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What You Didn’t Know to Look for in a Preschool (But Should)

First-time parents are particularly skittish about choosing a preschool; it’s likely the first time they will have left their kids alone somewhere, with the specific intent of having them learn from adults and engage with peers. And while all families have different values and priorities, when it comes to pre-K education, all parents want their children to be safe, happy, and cared for.

To that end, we’ve created a list of essential final questions to ask when looking at preschools. These are different from questions about a preschool’s approach to learning — which you can read more about here, here, here and here — and different from these questions, which will help you start your preschool search. Rather, the questions here can help you make the final decision when selecting a preschool, based on what you care about most.

Final questions to ask when looking at preschools

Security

  • What security measures are in place at the school?
  • How does the staff keep track of who is permitted to pick your child up?

How a school thinks through the logistics of keeping track of kids across age groups, various activities, and zones within the school is vital to the security of your child. If a school hasn’t thought through processes for keeping track of its students, and how handoffs to outside caretakers should work, this should be a warning sign.

Safety

  • Are the school’s teachers trained in basic first aid?
  • Where are the first aid kits located?
  • Does the school do regular check of its playground equipment?
  • Do they keep sharp objects like scissors out of reach of all children?

Also, take a walk around the school facility and look for those little things that your kid could hurt themselves on. And then ask about it. For example: if there are metal objects around, are they rusty? How often does the swing set get checked for stability and wear and tear?

Emergency Plan

  • In a worst case scenario, what is the school’s emergency plan?
  • Does anyone on staff know lifesaving techniques, like CPR?
  • What is the nearest hospital, and how would the school get an injured child there?

Asking these questions gives you an opportunity not only to gauge whether you like the processes the school has in place, it also gives you a window into the attitudes of the school administrators. A school that genuinely cares for its students well being will have carefully thought through its reaction to emergencies.

Conflict resolution/Discipline

  • What does the school do in case children have conflict?
  • What types of conflict do teachers get involved with, and what do they let children resolve on their own?
  • How would they react to physical violence between children?
  • What types of disciplinary methods, if any, are used?

These questions will help you get a sense for the kind of life skills your child will pick up from preschool, and whether they are in line with your values. It can also help you gauge how difficult the transition to preschool might be for your child; if your style of discipline at home clashes with the school’s, it may send mixed messages to your child about what kind of behaviour is appropriate.

Parent-school relationship

  • Can you, as a parent, come observe the kids at school one day?

A school’s reaction to having parents around can be very telling. Most administrators who are confident in their methodologies, their teachers’ training, and their facilities will have no problem letting parents observe. If you’re never allowed to step foot inside the school, you might begin to wonder what the school has to hide….

Sometimes, you can tell as much about an organization from its response to being asked questions as you can from the substance of its responses. A preschool administration that is open to parents’ queries, open to feedback, and responsive to your concerns is likely applying the same empathy and concern to its student body. Asking basic questions about your child’s safety and security is essential to keeping your kids safe, certainly. But it’s also vitally important to gauging the signs of a good preschool, its school culture and how it will approach its relationship with your family in the future.

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