Be sure to ask about physical play, as well. There is a direct correlation between gross motor skill development and the overall health of a preschooler. When you go on your tour, ask whether outside play is a part of the daily routine, and look at the play area for yourself. Is there plenty of room for the kids to run around? Are there climbing structures, riding toys, balls for the kids to throw? All of these teach important motor skills.
Ask whether the children are given free time each day to choose their own activities.
It’s important to encourage independence, and this is one way that preschools can help children to learn to make good choices. When you take your tour, you want to keep an eye out for materials and toys that teach reading, math, science, time and space, but you also want to make sure that there is some time built into each day when the children get to choose their own activities. Look at the daily schedule. See if there are blocks of time devoted to “free play” or “center time.” This is usually when more independent learning takes place.
Make sure that the school’s philosophies mirror your family’s values.
Ask questions about how the school handles social and emotional issues. These should closely align to what you do at home. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable with the preschool, but your child will learn better with consistency. One way to get a good sense of a school’s approach to these issues is to ask how a teacher would handle a the following situation: Two children always play together, but one day one of the two decides to play with a different child and the other one feels left out. What steps would the teacher take? Then think about whether the school’s approach is the same one that you would use.
Look for a positive, nurturing relationship between the teachers and the children.
This is what parents know to look for by instinct. In many cases, preschool is the first time that a child will be away from his or her parents for an extended period of time, and it’s important that the new relationships a child builds with grown-ups are kind and thoughtful ones. When you visit the school, look at the faces of the teachers. Are they smiling? Are they encouraging the little ones in their care? These are also good questions to ask of other parents whose children attend the school. Use your network – most parents are thrilled to have the opportunity to brag about their preschools.