Starting your child in preschool for the first time is not only a big event in his or her life; it is also a very important decision for you and a milestone in your parenting journey. Take some time to ask the right questions of the program and you can easily determine if you’ve found the right place. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a Preschool:
1. CHECK OUT THE SCHOOL’S LICENSING
• Ask to see copies of all the licensing and certifications required by the state agencies that regulate the program.
• Does the program participate in any accreditation programs?
2. HOW DOES THE SCHOOL SCHEDULE MATCH YOUR NEEDS?
Ask about the type of scheduling that is available: full-time, part-time, flexible scheduling. Make sure the times and days coordinate with your work schedule.
3. GET A FEEL FOR THE SCHOOL
Visit the schools you are considering – start with an open house, interview the directors of the schools you felt positively about after the open house, talk to some of the teachers. Consider:
• How warm and welcoming does the school feel?
• How nurturing does the school staff seem to be?
• Does it seem that staff/adults and children get along and feel comfortable with one another?
• Do the children look happy?
4. LEARN ABOUT SAFETY AND HEALTH POLICIES
Discuss with the Director general safety features of the program so that you can be sure that your child will be well taken care of and the environment is safe.
• Are staff members trained in CPR and first aid?
• Learn the program’s illness and medication policy. Are the children required to have immunizations and regular health evaluations? Is there a hand washing policy in effect?
• Does the facility have a monitored entrance, accessible emergency information and a child release policy? Investigate the programs policy on open-door parent visitation. Is there a check-in and check-out procedure? Find out how the center monitors newcomers, strangers or unauthorized people to pick up children.
5. CHECK OUT THE TEACHERS
Before you even meet with the teachers, ask the program director about staff experience, training and certifications.
• What is the staff/teacher-to-child ratio?
• Observe the teachers to see if they interact positively with the children.
• Do they create a warm and secure environment?
6. FIND OUT ABOUT THE PROGRAM ITSELF
Because children are growing intellectually (cognitively), socially, physically and emotionally, learn how the school addresses each of these areas of growth.
• Is there a balance of play and learning time, as well as group and individual activities?
• Do the children have outdoor play? Look for a secured, fenced outdoor play area with age-appropriate supplies and equipment that encourage motor skills.
7. KEEP IN TOUCH
Ask to see a copy of the parent handbook. All center policies and procedures will be contained in the parent handbook.
• What does the school do when there is a behavior problem?
• Do you feel comfortable with their approach?
8. REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN MAKING THIS DECISION!
Be sure to speak to friends or other parents in your neighborhood or area – often times you can get the best information from the opinions of other parents whose judgment you trust – they may have had older children who attended various preschools and so have had firsthand experience.
These 8 steps should help you with your decision in choosing an early childhood education program, but don’t forget that it’s important to “feel comfortable” with the program and the people who will be caring for your child. For parents, the bottom line is simple: Watch closely what’s happening in the classroom, pick a preschool that you wish you had gone to, and your child will do just fine.
Source: Center for Parenting Education.
This article originally appeared in the February issue of EAST COBBER, on page 27. Click here to view the digital edition.