The preschool you choose can either help pave the way for your child’s success or set them back. That’s because these formative years are crucial in your child’s development.
Even though it’s a very important decision, don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed. With the right plan and some useful tips under your belt, you can choose a good preschool for your child.
Start Looking Early
Depending on the school, you may want to start your search early. This is especially true if the school only admits several children annually.
Try to learn as much as you can about the application and admission processes. You might get placed on a waiting list, but it can be worth it if it’s the right school.
Learn About Different Educational Philosophies
There are many approaches to early education, and a school’s philosophy should line up with your values.
So, it’s important to find out as much as you can about these philosophies in advance. This will help you find schools that can fit your child’s personality and behavioral tendencies.
Here are some common educational approaches for youngsters:
This approach is very structured, following a pre-arranged curriculum that the teacher developed.
Child-led learning allows the child to initiate learning activities. It allows children to get curious and explore with the guidance and supervision of their teacher.
The Reggio Emilia Approach
This philosophy helps develop children’s creative thinking and independence by allowing them to solve problems as best they can on their own.
The Montessori Method
This method has a lot of respect for each individual child. Children are encouraged to learn at a pace that suits them, and comparison to other students is discouraged.
The Waldorf Approach
Another very popular method is the Waldorf Approach, which thrives on letting children learn by exploring and by using their imagination. Kids are encouraged to interact with nature and pay attention to their own sensory experiences.
Similar to Child-led learning, this method lets children take an active role in planning and choosing the day’s activities.
This approach is for educational programs offered within various religious establishments.
The Bank Street Approach
Children are given a variety of settings in which to learn, from the school building to the outdoors.
As the name implies, this method is a collaborative one, where parents join to create and teach each other’s children in their own school setting.
These brief descriptions give you a sneak peek into only nine philosophies. If any of them resonate with you, continue researching and learning more about them to find out if they’re a nice fit for your little one.
Locating Nearby Preschools
Finding a learning philosophy that aligns with your values is the first and most important step. The next move is much more practical.
Here’s a basic checklist you can refer to while searching for the perfect preschool.
- Ask people you trust: Check in with family, friends, health professionals, or any teachers you may already know. These people will be more than happy to share their input with you.
- Look for Accreditation: This shows you that the school meets the guidelines and requirements of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Search Online Databases: Child Care Aware, the NAEYC and the National Association for Family Child Care all provide extensive listings for reputable preschools. This can help you find local options.
Practical Logistics to Consider
Once you’ve pinpointed potential preschools, it’s time to ask yourself some very practical questions. Being able to answer these will help you narrow down your choices even more.
- Is it close to home?
- Is it close to my job?
- Does it offer potty training, or does my child need to be fully trained to be admitted?
- Do they offer structured nap times?
- What do meal times look like? How do they deal with allergies, hygiene, and socialization during meals?
- Is there child care?
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential preschools, it’s time to visit the school and see it first had.
How to Prepare for Your Preschool Visit
Meeting teachers and observing a new school can be a blur. But you can prepare yourself with clear objectives. Here are some to get you started:
- What are the school hours and vacation days?
- What are the school fees? How can you pay, and do they offer payment plans?
- Inquire about the student to teacher ratio.
- Is the preschool safe, clean, warm and organized?
- How do they approach discipline? Does it align with your values and style of discipline at home?
- Is there a high turnover rate?
- Have teachers been educated in their field?
- Notice your feelings:
What does your gut say? How do the directors and teachers interact with you and your child? Does your child seem to like the setting? Of course, children may be shy on their first visit, but it’s worth noting how your child acts in this new setting, and whether or not you’d feel comfortable leaving them there.
- Ask to observe a classroom:
How do students and their teachers interact? Do children have opportunities to explain what they’re doing? How are classrooms and their activities managed? Is there time to play?
Even though it’s called a “preschool”, there needs to be room for play. It’s crucial for cognitive and emotional development.
You may have opted for a specific philosophy, but no matter what the approach, make sure your children will have an opportunity to play.
That’s because research shows that children learn more in exploratory, open-ended environments, according to Jennifer Kaywork, Ed.D, Professor of Teacher Education.
Learning to use their imagination helps children build emotional and behavioral skills, and physical games help them develop fine motor skills.
- What is the general atmosphere that the directors and teachers cultivate? Is it a positive, nurturing place for learning and exploration?
A preschool is where your child will receive his or her earliest education, and where he or she will spend a lot of time with other children and authority figures.
By following these guidelines, you can confidently find a preschool that’s perfect for your little one.