Are you both excited and overwhelmed about sending your child to preschool? You’re not alone! There are many things to consider when choosing the best preschool for your child and family.
It’s important to start planning and preparing to send your child to preschool well before they’re actually going to start. The BEST preschools fill up fast. We don’t want you to miss out on enrolling your child in the preschool that is the best fit for them. We’ll walk you through the top 3 things you need to know to choose the best preschool for your child.
Did you miss the first article in this series? No worries, you can get it here!
Choosing the BEST Preschool Step 1
Decide on the Basics
- Location: Do you want the preschool to be close to your home or work? How much driving are you willing to do?
- Hours: Are you looking for part time in the morning or afternoon? Do you prefer a full day?
- Tuition: Do you need subsidized preschool or a scholarship? How much money are you able to afford monthly for tuition?
- Environment: Are you looking for a structured preschool that teaches letters, numbers, science, and art? Do you prefer more of a play-based environment where the majority of the day is free play with toys and friends?
- Referrals: Ask your friends and family for recommendations of local preschools. What was their experience there? What makes that school unique? Why would it be a good fit for your child and family? This is one of the BEST ways to find a preschool!
- Center vs. Home-Based: Are you wanting to send your child to a larger preschool or are you wanting a more intimate setting where they will get more one-on-one attention? Both center and home preschools have their benefits. Many home preschools get overlooked, but they can actually be a TERRIFIC fit for most families. Children get more one-on-one attention and have a close relationship with teachers and children due to the small class size.
Choosing the BEST Preschool Step 2
Contact Your Top Preschool Choices
- Call or Email: Have a list of questions to ask each preschool to help narrow down your choice more. Here are some key questions to ask:
- How old does my child have to be to start preschool?
- What is tuition for a half day or full day of preschool? Is tuition due weekly, monthly or annually? Are there any additional costs outside of tuition that I will be responsible for?
- What are the days and hours of class? What days throughout the year are you closed?
- How many children are in the class? What is the teacher-child ratio?
- Do you provide snacks or meals?
- What are your discipline and illness policies?
- Is your preschool play-based, structured, or focused on learning? What makes it unique?
- Do you have a website where I can find more information?
- Things to be Aware of
- How long does it take for the preschool to return your call or email? It’s not a good sign if it takes them more than a couple of days to respond to you. This could be an indication of how they will communicate when your child is in their class.
- Are they professional and able to answer all of your questions?
- Are they friendly? The way the preschool speaks with you in an email and on the phone is an indication of how they are going to interact with your child.
- What do you hear in the background? If you hear a bunch of yelling and screaming in the background, it could be a sign that it’s the normal environment for that preschool.
Choosing the BEST Preschool Step 3
Visit Your Top Preschools
- Set up a Visit to attend by yourself or with your child.
- Learning Materials: Is there a variety of learning materials that your child has access to – books, art supplies, science materials, dress-up, blocks, play kitchen, etc.?
- Organization: Is the classroom organized? A well performing preschool will have places for everything – shelves for books, baskets for toys, crayon containers, etc.
- Artwork: Do you see artwork displayed in the room that was done with teacher guidance and also by children independently?
- Observation: If you attend during preschool hours, you may not have the ability to talk with the teacher much, so this is your opportunity to observe. Here are the KEY things you should look for:
- Teacher-Child Interaction: You can tell a lot by how children interact with their teachers. Teachers can be harder to read and it can leave you wondering if they are being honest about everything. Children on the other hand, don’t have a poker face. Make sure to observe them. Do they run up and hug the teacher? Do they smile at the teacher and try to get their attention? When they try to show off, as many children do when new people are in the room, how does the teacher respond? Does the child seem afraid of getting in trouble?
- Table-Time: What type of materials does the teacher use when teaching the children? Hands-on methods are extremely important in preschool. It’s good to see whiteboards, chalkboards, play dough, hands-on activities, and a few worksheets.
- Circle-Time: Do the children read stories daily and sing songs?
- Outside Play: What type of outside play equipment is available? How often do children go outside?
Additional Questions to Ask:
- What made you decide to become a preschool teacher and how long have you been teaching at this school?
- How do you schedule the day? What curriculum do you follow? What learning materials do you use?
- Do you assess the children?
- What type of communication do you use with the parents? Will there be parent/teacher conferences?
- How do you feel about parents dropping by the preschool to visit or pick their child up early?
- Do you have a policy about someone other than me picking up my child from preschool?
- What are the benefits my child will receive here that they may not get at another preschool?
‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work
There are MANY things to consider when choosing the best preschool for your child. There is not a “one size fits all” preschool. What worked for your friends and family may not work for you. If your instincts are screaming that there is something off with a preschool and it seems like they are hiding things, don’t send your child there.
When you drop your child off at preschool, you need to feel comfortable and secure that the teachers are giving your child the best care and education possible. Your child needs to love the preschool and be excited about learning. The preschool you choose will set the foundation for their early childhood education and academic success. Trust in yourself, your experience, and your instincts to help you choose the right one for your child and your family.
Our next article is going to talk about Common Core and why everyone is talking about it.
Image of boy with backpack courtesy of photostock at at FreeDigitalPhotos.net