Choosing a Preschool

Choosing a Preschool

If you have a child that will be ready for preschool in the fall, it is a good idea to get an early start on securing your child a spot in the preschool that is the best fit for him and for your family.

Here are some tips to help guide you in your search for the preschool that matches your family’s needs.

Search for a preschool with a teaching staff that is well qualified

A preschool that strives for excellence will support their teachers in their efforts to continue to receive training and certifications.Look for a school where the lead teachers have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Also, observe how well the teachers interact with their students. They should make an effort to connect with their students by making eye contact with them and by listening to what their students have to say. A good teacher will have purposeful routine to her classroom. This routine, with clearly laid out expectations, should make it unnecessary for her to yell at the students to restore order or have to constantly step in to resolve disputes between students.

Choose a preschool that has a schedule that matches your family’s needs

Some preschools provide parents a choice between a half day schedule and a full day schedule.  Carefully consider your family’s schedule before selecting either. If you work full time and are considering a half-day schedule for your child, you will need to find a caregiver for the other half of the day, making it necessary for your child to undergo multiple transitions each day. Also, a mid-day pick up may not mesh well with the pick-up times for older siblings. You may also want to consider a full day schedule if your child loves the structure it provides or enjoys the extra time it allows for socializing with classmates.One goal of preschool programs is to help teach kids ‘soft skills’, and a full day program allows more free time for your child to learn to interact well with his peers.On the other hand, a half-day program is a good choice if you feel your child is not ready to be away from you for a full day but you want him to start preparing for the transition to kindergarten.

Choose a preschool with well planned, safe classrooms

The classroom should have an open layout that makes it easy for the teacher to see all the children as they play.The furniture should be sized for a preschooler and both the furniture and the room should be child safe. Inspect the play stations in the room to see if they are laid out purposefully, with a clear focus for each one and with materials that are easily accessible to the students.The teacher should be able to spend her time guiding students as they play, not pulling out toys for students to play with. Observe the students in action and note the atmosphere in the classroom. Do the students seem to enjoy their activities?

Select a preschool with a curriculum that meets your child’s needs

There are many different curricula used by preschools.However, most fall within two classifications, a child-centered, play-based approach, where the teacher is there to guide the child as he plays with different stations and explores his interests, or a more academic approach, where the teacher plans the activities for the day and guides the students through them. The Montessori approach is an example of a child-centered curriculum. In a Montessori classroom, activities are organized in a manner that allows students to move around freely and learn at their own pace while being guided by a teacher. Some preschools may use a hybrid of the two approaches, with some time dedicated to teacher-led academics and other time focused on child-centered learning. In any case, the director of a preschool with a high-quality program should be able to clearly explain the goals of the curriculum and the purpose behind the educational approach selected by the preschool. Ask plenty of questions to ensure the approach chosen by the preschool matches well with the needs of your child. What may have worked well for an older sibling or a friend may not be right for him.

Many parents search for a private preschool that includes religious instruction in the curriculum. If finding a school with a religious curriculum is important to you, interview the directors of the private religious schools that are the top of your list carefully to see which religious curriculum best matches your values.

Do your homework when selecting a preschool

Preschool is a time when kids learn not only academic skills but also the crucial social skills that will help ensure a smooth transition into kindergarten. By taking the time to carefully select a preschool with a caring, supportive environment and a well-planned program, you will send him on his way to a preschool year filled with fun and success.

Check out our shopping guide for a list of local preschools.