Choosing the “Right” Preschool

If possible, start early!  Quality preschools fill up quickly.  I hope this check list of questions helps your family. Let me know if there are others you recommend adding.

Step One

Understand and know the reasons you are looking for a preschool.  It may be parents have to work, you just need a little break, socialization, confidence, get ready for kindergarten.  Reasons will differ for every family.  In the High Country we have co-ops, preschools, montessori schools and in home care.  There are a wealth of options for families.

Ask yourself, what are you looking to accomplish by sending your special kiddo to preschool.

Step Two

Identify the preschools in your area.  Based on your “why” you are sending your child to preschool, look to see which style would match your “why”.  Most preschools fall into the following categories:

  1. Child Directed
  2. Teacher Directed
  3. Play Based
  4. Academic Based
  5. Another great link explaining the differences

Get Referrals: Ask other parents where they send their children to preschool and to tell you what they like about their child’s preschool.

Make Contact: Contact a few preschools in your area and ask the following questions…

  1. What age does my child need to be to enter your preschool program?
  2. What days of the week do ___ year olds attend your preschool?
  3. What time does preschool begin and end each day?
  4. Do you have extended or after preschool hours (if this is needed)?
  5. What will the tuition rate be for my ___ year old?
  6. When is tuition due?
  7. Is tuition due weekly, monthly, annually?
  8. What other expenses will be involved in addition to tuition throughout the school year?
  9. Will the children go on “out of school” fieldtrips?
  10. Will the preschool provide snack or will this be the parent’s responsibility?
  11. How many students will be in my child’s classroom?
  12. How many teachers will be in my child’s classroom?
  13. What are the dates your preschool starts and ends?
  14. What dates are you closed throughout the year?
  15. Do you follow the same calendar as the local school systems?
  16. How do you notify parents of last minute school closings due to inclement weather or other?
  17. What are your policies about illness and keeping children home?
  18. Is your preschool licensed or certified by any agency? If so, which agencies?
  19. Do you have a website I can go to for additional information?
You may be able just to ask for an enrollment packet to get the answer to most of the above questions…

For preschools that are full you can ask…

  1. Is there is a waiting list and how do I get on it?
  2. How will I be notified if an opening comes up?
  3. What is the cost to get on your waiting list?
  4. When do you make final decisions and close or finalize enrollment?

Step Three

Visit a few preschool options you are considering. You will want the first visit to be you and your husband without your child.  The objective will be observing.  If you decide you really like a preschool, then schedule a time for your child to be a part of the classroom.

On Your Visit:

  1. Call ahead and see if you can set up an appointment to see the school.
  2. Ask if you can return for a second visit and bring your child with you to visit the classroom and meet the teacher.
  3. A visit like this should be your opportunity to observe the classroom environment and to get a feel for the classroom environment as well as the personalities and teaching approach of the teachers in the classroom.

During your visit to the preschool you may wish to consider the following….

Observations What to look for… Questions (the answer should be yes!)
Artwork The kind of artwork that is displayed around the room. Does the artwork look child-made?
Table Activities The types of activities out on the tables. Do the activities provide opportunities for interaction, conversation, creativity, decision-making, and hands-on play or exploration?
Toys and Equipment The toys and equipment available for play Are there plenty of toys to keep a large group of children busy and engaged in play?Are the toys and equipment of good quality and good condition?
Centers The types of choices (centers) made available to children through play. Is there an easel, water table, sand table, and other centers such as science, math, art, writing, books, puzzles, play dough, and blocks set up and open for play throughout the room?
Cleanliness and Organization The cleanliness and organization of the environment. Are tables, chairs, toys, shelves, cabinets, floors clean and free from excess clutter?Are toys and materials organized in baskets and set out to foster decision-making, interesting choices, play, independence, and responsibility?
Cubbies Coat hooks, baskets, or shelves. Is there a place for children to store their personal belongings while at preschool that they can reach and manage independently?
Conversations The conversations of children and teachers If children are present and playing in the classroom, do you hear talking, laughing, singing, asking questions, and expressing their ideas, preferences or point of view?Do you hear the teachers speaking warmly, kindly, and respectfully to the children? Do you hear teachers encouraging the children to be confident learners by inviting them to make choices, decisions, and be a part of the activities in progress?
Movement Children at Play Do you see children moving about the room, engaged in centers, working with their hands, exploring materials, and at play with one another?
Outdoors The outdoor environment. Is there an outdoor area where children can run, climb, walk, explore, climb, and participate in other types of play?  Do they go outdoors in all types of weather?

The above table provides some of the most common areas of considerations when visiting most preschool classrooms.

Questions for the teacher:

If you have a chance to talk to the teacher, then you may wish to ask the following kinds of questions….

  1. How long have you been teaching ___ year olds?
  2. How long have you been with this preschool?
  3. What kind of background in education and experience in teaching young children do you have?
  4. What is your teaching philosophy (In what ways do you believe children learn best)?
  5. What is your discipline policy? (How you will handle inappropriate behavior in the classroom)?
  6. What kinds of rules will you expect the children to follow and how will you help the children meet your expectations?
  7. What type(s) of curriculum (if any) do you follow?
  8. In what way(s) do you assess “progress”?
  9. What kinds of activities will the children do throughout the day?
  10. Do you have a daily schedule I can keep?
  11. In what way(s) do you provide parent communication?
  12. Will you be having parent/teacher conferences?
  13. How do you feel about parents visiting in your classroom (Does the teacher have an open door policy)?
  14. How do you feel about parents volunteering in your classroom? In what ways can parents volunteer to help out in your classroom?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  These are a guide and your family’s needs will be different. Trust your own instincts in the process and find a preschool that makes you comfortable and confident leaving your child.

It is important that you love the preschool and feel accepted and appreciated as the parent of your preschooler.  If you lack confidence in your child’s preschool, it is very possible that your child will pick up on your concerns and feel apprehensive about going to preschool.  Your child’s preschool should meet the needs of the whole child and you want to feel confident that your choice in preschool will make the early learning years for your child and your family a successful experience.


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