Choosing a preschool is one of the defining decisions you can make for your child’s entire life and career. This is milestone in your child’s life that could define the mental and physical growth and prepare a solid foundation for the rest of the child’s education. A well-rounded preschool will build a solid foundation for your child to learn to read, write, do math, improve fine and gross motor skills and learn a wide range of cognitive skills.
A preschool may boast new books and toys, have a gleaming new building, and be affordable but if it doesn't feel right then it isn't. It's VERY essential that you feel comfortable with the school's director, who runs the establishment and sets guidelines for your child and with whom you'll be interacting, should issues or questions come up in the future. You should also feel secure and pleased with the teachers, who will be spending many hours with your child day in and day out. At its best, this will be a long and productive partnership. Do ask the credentials and background of the school head/Director/Principal.
Choosing a pre-school starts with a basic evaluation of your child’s needs and yours as a family - Children entering preschool have a wide range of maturity. Some are potty-trained, others are not. Some have trouble separating from their parents, while others are independent. Some still take daily naps and some don't need one. Find out how the school staff deals with all these basic needs and then decide if the policies will work for your child. Also take note of the school’s total number of students, average class size and student-teacher ratio. Ask yourself if these elements fit with your child's needs. Some basics include - the school's hours, proximity to your home or work, available transportation, cost, class size, and staff/child ratio. Be sure to ask about the application and admission procedures and the timeline for these.
Always prefer high quality owner driven and operated pre-schools. Most franchised schools are run remotely by the companies. These are a business. Owners run pre-schools as a passion. It’s their baby! You can always expect better care, infrastructure. Do meet the owner. Ask her questions about her philosophy and drive in running the school.
It is very important is finding out the school's philosophy on educating toddlers. The fundamental principle they subscribe to may be traditional or a hybrid; it may follow the teachings and ideas of Jean Piagét, Rudolf Steiner, or Maria Montessori. Whatever its leanings, it's important that the preschool have a plan in mind for how to teach and care for its students, and that you agree with the general drift of its philosophy. A school with some ideological foundation is better than one whose philosophy is so indistinct it's mediocre. The strength of the principal drives the culture, quality and your child’s eventual well-being. Do measure that.
Class size ratios in childcare settings vary by school , ask your school what theirs is. Most range from 1:7 to 1:10 adults to children , and then vary by age as the child gets older. The important thing to consider is how your child’s needs and your own will be met by this equation.
What is the look and feel of the school? Does it feel warm and inviting? Or is it cold and institutional? Is it clean and organized, or messy and chaotic? What kind of work is up on the walls?
Do you see original art, or posters and worksheets? Is the work placed at eye level so young children can see it? Do they have a gym or play yard? How often do they use it?
Is the atmosphere exciting? Do students seem happy? Do they look busy or bored? Are they having positive interactions with each other, the staff, and the teachers? Do the teachers seem like they enjoy teaching here? Would your child be happy here? Would you?
What is the focus on reading? Ask if it focuses on teaching early literacy skills and at what age. Does this approach seem right for you and your child?Assess the staff and teachers.
Does it feel warm and inviting? Or is it cold and institutional? Is it clean and organized, or messy and chaotic? What kind of work is up on the walls?
How do teachers and the administration keep parents informed? Do you get regular updates? How often can you meet with your child’s teacher?
How does the staff help children resolve conflicts? How are issues like hitting, throwing, and biting addressed? Does it have class meetings?
Many schools have specific disciplinary rules involving everything from time outs, to meeting with the teacher or principal, to expulsion. What happens during a time out? Does a child sit alone or with a teacher? Are children punished for inappropriate behaviors — and how are they discussed? Do parents and teachers work together to deal with issues as they come up? Ask for specifics and consider if they will be right for your child and for you.
How is the day structured? Is this the right fit for your child’s intellectual, emotional and physical needs? Is the day broken up into many different classes or does one activity flow into the next?
How does the school handle illnesses? Can kids come to school with a cold but not a fever? How long do they need to be fever-free before coming back to school?
What evacuation plans are in place? Does it have fire safety, multiple exits? Does it have easy stairs to climb for children?
If you haven’t been personally recommended (and even if you have), ask for some numbers of other parents who might answer more specific questions. Talking to other parents is a great way to find out more.