education through training seminars, workshops, etc. A good teacher knows they are also a life long student. Also the teacher and staff should have current CPR & First aid training.
~What is the preschool’s philosophy on communication?
A preschool/teacher should provide clear and consistent communication with parents in order to help fully support the child’s development. Look for a preschool that provides info on how child is doing, what the students are doing in class, and what things are coming up. (for example, is there an exciting unit on community helpers coming up)
~Does the preschool encourage family involvement?
Preschoolers tend to do better when families are involved in some capacity, whether it be through field trips, visitor days, school activities and celebrations.
~ What is the philosophy and what are the rules on challenging behaviors?
A preschool should provide routines, clear rules, social & emotional lessons, and teacher guidance to positively help children learn to navigate through challenging behaviors without solving it for them. Educating children on what to do is important.
~ What are the opportunities the preschool offers for gross & fine motor skills development?
A good preschool will offer plenty of daily physical active play both inside & outside to help overall development, balance & wellbeing. There should also be daily table time for children which provides exposure to fine motor development, leading to pre-writing & eventual writing skills through different methods preparing them with hand strength & skills needed in kindergarten.
~ Ask about all policies before hand and make sure you are clear on what they are before you register.
A preschool will have clear policies on everything from payment to sick policy.
*Questions to ask yourself*
~Does the preschool’s philosophy align with my family’s?
~Will this preschool set my child up for success?
~Can you picture your being happy at this preschool?
~Did my child feel comfortable during tour and did the teacher interact with my child as well as me?
*Things I recommend looking for*
~Look at the classroom, it should be bright, cheery, inviting, clean, and well organized
~Toys and materials should be in good condition and safe
~Outdoor play area should be taken care of and equipment clean and not broken
~Look for student work displayed in class. It should show each as a little different showing that children are doing the work and that it isn’t done for them. Children love to showcase their work and it fosters a sense of self confidence and pride in them.
~ Watch child’s interaction with the teacher and take note of if they are comfortable. The teacher should be not only talking with you and answering your questions but also engaging with your child. They will be spending the majority of their time with your child so it should be a good fit, if it isn’t that is ok.
~*Tour several schools*....yes you read that right. :) It is important to tour different schools and styles to see which one fits best, often times parents are surprised to find that the school at the top of their list is great but a different school they tour is actually a better fit. A good preschool wants what is best for each child and their family.
~Ultimately the best advice here is to go with your gut instinct. You know your child and family better than anyone.