How to Choose a Preschool:  Prepare  –  Observe  –  Ask

Choosing a preschool for your child is a very exciting time, yet it is also an overwhelming task that can be quite intimidating. Use the following information as a starting point to understand some of the key items that you may want to consider in your process of finding the right preschool for your child and living situation!

Before you dig in, you may also wish to:

Prepare:  Understand what you are looking for in a preschool

  • Is it important for the preschool to be near your home or workplace?
  • Is there a time schedule that must be adhered to?
  • Is it important for the preschool to offer childcare services in the morning, afternoon, or both?
  • Is transportation to or from school a requirement?
  • What kinds of specific needs does your young child have: toilet training, napping, socializing?
  • Is Kindergarten Readiness important to you?
  • Are you looking for a particular preschool and early childhood education philosophy or model? Learn more at Kidamentals Preschool Philosophies, which includes descriptions for:
    • Montessori preschools
    • Cooperative (co-op) preschools
    • Play-based preschools
    • Academic preschools
    • Project-based preschools
    • And more…

Observe:  When you get to the preschool, spend time observing and ask yourself

Is the atmosphere exciting, warm, and inviting?

  • Can you picture your child thriving here? Will this school engage his interests? How will he do socially in this environment?
  • Do you and your child feel welcome here?
  • Does your child seem interested in what they have to offer?
  • Do students seem happy? Are they engaged and having positive interactions with each other, the staff, and the teachers?
  • Do the teachers seem like they enjoy teaching here?
  • What kind of work is up on the walls? Do you see original art, or posters and worksheets?
  • Will your child’s learning style be suited well to this school’s approach?
  • Is the preschool clean, pleasant, and safe?
  • Is the bathroom a pleasant setting, encouraging children to use it?

What kinds of activities are children doing?

  • What is happening in the art corner and the block area?
  • Are children working cooperatively, individually, or both?
  • Are there opportunities for dramatic and fantasy play?

Ask:  Come to the preschool visit prepared with questions, for example

Ask about the staff and teachers:

  • What is the turnover rate for staff members?
  • How long have teachers been with the program?
  • How were they trained? Are there continuous training requirements?
  • What percentage of the staff hold degrees in early childhood?

Ask about kids safety:

  • What are the safety procedures for picking up and dropping off children? (What is your release policy? Who may pick up my child?)
  • Are the children ever left unattended?
  • Are appropriate safety measures (fire extinguisher, first aid kit, fences, evacuation plans, etc.) in place?
  • Is the facility up to code?

Ask about the preschool:

  • Credentials: Is this facility licensed? Is the preschool accredited?
  • How large are the preschool classes and what is the teacher-child ratio?
    • Are the kids grouped by age or are ages mixed?
    • How large is the group my child would be in?
  • What are the application and admission procedures and the timelines?
  • What are the Costs and Fees, including:
    • Do you offer scholarships or sibling discounts?
    • Is there a late-pickup fee?
    • Do I pay when we’re on vacation?
    • How and when would you bill us?
    • What are the payment options and procedures?
  • What are the days and hours
    • What is the holiday schedule? On what other days is the preschool closed?
    • How flexible are you with pickup and drop-off times?
  • Eating
    • Do you provide breakfast, lunch, and/or snack?
    • If yes, what kind?
    • If not, what kind of food should I bring for my child? Are there any food restrictions?
  • Nap times
    • Are children required to sleep, and if so, for how long?
    • What is the nap schedule?
    • Where do the children sleep?
  • Request a copy of the class schedule to understand how the days are structured and if it right for your child
  • What are the illness policies?

Ask about the preschool’s early childhood education:

  • What is the preschool’s educational philosophy or model and what is the advantage of the approach?
  • Is there a focus on Kindergarten Readiness?

Ask how the children play:

  • How do children decide what to do, when they want to do it, and with whom?
  • Are there inviting and well-defined areas for different kinds of activities (art, music, blocks and toys, quiet reading, etc.)?
  • Is there plenty of opportunity for active play? Dramatic play? Imaginative Play?
  • Do you have a safe, enclosed play area that encourages large-motor skills (climbing, running, etc)?
  • What role, if any, does television and other screen time have at the preschool?

Ask how you, the parent, and the school will interact:

  • What do you expect from parents?
  • Can parents volunteer/participate in the classroom or attend?
  • How do teachers and the administration keep parents informed?

Ask how the preschool addresses social-emotional issues and discipline:

  • How do you comfort children?
  • How does the staff help children resolve conflicts?
  • Are children punished for inappropriate behaviors and how are they discussed? Do parents and teachers work together to deal with issues as they come up?
  • How do you handle teasing, bullying, and inappropriate group behavior among the children?
  • How do you discipline children? If “time out” is used, what happens during a time out? Does a child sit alone or with a teacher?

Ask for names and numbers of other parents whose children go to the school:

  • When discussing the preschool with other parents, ask specific questions such as, “What exactly do you like and dislike about the preschool?”

Among others, Kidamenatls utilized the following resources to help develop this consolidated guide to choosing a preschool: