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How to Choose the Right Preschool for Your Child

A. Introduction

Before my children entered preschool I interviewed and visited over 10 schools. My husband thought I was crazy but I wanted the best possible schools for my children. 

So if you're here looking for tips to help you choose a good preschool for your child you have come to the right place. My name is Maria George and here are my top seven tips based on my own experience as a parent, a former preschool teacher, and a current child development professor. So let's get right into them. 

B. Student Or Teacher Ratio

B.1 Tip Number One

Small class sizes or a high adult to child ratio because you want a classroom where the teacher can keep an eye on your child. I don't know about you but sometimes even watching just a few children at a time can be quite tiring so imagine being on your toes to care and teach for over 10 children all day. 

Every day. Here in California, the ratio of teacher to children is one adult to every 12 children in preschool or one teacher and one teacher's aide for every 15 children. I remember the first class that I taught at I had 12 students and no aid and I'm just going to tell you it was pretty challenging. So check the guidelines for your state to make sure that the school that you choose for your child is following at least the minimum guidelines. 

C. Health & Safety

C.1 Tip Number Two

This tip was important when my children were preschool age and that was a while ago but now I'm making this article in 2021 when schools are reopening after the lockdown of the pandemic so this issue is even more important now and will continue to be important for years to come. Knowing how a school works to keep your student healthy and safe is good to ask about. 

Questions such as how is hygiene enforced? And when are students expected to wash their hands after they come in from playing from the outside? Before they eat any type of food? And for how long? Also if meals are being served, how can you see a menu ahead of time to see the foods that are being served to your child? How are food allergies handled? How often are toys and equipment cleaned? Or how are injuries and illnesses handled? For safety, there are many issues to consider one of which is security. 

I worked at one preschool where the security was more relaxed and then another one where everyone needed a code or to be identified to get in. So think of safety issues that are important to you and make sure that you ask about them when you visit the school. A good preschool will have an impact on health in all domains, physical, mental, emotional, and social. 

D. Curriculum Areas

D.1 Tip Number Three

curriculum areas offered. What curriculum areas are offered at the school that you're looking at? So most schools will have the core subjects of reading, science, and math. But what about other areas such as music or movement or art? I remember looking at a school when I was looking for schools for my child and there was one school that did not have art so that school was easy to cross off my list because art is important to me. 

Then for the subject areas that are being taught, are they age-appropriate? Is your child going to be taught at their level? In teaching these different curriculum areas there are different approaches such as Montessori, traditional, Play-based, Reggio Emilio, Waldorf. and others. 

This article is not going to go into those different approaches but let me know in the comments below if that would help you. So in considering this area think about which curriculum areas that you want to be included, how your child learns and the approach that you think would best suit your child. For my two children, I sent them to two different schools because their learning styles were different and I wanted to pick the school that would best suit each one. 

E. Classroom Materials & Setting

E.1 Tip Number Four

What type of the environment are you looking for? What type of classroom design would you like to see? And so some classrooms they're very colorful. Some are more modern or updated. Some classrooms have a natural design. And here In Southern California, some classrooms are held mostly outdoors. 

So when you visit these classrooms think about the type of environment and setting that your child will be most comfortable in so that they can learn and thrive. Other questions that you can ask when considering this factor are what are some resources and materials that this classroom has? How is the classroom set up to encourage and provide learning opportunities? And if you have a child who is a second language learner how will they be supported in this environment? 

F. Family Support

F.1 Tip Number Five

A good school will try and build a strong relationship between school and family because regular communication will help you know what is going on in the school, in the classroom, and also keep you informed about how your child is doing. To find out how the school and teacher will keep you up to date so that you can work together for the success of your child. A good relationship will also communicate classroom needs and encourage parent involvement. 

G. Teacher Training

G.1 Tip Number Six

Teachers need proper education and training and each state will have different requirements for this so find out about the minimum requirement for teachers and then make sure that the teachers at the center that you are considering have met these requirements.

Also, most centers require that their teachers receive ongoing training or professional development to stay current in their field so ask how they help their teachers to achieve this. Speaking of teachers if you stay until the end I'm going to give you a bonus tip that was very important to me as a teacher and should be very important to parents. 

H. Staff & Children Interaction

H.1 Tip Number Seven 

Staff and children interactions try and visit when you can see a class in action so that you can observe the interactions between teachers and students. Observe the teachers. How are they engaging the children and how are the children responding to their teachers? Are the teachers using teachable moments? And during free play how involved are the teachers with the children? Or are the teachers using this time to do computer work on their own or other tasks and that they only interact with the children if there is a problem? If you cannot observe these interactions, try and talk to other parents about their feelings on this. 

Personally, I feel that this is very important because young children need to feel that love and support. It doesn't matter how beautiful or new that the school looks or the classroom have the newest resources and all the updated gadgets and tools if the interactions and relationships are lacking. 

Now that you have made it through my seven tips I have a bonus tip for those of you who have made it to the end. This one is the cherry on top because without this no school or classroom can be good. Both schools that I chose for my children share this characteristic so I had the reassurance that they were solid. Know that happy teachers make for happy children. 

A school that takes care of their teachers knows what they're doing. As a teacher, I needed support from my director and staff so I could do my best for my students. As a parent, you want the school that you choose to care for your child to also care for their teachers. 

I. Bonus Tip

My bonus tip is to find out about teacher turnover rates. How long has each of the teachers at the school been there? If the teachers or most of the teachers have been there for years then they are being taken care of they're happy there. If most of the teachers have been there just a few years - unless it's a brand new school, then that's a red flag. So keep this tip in mind when you are looking for the right school for your child. So there you have it - eight tips that I hope will help guide you when you're looking for the right school for your child. 



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