Choosing a preschool for your child can be quite an overwhelming task. When making decisions like this, it always helps to have an expert opinion, which is why I am just tickled pink to be welcoming my blogging buddy Mary Catherine from the fabulous Fun-A-Day to shed some light on the subject. Fun-A-Day is full of wonderful ideas for teachers and parents of young children and is one of my go-to resources for early literacy activities. A couple of my favorite posts include Teaching Children About Letters, Name Kits, and Icy Fizzing Letters (she has lots of great sensory play ideas, too!). Be sure and go check out her site when you are done here…she’s got lots of great stuff for ya’ll and I just know you’ll love her as much as I do! Now, back to the issue at hand- choosing a preschool for your child. Take it away, Mary Catherine!
I’m Mary Catherine, and I write about meaningful learning experiences at Fun-A-Day! I am a former kindergarten teacher, and now I teach pre-k. I am SO excited to be here and share how to find the best preschool for your kiddos.
The first things that need to be considered are location, hours, and price. Every family is different, so these considerations will vary based on your needs. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, I’d advise you to schedule a tour of the preschool. For this first tour, I’d suggest going without the kiddos. This way, you can focus on observing and asking questions.
Here are seven important features to consider while you’re touring the preschool. They will be instrumental in deciding which school is the best fit for your child.
Of the items on this list, preschool staff is definitely the most important! Here’s what to look for:
- Teachers who address the children like people. Do they usually get down to the children’s eye-level when talking to the kids? Are there real conversations happening between staff and children?
- Staff who obviously care about the children. Do they smile at the children and laugh with them? Do they actually listen and interact consistently with them? Are there hugs and high fives?
- Staff who like what they are doing! This is much harder to ascertain just from observing. Talk to the teachers, if at all possible, and a love for teaching will usually shine through! Ask the preschool director about the school’s turnover rate. If many of the teachers have been there for years, that’s a good sign.
- Staff who have received adequate training. Are they CPR-certified? What continuing education does the preschool encourage and provide for its teachers? These are all questions the preschool director should be able to answer.
- A plan in place. The preschool director can tell you about the school’s emergency plans, as well as the teacher-student ratios. Be sure to check the playground while on your tour, as well.
- Do the classrooms contain child-sized furniture? The kiddos need to be comfortable while their little brains are growing.
- Is there space to move around the classrooms? The rooms don’t need to be huge, but they should be adequately sized for the amount of kids there.
- Are the classrooms print-rich? Are there words labeling parts of the rooms? Is there evidence of teachers writing down children’s stories? How many books can you see?
- Are the classrooms decorated by the children? Are the children surrounded by their work? Can you see their art, their writing, and their building creations as you walk around the classroom?
- Consistent communication between school and home. Is there a school handbook that fills parents in on what to expect from the preschool? Does the director email updates, send home monthly newsletters, share event calendars, etc.? There’s no one “right” way to keep parents informed of what’s going on at school, but there needs to be a consistent method of communication.
- Individual communication regarding your child. Does the teacher send home a quick note every day? Does she email parents once a week? Again, there’s no one “right” way, but it’s important to keep the classroom connected to the home.
- Clear expectations and follow through. Be sure to ask the director what behavioral guidelines are in place in the preschool classroom. There should be age-appropriate expectations, along with clear rules and consequences. Additionally, do the teachers redirect negative behavior? Do they walk children through making appropriate choices in trying situations?
- Classroom responsibilities for the children. Are there class jobs for the children? This helps children feel some ownership of their school. It also gives them age-appropriate, but real, responsibilities within a community.
- Lots of time “just playing”. Children learn through play, so this is incredibly important! How much time is built in for the children to do just that? Often, this is referred to as “center time” or “choice time”. It’s the part of the day when children explore tons of concepts in small groups — maybe they’re building with Legos, pretending to sell flowers in the home center, or counting water beads in a sensory bin.
- Varied group sizes. The children should have some time together as a class, often called “circle time” or “calendar time”. There should be time for teachers to share books with the children, as well as time for the children to play in small groups. Children should also have some small group or one-on-one time with the teacher.
- Time to play outside. The kiddos need to be playing, running, climbing, riding bikes, etc. outside each and every day!
- A teaching plan. Please keep in mind — a preschool curriculum doesn’t need to be something purchased from a store. However, the director and teachers should know the goals for each age group in the preschool. These goals should be appropriate for the kiddos’ ages.
- Hands-on activities. Again, kids learn through play. Their little bodies need to be fully immersed in the learning. Children should be holding books, touching blocks, moving math manipulatives, listening to music, dancing, etc. They definitely don’t need to be sitting down and filling in worksheets day after day.
- Includes all the details. Music, arts and crafts, lots of books, real pre-writing and writing activities, language experiences, sensory play, science experiments, etc.! Obviously, every day doesn’t need to include every single topic. But the preschool curriculum should focus on well-rounded children!
Mary Catherine is mama to a budding engineer whose favorite question is “why?” When she’s not trying to keep up with her son’s curiosity or teaching small children, she writes about fun educational experiences at Fun-A-Day! Mary Catherine loves dark chocolate, good science fiction books, and messy science experiments. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter.