If you’ve been on the lookout for preschools lately, you’ll know that it’s no child’s play finding the right one to suit your needs. What works for one parent or child may not work for another, so you’ll have to be careful to opt for a preschool that can specifically cater to your needs.
While you can find a host of information online regarding preschools, most of this data is convoluted and peppered with paid reviews. Therefore, I thought I’d provide you with a few tips and tricks to help you choose the ideal preschool for you and your little one.
What Is A Preschool?
If you’ve come across the term ‘preschool’ several times since you’ve had a child but are still unsure of what it means, it would be wise for us to first get into the basics of what a preschool is.
Preschool is also known as a ‘nursery’ in many countries around the world and ‘pre-kindergarten’ in others. However, there are differences between pre-k and preschool, so you should have a fair idea of what a preschool is to distinguish between them.
Essentially, a preschool is an institution that provides your child with what will work as the foundation for their formal school education.
In other words, a preschool makes the learning process easier for your child once they start kindergarten. Since you’re not required to send your child to preschool, almost every preschool you come across is private. [Read how a kindergarten differs from a preschool]
Such schools have facilities that allow your child to learn basic social skills and impart them with some practical and theoretical knowledge before they begin schooling.
Tips on Choosing A Preschool
Without further ado, let’s explore a few basic tips and tricks to consider while choosing the right preschool for your child.
Consider the Curriculum
When choosing a preschool, your number one priority should be considering what kind of curriculum the preschools in your area offer. Not all preschools follow the same curriculum, so you might be surprised to discover the change in philosophy and teaching methods that vary from school to school.
A good curriculum advocates good behavior and critical thinking along with teaching your child the basics of what they’ll learn in kindergarten. The curriculum should have a holistic approach, helping your child combine learning with fun every day.
Moreover, having a balanced curriculum will make your work easier when it comes to preparing your child for kindergarten. Different preschools follow different approaches when it comes to teaching methods and philosophies. The main approaches are:
This approach is ideal for those children who require extra assistance and attention. Under this approach, the teacher first teaches your child a lesson, then helps them complete it.
The high-scope approach is considered to be one of the more advanced teaching methods for young children. This is mainly because this approach involves allowing the child to choose their plan for the day and the topics they’d like to cover.
In other words, the kids run the show when it comes to the high-scope approach.
The Montessori method or approach to teaching is aimed towards enhancing your child’s natural ability to develop their social, physical, and psychological well-being.
On the most basic level, this method allows your child to express their individuality within limits set by their teachers. However, there is no limit regarding learning pace, which makes this method so popular.
The Waldorf method or approach focuses on improving the learning experience through analytical activities. Advocates of this approach support the notion that learning is incomplete if it relies only on reading or theoretical knowledge.
Waldorf supports the idea that encouraging analytical thinking and using their imagination will allow your child quicker and better than they would with other traditional methods.
Get to Know the Teachers
Even though it has a more relaxed, informal environment, a preschool is still a school in the most basic sense. Therefore, you must find out the qualifications of the teachers who will be in charge of teaching your child.
Getting to know the teachers and their qualifications will give you all the assurance you’d need that your child will be in good hands. Most reputed preschools ensure that their teachers participate in training sessions regularly to update and enhance their skills.
Opting to send your kid to one such preschool will help ensure they receive nothing but the best in terms of education.
Consider the Fees
Preschools can be expensive, so you’ll need to consider whether or not the fees you’re being charged are worth the facilities your child will receive. Having said that, I’d also like to point out here that you don’t necessarily have to send your child to an expensive preschool to help them receive a quality education.
There are a lot of preschools out there that can offer children holistic learning with only the most basic facilities. Such schools generally have experienced, qualified staff and can afford to have fewer facilities since their teacher’s quality can make up for it.
To avoid choosing a preschool, you think is perfect for your child only to find out it’s too costly for you, make sure you sort out preschools by cost before you make a decision.
Observe the Environment
Either observe for yourself or talk to any parent that has a child attending the preschool you have your eye on to ascertain the general atmosphere and environment of the place. Do the children seem happy? Are the teachers kind and caring? Are the parents comfortable approaching the teachers?
These are just a few questions you’ll need to answer before you enroll your child in a preschool. Since your child will be spending a large portion of their time in preschool every day, it’s important to discover the kind of environment you’ll be sending your child into.
Some preschools even offer your child a trial class before they get enrolled. If you have the option to do so, take it up. At the end of the trial class, ask your child about whether or not they enjoyed their day and whether they’d like to go back.
Children are quite perceptive, so don’t be surprised if your kid can express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction clearly when you ask them to do so.
Enquire About the Discipline Policy
Preschool doesn’t just involve setting the foundation for kindergarten in your child’s learning process. It’s not just about helping your child make friends or pass the time either.
One of the most important aspects of sending your child to preschool is getting them to follow a disciplined schedule and inculcate discipline into their everyday lives. A good preschool has clear rules outlining what your children can do, wear, eat, etc., and sees to it that these are followed strictly.
Teachers should be able to teach their students about positive discipline in terms of their life at home and life outside as well. At the end of their preschool journey, your child should be well aware of the words they can use in social situations, how they should behave around elders and people their age, and much more.
Such lessons should be imparted gently, with no harsh punishments being meted out to prove a point. If a teacher has to resort to harsh or severe punishments to teach your child about discipline, you’ve picked the wrong preschool.
Ensure They Have Balanced Activities
No child enjoys an entire day of studying or sitting in the same place for hours together. A preschool curriculum should be flexible enough to allow your child time to study, have fun, and take a rest when they need to.
Reliable research has shown time and time again that allowing children to use their imagination to play freely is one of the best ways for them to learn. Your child’s brain development and learning processes will significantly benefit from having time to play with their peers.
Also, having them play with their fellow students allows them to learn social skills and foster friendly behaviors as well. It will teach your child to appreciate the value of friendship and making social connections in general.
Moreover, having them play together allows children how to share as well. A good preschool has teachers supervise – but not dictate – playtime that’s been given to the students. Ideally, a teacher shouldn’t interrupt the children unless any of them indulge in unacceptable behavior.
Also, most preschools allow children time to nap during the day as well. Growing children require much more sleep than adults do, so it makes sense to allow children a dedicated nap time to give their body the rest it needs.
Well, that’s that – some basic but important tips to consider before you chose a preschool for your kid. As I mentioned earlier, your child will be spending a precious amount of time in preschool, so you should ideally take every effort to ensure they’re receiving the best education you can afford.
While it may be difficult to get your child to attend preschool at first, they may soon grow to love it if it has the right kind of environment. Remember that your child’s satisfaction is paramount here, so if you find your child showing signs of bad behavior after they start attending preschool, get to the bottom of it the right way.
After all, attending preschool should be nothing less than a safe, enriching, and fun experience for your little one.