Often choosing a preschool is the first experience of many to come in navigating and guiding a child’s education. Just trying to figure out where the start can make the task seem insurmountable.
Preschool’s importance is found in the social opportunities and hands-on exploration of the world it provides young children. These give children a strong foundation for the academics that will come with a child’s later schooling. To find the best preschool for your child, evaluate the school based on the quality of the staff, how well the staff engages the kids, and how well play and activities are used as the center of the children’s education.
Take a Tour
Schedule a tour during the morning hours without your child. This is when preschools are the most active and you will get a good idea of the daily activities and routine. Going without your child allows you to focus on interviewing the staff and observing the classes.
Ask about the teacher turnover rate. Better preschools keep their teachers for years.
Ask about the qualifications and experience of the teachers. Better preschools have teachers that exceed the state mandated qualifications. For most states, teachers are required to have some college early childhood education courses. Directors may be required to have a degree related to early childhood education.
Ask about the discipline policies. You want to be sure the preschool focuses primarily on teaching students good behavior and social skills and does not just focus on correcting bad behavior. Discipline should also be age appropriate and the staff should have a good understanding of what normal preschool behavior is. For example, kids this age need to move and be active. Boys especially actually need to move in order to learn. Sitting for more than five minutes at a time is unrealistic for many preschoolers and should not be considered a discipline issue.
Visit with Your Child
Schedule a second visit with your child to participate in an hour or two of the preschool programs. This gives you a good sense of the curriculum and general atmosphere of the school. Things to consider are if the teachers and students have a connection, are all the kids engaged in the activities, how are problems resolved, did you and your child enjoy the activities, where the activities unique or were they generic etc.
Test the communication that you can expect from the school. This means not only emailing and calling to schedule tour appointments, but following up with questions via email and phone as well. If the staff cannot take the time to get back to you in a timely manner, or at all, then seek out a school that takes communication with the parents more seriously.
Watch for red flags while you are there. This includes kids watching TV, lack of supervision, kids that are not engaged in the activities, activities that are not age appropriate (too advanced or highly academic for preschool), teachers yelling at students, bullying that is not addressed, stressed staff or teachers, lack of communication with the school etc. One red flag should have to continuing your search for a preschool.
On last tip to find the best preschool for your child: visit several preschools. This will give you a good comparison of the many differences in preschools, which will help you pick the right one.