The moment has arrived. Your baby is ready to venture beyond the nest – at least for a few hours. The time has come to choose a Preschool.
So how important is this?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, preschool plays a large role in later academic success. “Children in high quality preschools display better language, cognitive, and social skills than children who attended low quality programs.” Those crayons, blocks, clay, sock puppets and pipe cleaners may look innocent enough, but how and where they’re introduced can have long-reaching ramifications. Did you know that we experience the most brain growth within the first five years of our lives?
Children who attend a quality preschool program are proven to have longer attention spans, stronger social abilities, and better language and math skills well into their elementary school careers. According to statistics they are also more likely to graduate from high school, hold higher paying jobs, even more likely to own their own home. Children who are nurtured and stimulated during these years are much more prepared for formal reading and math and are more likely to have the social skills they will need when it’s time for kindergarten.
Ask around. Ask friends, family and your pediatrician for recommendations. Word of mouth is a great way to find a fit. If your child attends daycare, they are usually a good source for recommendations. After you’ve narrowed your choices down you must visit the school.
Focus on children:
- Find out the school’s philosophy on educating toddlers. Whether it’s teachings are based on Peaget, Montessori or Reggio, it’s important that the preschool have a clear educational plan for its students, and that you agree with their methods and philosophy. A strong ideological foundation with enough flexibility to cater to each childs strengths is ideal.
- Watch to see that children interact with other children and adults, so they can build healthy relationships. Ask about the curriculum. It should include playtime, physical time and a variety of activities appropriate for the children’s ages and needs.
- Meet the preschool directors in person and observe the teachers with the children.
Have qualified staff:
- The staff should have the educational background to promote your child’s learning and development. Ask what degrees and training teachers have.
- You also might want to ask about staff turnover. Teachers that stay in a give program longer are more able to focus their attention on the children and establish bonds with them.
- The facilities need to be age-appropriate and well maintained, both indoors and outdoors.
- Ask about the child-to-teacher ratio, which helps determine how much individual attention your child will get. A teacher, no matter how good she is, can’t really effectively run a classroom or give children the attention they deserve there are more than 10 children per adult.
Build relationships with families:
- Program staff should work with families to meet their child’s needs. Ask how information and concerns are communicated between staff and families.
- Check that the program’s policies allow families to visit their child during the program day.
- It’s essential that you feel comfortable with the school’s director. Directors set guidelines for the program. You should also feel secure and pleased with the teachers, who will be spending many hours with your child day in and day out. You should look for a preschool that you will be able to establish a long and production relationship with.
Most of all – trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.