Many parents of young children find themselves asking about reputable preschools. If you are just beginning your search for a good neighborhood preschool program that provides students with positive social and educational experiences, arm yourself with knowledge and questions when contacting and visiting schools.
There are many types of preschools available, from full-day and half-day to secular or government-assisted. Start looking for preschools when your child is about three years old if you want him or her to go for one year before kindergarten.
Make a List of Potential Preschools
Start by making a list of potential preschools. These are ones in your immediate neighborhood or sponsored by your local library or church. You can make your list by:
- Doing an online search: Many preschools have websites that parents can browse through for general information. Do a search for preschools in your area and take note of the ones that interest you.
- Asking other parents for feedback: Ask around your neighborhood for opinions of local preschools. Parents of children who have completed preschool or who are in preschool can serve as a helpful resource.
- Considering factors such as proximity and tuition cost: Do you prefer a school that is closer to your workplace or to your home? Are all the schools on your list affordable in terms of tuition?
Indicators of a Good Preschool Program
When you start visiting preschools with your child, look for these indicators of a high-quality program:
- The classroom is safe, clean, engaging, and well-equipped with supplies. Look for a classroom decorated with visual learning aids and student artwork. Ensure that the room has no safety hazards, is well-kept, and has a good variety of educational books, toys, games, and other supplies.
- The teacher-to-student ratio is within appropriate limits. Check to make sure that the preschool's staff-to-child ratio meets the required state standards. Also make sure that the preschool's license is up-to-date and it has passed all state safety inspections.
- The children respond well to the teacher and are enthusiastic about planned activities. Do the current preschool students seem to enjoy sharing ideas with their teacher? Do they seem content as they go about their day in the classroom?
- The daily schedule includes both educational and creative activities. Read through the classroom schedule to see if there is a good balance between academic work (such as learning letters and numbers) and "fun" time (doing arts and crafts, playing outside or in the gym, etc.).
- The teacher has a genuine interest in each child's well-being. Observe the ways in which the teacher talks and interacts with each child. Does the teacher acknowledge each child's positive qualities? Is discipline handled properly?
Communicate With Teachers and Administration
Strong and open communication with preschool staff is important for most parents. When choosing a preschool, take note of these encouraging signs:
- Teachers and staff members are willing to communicate and answer questions. Preschool staff members with good interpersonal skills are able to discuss any concerns or questions that arise, either in person, via telephone, or through email.
- Teachers and staff members are friendly and welcoming during your visit. Are you and your child greeted warmly when you visit the preschool? Does the teacher engage the other students in interacting with your child?
- Teachers' experiences include working with children of varying personality types. If you're concerned that your child may have a difficult time adjusting to preschool, ask about the teacher's experience in handling this type of situation. Look for a patient teacher who is willing and able to speak to your child in an encouraging manner.
Using thorough research and personal observations as factors in your decision, you'll be able to decide on the best preschool for your child in a way that benefits him or her socially and academically. After choosing a preschool and enrolling your child, continue doing your part to make sure that the experience is enjoyable by maintaining parent-teacher communication and expressing interest in your child's school day.
- Signs of a Good Preschool, from BabyCenter.com
- Image: Preschool Scenery 2 by annisat SXC.hu license agreement
- Image: Preschool hands-on activities by anissat. sxc.hu license agreement
- Choosing a Preschool or Child Care Center, from PBS.org.