Choosing a Preschool That’s Right for Your Child
For many families, preschool is the first time a child engages with the world without her parents around. For the child, this is an exciting and developmentally necessary step; for parents, it’s often an anxiety-fraught prospect (only surpassed by the terrifying send-off to college some 15 years later). But your (very natural) worry can be eased by carefully choosing a preschool. If you are confident in the staff, facilities, mission, and activities, there is little reason for angst and more room for joy at this childhood milestone. Read on to learn more about what to look for in a preschool.
How to choose a preschool that’s right for your child
Think about what your child needs, not what you want.
A preschool that fulfills your child’s emotional, mental, and social needs might not jive with your vision initially. For instance, an enclosed and protected area might seem ideal to you, but children need open space to run, explore, and expend energy. Ultimately, an environment that is attentive, safe, healthy, and stimulating is all a child needs.
Approve the management and philosophy.
When choosing a preschool, do a background check on the preschool’s management committee to learn about its involvement and interest in the children and school activities; disinterested leadership could translate into disinterested care.
Also, read about the preschool’s philosophy, mission, and vision, and look into what it has done to achieve these standards. It is important that the core educational beliefs of the institution are knowledge-based and not just information-based; the former better equips a child to interpret, understand, and respond to the world around them.
Read more about different preschool philosophies on The Swaddle.
Know what your child will be taught.
Often, what gets sacrificed at the altar of school readiness is the developmental needs of the children, and consequently, their holistic development. When choosing a preschool, look for a curriculum that has planned and balanced schedules that state clear learning goals. Learning goals should be engaging and mapped on a developmental continuum. The curriculum should recognise the integrated ways in which children grow, follow developmentally appropriate practises, and, lastly, should cover all domains of development. It should offer a variety of programs that provide continuity between school and home and between pre-primary and primary school.
Look beyond the academic.
A good preschool will include activities and practical tasks that refine children’s motor, organizational, social-emotional, and language skills. Learning in an environment that applies live skills is more stimulating and fun for the child, helping him or her to grow holistically.
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When choosing a preschool, look for one that values inclusive education and counts children of various backgrounds and abilities in its classes. Children who learn alongside special needs children or others different from themselves are more compassionate and have a harmonious attitude.
Research the teachers and staff.
Teachers are a big part of what to look for in a preschool. The faculty should be well-qualified, and the school should provide them with ongoing training in the latest teaching methods and programs. Their attitude toward the children should be warm, kind, and caring, and they should be able to modify their approach to suit the individual needs of a diverse student body. Additionally, the best teachers are attentive to the needs of both the child and the parents, and should be able to adapt to the varying personalities of each family.
Look for activities that encourage parental involvement.
The best schools organize and prioritize activities and meetings that bring the children, parents, and teachers together.
Consider the child-to-teacher ratio.
The more disproportionate the classroom, the less supervision your child will receive. The ideal teacher-child ratio should be: 1:7 for 18 months to 2 years; 1:8 for 2 to 4 years; and 1:12 for 4 to 6 years.
Tour the facilities and classrooms.
Children should be cared for in a spacious, safe, clean, and well-organized space. The design should allow children to explore through the senses of touch, sight, and feel. A cluttered atmosphere with an overwhelming colour theme can lead to distraction.
The classroom should be age-appropriate with child-sized furniture. Children should have easy access to toys, books, and other activities around the classroom, allowing them to satiate their curiosity and to explore objects’ functionality.
Test the toys.
A school should have toys that engage and encourage children to explore. Toys that demand the child think, learn, and apply knowledge as he or she plays are more than objects of fun—they are educational devices. Avoid playrooms filled with cosmetic or battery-operated toys.
Make sure it’s clean.
This seems obvious in what to look for in a preschool, but it bears repeating: Check the housekeeping areas like the pantry and the washrooms. Cleanliness in these areas of the preschool assures your child’s health and safety.