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How to Find the Best Preschool for Your Child

Practical tips and ideas to help you make the right choice

by Ashley O'Neill  |  4086 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Finding a preschool can be an especially challenging task for parents. For many of us, this is the first time that our children will be spending extended time away from home, and it’s natural to want that time to be special. For most children, preschool is also their first educational experience, and parents want their children to gain a love of learning even at this early age. The problem, though, is that most of us don’t have degrees in early childhood education, and we aren’t exactly sure what we should look for when touring the schools.

Here are five tips that can help parents focus their preschool search and find the perfect fit for their children:

Make sure that the school works on the ABCs and 123s.

How well a child reads at the end of first grade predicts how well he or she will read in later grades, graduation rates and even income level as an adult. It’s important that a preschool recognizes this and helps children to get this important skill started by working on early reading skills. A good thing to remember is that great preschools not only help children advance beyond age norms for things like early reading and early math, but they also nurture children who are behind so they can catch up.

How can you tell if these basics are covered? Look for letter and number materials in the classroom. The environment can be very telling. Look for a well-stocked bookcase, the alphabet up on the walls, tracing paper, maps, clocks, and puzzles. And ask the teachers and director when you take your tour — most preschools are happy to share their philosophies on early literacy and math.

Ask how play is incorporated into the school day – both imaginative playtime and physical playtime.

Just as it is important that the children spend some time each day working on the alphabet and counting; it’s also important that they spend time away from their desks playing. And, while playtime is a great way for children to expand their imaginations and stretch their muscles, it’s also a way to continue working on things like math through the building of towers or on literacy by looking through a box of pretend groceries for just the right thing to feed the baby dolls.

Imaginative play is very important, in and of itself. This time spent in imaginative play helps children to work on their emotional and behavioral skills – a very important part of early childhood learning. During your school tour, look in the classrooms for ways in which children will be engaged in this type of creative play. Costumes hanging from hooks in the corner, art on the walls, pretend kitchens, train sets, and small groups of children working together on collaborative projects – all are good indicators that the children are using their imaginations and creative skills during the course of the day.

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