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Choosing a high quality preschool program for your child can be a daunting task. When presented with many choices, all presented with great toys, friendly tours and comparable prices, how can you make the best choice? Well, look no further. Read on to find out the qualities of a good preschool program.
There are two things you want to do when you are searching for a with the qualities of a good preschool program in mind–know what to look for and know what questions to ask. Let’s start with knowing what to look for.
What to look for:
- Staff who are on the floor, playing and interacting with the children in a warm, positive way.
- Look for child art work displayed at their level. This artwork should not all look the same! You should be able to tell that the kids really did the artwork themselves.
- Clear separate areas in the classroom–for example, the block area should be clearly defined and separate from the art area.
- Check for a literacy rich environment. This doesn’t just mean a great reading area (which is awesome!), but there should be lots of opportunities for reading and writing throughout the entire classroom. Look for things such as items labeled, an art area and a writing center and books in various areas throughout the classroom.
- Stay long enough so that you can see how staff handles children who are engaged in a conflict. Does the staff get down on their level and help them problem solve or does the staff yell and tell the children to go play elsewhere? Learning how to problem solve in social situations is really important for preschoolers!
- A secure site with safety procedures to make sure only approved people are picking up your child and staff who welcomes adults as they walk into the room.
- Watch the students. No one will give you a better indication of whether or not the school is a positive environment than the children themselves.
What to ask:
- Ask about the curriculum the center uses. You want to make sure they are using a play based, child centered curriculum. That is what is developmentally appropriate for preschoolers–your preschooler will have years and years for worksheets later in life!
- Although this doesn’t mean everything, ask about accreditations. Many state have accreditations and there are also national accreditations for programs to strive for.
- There are a couple questions to ask about staff. Staff turnover speaks volumes about how a program works. Ask about how long the staff has been working for the center. Also ask about staff certification and education level. Lastly, ask about staff to child ratio and how their center’s ratio compares to the state’s ratio.
- Ask how often they have parent/teacher conferences and what developmental appropriate method is used to show growth and set goals.
- You want to know about things such as meals, snacks and naps. It’s important to know whether the center provides food and how these things fit and work for your family.
- What type of yearly schedule and hours does the center follow? Some centers are only open during the school year, on school days. Others are open all year. Once again, you have to figure out what your family’s needs are. Are you looking for a half day, school year program to serve as a transition to kindergarten or a year round quality preschool program while you’re working? Whatever the case, make sure you find the program that works for you!