How to Choose the right Preschool

The first day you send your preschooler off with kisses and hugs will most likely be a memorable one. The moment may come with laughter or tears, but it will most likely be remembered. The experience will come with a great deal of pre-planning, thought and emotions. While your child is taking this step into preschool, it inevitably signals a significant milestone. As you find the right school, your decision will be influenced by your values. Consider these areas when interviewing preschools to determine a proper match for your child.

*Overall impressions

Parents have strong instincts about what will work the best for their children. Individual needs for each child can be very different. Most parents find they envision specific ideas about the preschool experience. Parents typically review their overall impressions regarding school facilities, outdoor areas, safety, staff and curriculum.

*Personality fit

Take your child with you to visit preschools. Thinking about your child’s personality will make finding the right fit an easy task. Your bubbly child may fit the best in a classroom that is social and fun instead of overly quiet. Meeting the teacher to determine teaching philosophies will provide proper information to ensure a match.

*Philosophical match

Preschools are vastly different and have different schools of thought. Preschool choices are as diverse as the children that will attend the school. Options vary from co-op, religious, school based, or Montessori programs. Are you looking for a social preschool or an educational program? Are gymnastics, music, or foreign language programs important to you? Preschool philosophies may focus on alphabet sounds, reading and writing or engage in creative play. Determining what you prefer for your child is an individual decision that only you can make.

*Budget considerations

Cost of preschool can easily compete with college tuition of yesteryear. Setting a budget will assist with fine tuning your search preferences for schools. There are a variety of preschools that have financial scholarships, parent help and fund raising assistance to off-set costs. Research will help you focus on schools within your budget that will still meet the needs of your child.

*Schedule Options

As you interview preschools, the schedule options will be an important consideration. Preschool location, hours and flexibility will impact your decision. Preschools vary between offering twice a week for a few hours versus full time programs.

*Visit

Make an appointment and bring your child to the preschool for a visit. During this time you can identify classroom policies and teaching styles. Preschools typically have specific “centers” where children either rotate or self choose activities. Your child will most likely enjoy heading out to visit a preschool. Watch your child in your prospective preschool environment and determine level of comfort and interest in the school. If your child eases in and can be pictured in this environment then your decision will be less stressful.

*Questions

Teacher’s educational experience, certification and teacher to student ratio

Class size

Security features of the building

“Open door policy” for parent visits

Communication policy regarding incidents

Enrollment schedule and waiting lists

Holiday and birthday observances

*Observations

Cleanliness

Safety

Art and projects in the classroom

Behaviors in the classroom

Level of cooperation and overall contentedness of the children

Teacher’s style of working with children with positive regard

Children’s interest levels

*Transition

Find out your school policy regarding transition help. Do they allow parents to linger while the child settles or do they prefer that the parents leave quickly upon dropping off? Being aware of the school transition policy ahead of time will prepare you and your child for the routine.

You know your child the best. The best decision for one child may be completely different for another. This is probably your child’s first introduction to school. Your planning will facilitate the smoothest transition possible. Preschool options are plentiful. The decision may take time, but in the end it will be time well spent.