Selecting a preschool for your child can be a daunting task, especially if it is going to be their first time away from home. Here’s a list of things you should find out before enrolling your child at any prekindergarten program.
Is the school licensed?
Private preschools are required to have a license — though depending if it’s a home-based daycare or a larger institution, the licensing process can vary. Licensing doesn’t ensure quality, but it does document that the school has met the state’s basic health and safety standards. To find out if the preschool’s license is up to date, ask the school to see it or contact your county or state’s social service department. To learn more about licensing, go to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education.
Are the teachers credentialed?
Requirements for preschool teachers’ training differs from state to state, but ask about the teacher’s training. Did they attend college? Did they study early childhood development? At the very least, the head teacher should be certified in early childhood education and have a B.A. or M.A. Not all staff, like teachers assistants, need to have these formal credentials. Just make sure they are good with kids. Also, ask how long the teachers have worked at the school. High turnover rates can be a red flag for unhappy teachers.
Does the school meet your family’s needs?
Even if the school is the most popular preschool in your town or city, if it doesn’t meet your family’s basic needs, you may regret your decision. Do the preschool hours work for your work schedule? Is the location convenient for you? Can you afford it? Does the school operate year round? (Summer camps for younger kids can be hard to find, yet many preschools close for the summer.) Finally, does the school provide snacks and a lunch? If they do provide food, make sure you’re comfortable with the school’s nutritional approach.
Does the school meet your child’s needs?
Children entering preschool have a wide range of maturity. Some are potty-trained, others are not. Some have trouble separating from their parents, while others are independent. Some still take daily naps and some don’t need one. Find out how the school staff deals with all of these basic needs and then decide if the policies will work for your child. Also, take note of the school’s total number of students, average class size, and student-teacher ratio. Ask yourself if these elements fit with your child’s needs.
Will your child be safe here?
What is the drop-off and pick-up policy? Have them show you the school grounds and explain security to make sure children are properly supervised indoors and outdoors. Also ask how many of the staff are trained in CPR, pediatric first aid, playground safety, and nutrition. Finally, find out their protocol if a child is hurt at school.
What’s the make-up of the classroom?
Classroom size and the number of teachers will determine how much individual attention your preschooler will get. Ask for the teacher-student ratio (or adult-to-student ratio as grown-ups in the classroom can include student teachers or teacher assistants). Also, ask if the school is divided by age (allowing teachers to teach to children at generally the same stage developmentally) or if they have mixed-age groups (so that young kids can learn from older ones and older kids can mentor and nurture younger ones).
How much free play time do the children have?
Some preschools are more academic or structured and have limited free time. Others are more play-based and allow children to choose their activities at will. Decide which best suits your child and your child-rearing philosophy.
These are just a few questions we suggest asking during any visit to a learning center in your area. Looking for a preschool for your child? Setup a tour today and find out why Lil’ Einstein’s is the best!