Choosing a pre school: Guide on how to find a good preschool for your kids

Choosing a pre school

Choosing a pre-school for your child can be both an exciting and frustrating experience

You most certainly landed on this page because your child is going to pre school next year. If you feel overwhelmed trying to navigate your way through the whole process of choosing a pre school for your child – trust me, you’re not alone, been there!

As with most things nowadays, the process of choosing a pre school almost certainly begins with a “preschool near me” Google search. Depending on where you live, you can expect millions of Google search results on the subject as well as many results on Google Maps showing the location of day-cares, pre schools and other offerings near your location.

For me narrowing it down with a search for “affordable preschool near me” or “best preschool near me” still produced a huge list of offerings to sift through.

So how do you go about choosing the right pre school for your child?

What to look for in a pre school

“When visiting preschools, evaluate practical issues specific to your family’s needs. These include the school’s hours, proximity to your home or work, available transportation, after-hours options, cost, class size, and staff/child ratio,” Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D., parenting expert and author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture told Parents.com.

“Be sure to ask about the application and admission procedures and the timeline for these. Start considering programs early and get information to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.”

It’s true, as a first-time parent, no sooner had I started my own search for a pre school for my child did I discover that I should probably have done the search at least six months or more prior to submitting applications at the schools that we eventually settled for.

In many towns and cities, parents actually have to be on waiting lists for years to get their kids into the best pre schools.

To make your work easier, Kids Connection magazine has compiled the ‘what to look for in a preschool checklist’ below to help parents navigate their way to the best pre school for their child.

  • Reputation, reputation, reputation – We cannot stress this enough. Reputation is an important consideration when choosing a pre school. Ask family and friends about the pre school that you are considering. Nowadays, it’s also easy to go online and check what other people have to say about the place. If course, you cannot just form an opinion about a place from the word of probably some disgruntled parents, so be prepared to visit the pre school for a tour. While you are there, make your own observations. If something does not feel right – agreeing with the negative things you may have heard about the place, it’s probably wise to keep looking.
  • Location – This is probably an obvious one. You will probably want a pre school that is closer to your place of residence and work – preferably along your route to work. Unless you have a driver, or part of a pool car, enrolling your child to a pre school far from home means every day you have to drive longer than you should.
  • A stimulating curriculum – Who does not see the world’s next great inventor, pilot, doctor or engineer in their child? It is every parent’s wish to have their children receiving the best education they can afford. A well-designed curriculum will stimulate your child’s development and make daily life more fun. At this age, children can begin learning things like how letters and numbers are used. But your child is not yet ready for rigorous studying yet – so don’t be quick to judge a pre school on what children are taught. Instead also look at their daily schedules, which will include plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time (including regular story time), group programs, socializing, crafts, individual activities, meals, snacks, and free time. The idea is that if your child won’t get a wide range of age-appropriate activities, keep looking.
  • Qualified and caring staff – It’s probably easy for many people to source of a few materials and find a location to set up their pre school. However, if the passion and qualifications are not there, it is often easy for all to see. Because of the important role of a preschool teacher, you should look at how the teachers interact with the children in their classes as well as among themselves and the Principal/owner. The teachers should be coming down to the children’s level and not yelling or speaking above them – as pointed out by research. Interaction between the teachers will tell you if they are motivated to be there. Find out if they are well-paid and how many years they have been at the school. A high turnover of staff at the pre school should be a red flag. It is not rude to ask what qualifications the teachers possess to be able to be teaching pre schoolers. While at that, find out if the pre school is registered or adheres to the laws and regulations in your town, province, state or country.
  • Facilities and environment – This is about how a preschool classroom should look and probably another obvious one. The pre school will need to have child-sized furniture in their classroom – we often see colourful chairs, tables, mats etc at preschools. These are supposed to ensure that the children are comfortable while they learn. Also pay attention that the classrooms have ample space – we are not looking for a big classroom, but space that matches the number of students in the classroom. The setting is also important, the classrooms should be print-rich – you know letter and number charts on the walls and kids’ books. Student art and writing should also be evident in the classroom during your pre school tour.
  •  Activities and outings – Perhaps this is the least consideration on this list. But a pre school that also organises sports days with other schools, tours to the fire station, the local airfield or farm to me are signs of a good preschool and gets that extra mark. After all, research says play is the vehicle to learning.

Importance of choosing the right preschool

It’s probably just a pre school right? Wrong – play schools, or preschools, form an important part of your child’s education. So, it’s important that as a parent you choose the best one for your child.

Besides, you will probably be spending a good portion of your income on your child’s pre school it only makes sense that it be a good investment.

“There’s increasing evidence that children gain a lot from going to preschool,” Kathleen McCartney, PhD, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told Parents.com.

“At preschool, they become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more important, they learn how to socialize — get along with other children, share, contribute to circle time.”

Children who attend high-quality pre school enter school with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.

Your child will learn how to raise his or her hand, take turns, and share the teacher’s attention. What’s more, he or she will learn how to separate from Mommy. All of this makes for an easier transition to schooling.

In addition to strengthening socialization skills – how to compromise, be respectful of others, and problem-solve, pre school provides a place where your child can gain a sense of self, explore, play with her peers, and build confidence.

Kids in preschool discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves, from small tasks like pouring their own juice and helping set snack tables to tackling bigger issues like making decisions about how to spend their free time.

Questions to ask on a preschool tour

When you visit a pre school, it is important that you ask the correct questions.

Consider asking the questions below:

  • Does my child need to be toilet-trained? Many preschools require that a child be out of diapers.
  • How are parents involved in the school? A good sign is an active parent association that plans programs like family picnics, holiday parties, and parent socials. You might want to talk to other parents — the preschool should give you names.
  • How will the teacher let me know about my child’s progress? Parents should be kept informed with newsletters, e-mails, and regular parent-teacher conferences.
  • What do you do when two children are fighting? It’s crucial that you agree with the school’s discipline policy.
  • What’s the daily routine? You want your child to have a sense of predictability each day — circle time, snack, reading.

Conclusion

It is our hope that the article above has answered some of the questions you had when you landed here about how to pick a pre school for your child.

When choosing a pre school for your child consider, things like the reputation of the school. But you cannot choose a school based on that alone. It is a good idea to physically take a pre school tour and look at things like the location, the curriculum, the teaching staff, the pre school’s facilities and activities.

At Kids Connection magazine, our expert has also written an article on how to choose a school for your child once you they have graduated from pre school. It is well worth a read even today!

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Kids Connection was successfully launched in March 2006 by Wendy Beaufort for distribution to parents and teachers in the local Port Elizabeth market. The comprehensive directory for young families from newborn to 12 years, was born because, Wendy, a mom of three, understood the importance of having detailed information related to children that is aimed at assisting young families spend less time PLANNING and more time PLAYING….READ MORE

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