5 Easy Steps to Find the Right Preschool for Your Child

by on February 13th, 2011
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I’ll never forget how stressful it was to select a preschool for our child. After all, we had always relied on a trusted day care provider who exceeded our expectations over time. I would have been happy had my child stayed in this home care situation until kindergarten, but the prospect of a larger, structured environment became too appealing to ignore. It was important for us to have our child in an educational learning environment that continued into Kindergarten and beyond. We also wanted our child to be in a preschool affiliated with a Catholic school, if possible. We desired a preschool close to home but also considered the many fine schools across our large, metropolitan area. Safety and health was a major consideration for us, as was the quality of teachers and administration of the preschool.

How did we find the right fit? It wasn’t easy and we learned a lot along the way. Check out these Five Easy Steps to Find the Right Preschool for Your Child. Surefire ways to find the right fit for you and your young one.

Step One. Make a list of preschools in various locations. Before you begin your search, compile a list of preschools in your neighborhood, near loved ones or preschools near your place of business. Cut/paste information on each school into a table that will allow you to rank and comment on each. Include the name and address for each preschool, location and directions from your home, tuition and admission information, class size, and mission or philosophy. This will give you a way of weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each school. It will also help you organize and summarize the information.

Step Two. Visit open houses. Nothing substitutes for visiting the school and seeing first hand what it’s about. At an Open House, you can meet the teachers and administrators, ask questions, and network with other parents making similar, tough decisions. You can tour the facility and assess the school’s ability to keep your child engaged in a healthy and safe environment. You can sometimes follow up these Open Houses with a visit during the school day. Or, meet with administrators. By visiting several Open Houses you get a better sense of what distinguishes one school from another, an important element in your decision making process.

Step Three. Consult with friends, loved ones and neighbors. Take advantage of the fact that other people have gone through the preschool search process. Learn from their experiences. Give them a sense of what you’re looking for, what you’ve found, and ask how they chose a preschool for their child. Take notes of their suggestions and keep them in your preschool search file.

Step Four. Develop a wish list. After you’ve done the homework and legwork on preschools, sit down with your partner and see if you can agree upon a set of criteria for the ideal preschool for your child. For example, you may want a preschool near your place of business if you intend on visiting during the day. Or, you may decide that keeping your child in the neighborhood is a better option for you and your family. The ideal preschool for your child may be one that’s highly structured. Or, the one that fits into the family budget. Check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Childhood Program Standards for some great ideas and best practices for early childhood educational programs.

Step Five. Rank order your preschools. Which schools meet your criteria? Which schools measure up to your standards? Take a moment to put the schools you’ve studied and, hopefully, visited in priority order, from 1 to 10. Which preschool do you like the best? Which one failed meet your standards? Use this information in making a decision about the right preschool for your child. Keep the information handy in the event that your child is not accepted in to the program, is waitlisted or needs to change in mid-term. And, pass it along to friends going through a similar search process.

RESOURCES

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
www.naeyc.org

Choosing a Preschool or Childcare Center
PBS Parents Page
Public Broadcasting System (PBS)

Choosing a Preschool: Simple Tips for Parents
NCLD Editorial Staff (March 3, 2009)
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)


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