Preschool Primer: How to Find the Perfect Preschool

Teaching preschool students

If you’re like most parents of a child between the ages of two and four, you have probably considered preschool as an option. Whether you want to enrich your child’s life, simply take a breather, or have decided to return to work, you want only the best for your child. Looking for a quality preschool can be a challenge with all the choices available today.

Finding a high-quality preschool program requires careful research, recognizing what to look and asking lots of questions. Lots of learning takes place during the preschool years – understanding that sets the stage for later success in school. You must ensure your child gets off to a good start, and going to preschool is a milestone and the first step along their educational journey.

The Fundamentals Of Choosing A Preschool

Even if it’s only for a few hours a week, this time (either away from home or virtually) will be integral to your child’s development, so you need to be savvy. Be as selective as possible. In an effort to streamline the process of preschool selection, you should try following the guidelines below.

The first and primary consideration in choosing a preschool should be health and safety.

Make sure the program is licensed by the state (which means it has met the minimum health and safety requirements). The license should be displayed, but if not, ask to see it. You can check with your local department of social services to see if it’s current.

Even if it is, it is imperative to do at least one walk-through to gauge the safety of the environment and try to visit when the program is in session. If possible, look for an accredited preschool by the National Association For The Education Of Young Children. Accreditation by the N.A.Y.E.C. is more extensive than state licensing and is a good indication it’s a high-quality program.

Secondly, examine what your preschool preferences are. Several popular educational philosophies are used in today’s preschools.

Try to base your decision on your child’s needs and temperament. Ask yourself some questions, such as:  How does my child react to group experiences? Is he shy or eager to join? Is she very energetic or more low key? Is he a self-starter or does he need prodding to engage in an activity? Your answers will give you a clear-cut picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses and aid you in your selection of a program.

When considering a preschool, bear in mind they may adhere to a particular philosophy. Your best bet is to familiarize yourself with the philosophies and when meeting with the director, ask how the teachers interpret them.

It’s critical that during your search, you not be intimidated to ask direct questions and scrutinize answers. Good directors will welcome your interest and understand your concerns. Discuss your expectations and share information about your child. Don’t rely on first impressions.

One of the most reliable ways to evaluate a program is to observe it while in session. If the preschool refuses, be very skeptical. This is a professional courtesy, and you are under no obligation to enroll your child if it doesn’t seem ideal. Take several hours, sit back, and observe as unobtrusively as possible.

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Making Sense Of Popular Preschool Philosophies

High/Scope.  Based on the research of Piaget, who believed that children learn through play and in sequential order. These programs construct active learning environments.  Kids of mixed ages choose from a wide selection of materials and activities. Children are encouraged to make independent choices throughout the day. As they pursue their options, children explore, ask questions, solve problems and interact. Kids are taught to plan, do and review. Teachers ask children open-ended questions rather than dictate learning. Children learn critical thinking, language, and social proficiency.

Waldorf.  There will be a strong emphasis on the arts and nature. Simple toys that lend themselves to many functions are available. It is believed that young children learn through imitation of adult behavior.  Children develop strong creative and language abilities.

Montessori.  Based on the research of Maria Montessori, who believed children learn best through real-world experiences. She designed special teacher materials that require minimal direction. The teacher introduces the materials and then lets kids experiment. Classes are usually mixed-aged with the intention that the children will learn from each other. Another hallmark is children are respected and encouraged to learn at their own pace and to reach their potential. Independence, ability to focus, and school readiness are the goals.

Reggio Emila.  One of the newest philosophies, the class investigates children’s questions about the natural world. Kids work on Projects (in-depth investigation of a topic they express interest in) Teachers act as guides, careful not to impose adult ideas. Children are encouraged to demonstrate Their learning in an artistic manner. Creativity and research skills are emphasized and developed.

Preschool Checklist

As you search for just the right preschool for your child, you may want to have this comprehensive checklist on hand! From health and safety, to communication between the school and parents, and the atmosphere/learning setting of the school itself – this list provides everything you need to help guide your search.

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Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director who continues to touch the lives of families through her writing! She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.

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