Choosing the right preschool for your child

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on February 12, 2012

in Back to School, Choosing a preschool for your child

It is that time of year when parents are starting to make decisions about where to send their child to preschool.  If you are new to sending your child to preschool, you need to know that it is important to start looking for a place early and to get on a list. Quality preschool programs can fill up rather fast and then you are left scrambling to find another place to go.  Just take a look at the lengths these people will go through in this article! 

If you are looking for a preschool, you may be wishing you had a check list of questions to ask or things to do so I am going to do my best to give you a little help…

Step One

The first thing you will need to know are the basic logistics of the preschool programs in your area. It is a good idea to check out more than one preschool and compare the information. 

Find Locations:  Find out the location of the preschools in your area that are a convenient driving distance for you.

Get Referrals: Ask other parents where they send their children to preschool and to tell you what they like about their child’s preschool. The reasons they give may influence your decision to send or not send your preschooler to the same school.

Make Contact: Contact a few preschools in your area and ask the following questions…

  1. What age does my child need to be to enter your preschool program?
  2. What days of the week do ___ year olds attend your preschool?
  3. What time does preschool begin and end each day?
  4. Do you have extended or after preschool hours (if this is needed)?
  5. What will the tuition rate be for my ___ year old?
  6. When is tuition due?
  7. Is tuition due weekly, monthly, annually?
  8. What other expenses will be involved in addition to tuition throughout the school year?
  9. Will the children go on “out of school” fieldtrips?
  10. Will the preschool provide snack or will this be the parent’s responsibility?
  11. How many students will be in my child’s classroom?
  12. How many teachers will be in my child’s classroom?
  13. What are the dates your preschool starts and ends?
  14. What dates are you closed throughout the year?
  15. Do you follow the same calendar as the local school systems?
  16. How do you notify parents of last minute school closings due to inclement weather or other?
  17. What are your policies about illness and keeping children home?
  18. Is your preschool licensed or certified by any agency? If so, which agencies?
  19. Do you have a website I can go to for additional information?
You may be able just to ask for an enrollement packet to get the answer to most of the above questions…

For preschools that are full you can ask…

  1. Is there is a waiting list and how do I get on it?
  2. How will I be notified if an opening comes up?
  3. What is the cost to get on your waiting list?
  4. When do you make final decisions and close or finalize enrollment?

Step Two

Once you have narrowed down your choice based on location, cost, session times and days then you will want to see if you can stop by and visit the preschool. This is a good reason to start looking before the current school year comes to an end so you can actually see the school while it is in full swing. Many preschools close during the summer and will not be available to give tours.

Visiting the preschool:

I recommend going without your child on your first visit to the preschool. This will give you the chance to check out the school and ask a few questions before introducing the preschool to your child.

  1. Call ahead and see if you can set up an appointment to see the school.
  2. Ask if you can return for a second visit and bring your child with you to visit the classroom and meet the teacher.
  3. Keep in mind that if you are visiting during school hours that the teacher may not be able to stop and chat with you for any lengthy period of time.
  4. A visit like this should be your opportunity to observe the classroom environment and to get a feel for the classroom environment as well as the personalities and teaching approach of the teachers in the classroom.

During your visit to the preschool you may wish to consider the following….

Observations What to look for… Questions (the answer should be yes!)
Artwork The kind of artwork that is displayed around the room. Does the artwork look child-made?
Table Activities The types of activities out on the tables. Do the activities provide opportunities for interaction, conversation, creativity, decision-making, and hands-on play or exploration?
Toys and Equipment The toys and equipment available for play Are there plenty of toys to keep a large group of children busy and engaged in play?Are the toys and equipment of good quality and good condition?
Centers The types of choices (centers) made available to children through play. Is there an easel, water table, sand table, and other centers such as science, math, art, writing, books, puzzles, play dough, and blocks set up and open for play throughout the room?
Cleanliness and Organization The cleanliness and organization of the environment. Are tables, chairs, toys, shelves, cabinets, floors clean and free from excess clutter?Are toys and materials organized in baskets and set out to foster decision-making, interesting choices, play, independence, and responsibility?
Cubbies Coat hooks, baskets, or shelves. Is there a place for children to store their personal belongings while at preschool that they can reach and manage independently?
Conversations The conversations of children and teachers If children are present and playing in the classroom, do you hear talking, laughing, singing, asking questions, and expressing their ideas, preferences or point of view?Do you hear the teachers speaking warmly, kindly, and respectfully to the children? Do you hear teachers encouraging the children to be confident learners by inviting them to make choices, decisions, and be a part of the activities in progress?
Movement Children at Play Do you see children moving about the room, engaged in centers, working with their hands, exploring materials, and at play with one another?
Outdoors The outdoor environment. Is there an outdoor area where children can run, climb, walk, explore, climb, and participate in other types of play?

The above table provides some of the most common areas of considerations when visiting most preschool classrooms.

Questions for the teacher:

If you have a chance to talk to the teacher, then you may wish to ask the following kinds of questions….

  1. How long have you been teaching ___ year olds?
  2. How long have you been with this preschool?
  3. What kind of background in education and experience in teaching young children do you have?
  4. What is your teaching philosophy (In what ways do you believe children learn best)?
  5. What is your discipline policy? (How you will handle inappropriate behavior in the classroom)?
  6. What kinds of rules will you expect the children to follow and how will you help the children meet your expectations?
  7. What type(s) of curriculum (if any) do you follow?
  8. In what way(s) do you assess “progress”?
  9. What kinds of activities will the children do throughout the day?
  10. Do you have a daily schedule I can keep?
  11. In what way(s) do you provide parent communication?
  12. Will you be having parent/teacher conferences?
  13. How do you feel about parents visiting in your classroom (Does the teacher have an open door policy)?
  14. How do you feel about parents volunteering in your classroom? In what ways can parents volunteer to help out in your classroom?

 

Notice that I am not giving you right or wrong answers to the above questions. These are just for you to use as a guide in order to get a feel for the kind of program you will be sending your child to. 

 

The Perfect Preschool
There really isn’t a perfect recipe for helping you choose the “perfect” preschool for your child. In the end, it will be your job to find a preschool that seems to be the right fit for you and your child.  Trust your own instincts in the process and find a preschool that makes you comfortable and confident leaving your child.

 

It is important that you love the preschool and feel accepted and appreciated as the parent of your preschooler.  If you lack confidence in your child’s preschool, it is very possible that your child will pick up on your concerns and feel apprehensive about going to preschool.  Your child’s preschool should meet the needs of the whole child and you want to feel confident that your choice in preschool will make the early learning years for your child and your family a successful experience.

 

Talking about Preschool on Fox Morning News…
This is a very short segment, you may enjoy the live but shortened version of this post on this 3 minute video aired over at Fox Morning News in January….

What does preschool look like?

The following is a gallery of photos I put together from my own classroom to help you visualize the preschool experience.  If you are reading my blog regularly, hopefully you are learning about the preschool experience because there is much more than I can possibly show you below! You can hover over each photo to read a little bit about what we do in preschool… 

At preschool we……

And don’t forget outdoor play!

Of course, every classroom will have its own personality, style, and design -but hopefully, this will at least give you insight as to what preschool is all about as you head out to visit preschools in your area.

My very best in your search for your next preschool.

May your preschooler have the best experience possible!

~Deborah

Please note..

This post was written as a request from Toddler Approved. If you haven’t checked out the Toddler Approved blog – Do me a favor and pay her a visit today!  Or stop by Toddler Approved Facebook Page and tell her Deborah from Teach Preschool sent you! 



Do you have other tips?

If you have other tips for parents on what to look for when searching for a preschool, please share them in the comments below!

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Vanessa @Pre-K Pages February 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Excellent advice Deborah!! I am definitely bookmarking this fabulous resource, thanks for sharing!

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Thank you Vanessa for bookmarking!

3 Leeanne A February 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Awesome post a must read not only for parents but for educators to see if they are hitting the mark!

4 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Thank you Leeanne – I keep thinking of so many other things I could share but decided that it was best not to make this post any longer:)

5 Julie M February 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I really enjoyed this post! Thank you for sharing!

6 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

You are welcome Julie!

7 Jackie February 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm

This is a great post! My oldest starts preschool in the fall. I wish he could come to your preschool!! :) I love all of the ideas you share on here, but maybe I can find a similar one!

8 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I do to! :)

9 andiejaye February 13, 2012 at 1:27 am

what a wonderful resource for parents and teachers alike! i’ve been questioned by friends about what to look for, this is the perfect post to send them to.

10 Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam February 13, 2012 at 11:28 am

Great advice! The table is very user friendly too and can apply to preschools with differing philosophies.

11 Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam February 13, 2012 at 11:32 am

I would also offer advice to ask questions that are specific to your child’s needs to see if the preschool will be able to meet them. For example, my daughter stopped napping completely at a young age, so it was important to me that a preschool offer another activity for the non nappers rather than forcing a nap for all children.

12 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

Great suggestion Rebekah! Parent’s know the needs of their child best so they should definitely ask questions like this!!

13 Kristina February 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thank you! Thank you Deborah!!

I love this. What a great comprehensive post. I am sending this out to all of my friends who have asked questions about this.

I love looking through this and recognizing that I picked the perfect spot for my son for preschool next year :) Thanks again!

14 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm

That is awesome that you found something you love for your son! I can hear your enthusiasm in your writing;)

15 Suzi February 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the information. I’m currently in the middle of researching preschools for my son and am having a frustrating time. Reading your post gives me hope there’s good preschools and that my expectations aren’t completely unreasonable. Still looking…
Suzi

16 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Good luck in your search Suzi!

17 pam February 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm

As a preschool teacher and mother, i think this article is fabulous. i wish i had read it it before i put my oldest in preschool 6 years ago when he was 3. i knew nothing!
One thing i would like to add is, be sure your preschool has safety regulations in place and that each teacher is cpr certified. also, if you are looking for a Christian preschool, be sure to ask what their core beliefs are, how often they teach Bible class or chapel, and if you can come sit in on a class or chapel time. This was very important to me.
Another thing, is the education of the teachers was not an issue for me, but training was. I wanted to be sure that they were being trained on a continual level, so that I knew my child was getting the best teaching I could afford. Now that I teach and have my CDA, I realize that I could have been a little more concerned with my first child’s preschool.

18 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

All terrific suggestions to add Pam!

19 Janet July 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Great reference Deborah! Thanks! I shared a link to it on my website.

20 Wind of Imagination July 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm

This is by far one the best posts about preschool basics I’ve read. Love the part of the Artwork “does it look child made?” I have toured many preschools and daycares trying to find the best suit for my children, and it always caught my attention that some of the artwork decorating the classrooms looked so neat and perfect, almost like done by adults. I think this is a special detail to look at because you are sending a child to be challenged in art, creativity and imagination so you expect to see the real work, not the adult help. Thank you for your post.

21 beth August 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I couldn’t have found this at a better time… I’m actually looking at pre-school options right now! Thank you so much for the advice!!!

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