Your child is nearly ready to start preschool, but how do you know which one to send them to? There may be many preschools in your area, and it’s important to make a good decision about which preschool to send your child to. You may think that all preschools are about the same, but that simply isn’t true. Although (within the UK at least) there is a government standardized preschool curriculum, preschools have a lot of flexibility and control over what and how they teach, and activities and facilities can vary greatly between different preschools.
Here are some issues to consider to help you choose the right preschool for you and your child. Remember, it isn’t just about choosing which preschool is the best. It’s about finding the one that is best for your family.
Location can be an important consideration when choosing a preschool. If, for example, you don’t have a car, then you need a preschool that is easy to get to by foot and/or public transport. If you drive, then you may be willing to drive to preschool. Also consider how convenient the preschool is to other locations. If you have other children already in school, you may want a preschool that is near their school, or you may want one that is close to your workplace.
Consider whether continuity of care is important to your child and whether it will be affected by where your child attends preschool. For example, many nurseries have preschool rooms in them. So if your child has attended the same nursery since they were a baby, they are likely to feel the most comfortable and secure attending preschool at the same place. Similarly, many schools (especially private schools) have preschools attached to them. If you plan on having your child attend one of these once they start real school, then having them attend preschool there will ensure continuity of classmates, location, curriculum, and teaching methods.
Ask questions about class size, total number of children attending, and adult to child ratios (and what the qualifications of the adults are). If your child is very confident and outgoing, they might be happy in a larger preschool, but shy children are usually more confident in smaller schools with more one on one attention.
Some preschools are held in a room at a village hall, community centre, or church. Others are attached to schools, and some have their own purpose-built facilities. Look at both indoor and outdoor spaces. If you have a very outdoorsy child, or if you don’t have your own yard for your child to play in, make sure that the preschool has a good outdoor space that they use. Preschools should have tools for creative learning, like craft supplies, books, building toys, etc. Many preschools now have a computer in the classroom and make use of technology.
Schedule visits to preschools before making a decision, and bring your child along with you. Pay attention during the tour and ask questions. Most of all, make sure that your child has a chance to visit their prospective class and watch them. If you or your child are uncomfortable, then make note of it. Likewise, if your child jumps right in and feels at home from the beginning, that’s worth taking notice of. You want them to have a positive, happy experience at preschool.
6. Find the best match for your particular child.
When we were looking for a preschool for my oldest daughter, we visited quite a few schools. One of them had amazing academics. They had three-year-olds in their preschool class that were already reading properly, writing full sentences on their own, and doing simple mathematic equations. However, my daughter is very artistic, and we didn’t notice any paints, crayons, or other art supplies in the classroom. We asked about art lessons or the use of art to enhance creativity and learning. We were told that preschoolers did not do any art, but that if she stayed in their school system she would, beginning in year six, have a weekly lesson of combined art and graphic design. Despite the impressive academic achievements, we crossed the school off of our list. It wasn’t right for our child.
Pay attention to the individual interests and strengths of your child, and find a preschool that will help develop them.
Unfortunately, you have to consider cost when choosing a preschool. If there is absolutely no way that you could afford a particular preschool, don’t bother considering it. However, don’t just choose the cheapest option either. Try to find the best school within your budget. (If you live in the UK, you can receive government funding to pay for fifteen hours of preschool a week for three-year-olds.)
Think about what extra provisions you need and what the school offers. For example, what hours do they meet? Do they have provisions for children to arrive early if you need to drop them off on the way to work? Does the preschool provide lunch (and if so, what is the food like?) or do you need to send a packed meal? Do they require a uniform? Do they offer extra classes, like swimming , ballet, or foreign languages? These little extras can sometimes be the deciding factor in which preschool you choose.