Finding the right preschool for your child can be a daunting task. Curriculum, ratios, accreditation, tuition, so many things to consider. Here are some ways to find a great preschool!
Before you can head out to visit preschools in your area, you need to know what are the most important factors are. Is price a deal breaker? Do you have state assistance/vouchers? Do you need a place close to home or work? Is your child potty trained? When do you need to start care?
Why are these important? Answering these questions can help you narrow down the preschools that you visit. There is no reason to waste time visiting a school that doesn’t meet your criteria.
Make a list of things that are most important to you. Once you have a clear picture of what you need in a preschool, you can begin your search.
How do you even find a preschool? Word of mouth? FaceBook? Drive all over town? Sure, these are all viable options. Many states, like North Carolina, actually have a database online to find state licensed facilities. In NC, not only can you find schools, but you can learn about previous visits from the state (see violations), look at the preschool license (how many kids licensed for, etc) and learn more before your visit. Check with your state or county health and human services to find yours!
Now that you have a list of preschools to visit, you need to prepare for your visit.
Many schools offer tours. You can certainly stop by, which many people will suggest. Yes, you get a look at the school without them being prepared. However, you may not be able to tour, as there may not be anyone available. Typically, administrators have meetings, trainings, work in classrooms or could have other tours scheduled. I certainly do not mind people stopping by, but often I am unable to assist them due to being unavailable.
Call ahead and schedule a tour. Schools will schedule tour when you are able to see the classroom in action. You want to be able to see how the classroom flows and the teachers interact with the children.
Bring your child with you. You want to see how your child interacts with the teacher and the children. Children that are involved in picking out their school, will have an easier time adjusting.
What to ask and look for
There are things you want to look for while on your tour.
- How does the outside look? Is it clean? Maintained?
- Are there separate playgrounds for different ages?
- Does it have safety features such as fencing, locking gates or cameras?
- When you walk in is it clean? How does it smell?
- Is there information posted for families?
- What do you hear? Does it seem chaotic? Are the teachers using loud, negative tones?
- Do the classrooms look organized? Do the classroom materials have places?
- How do the children engage in the classroom?
- Is there a schedule and routine?
- Do the children know what is happening next?
- Where do the children eat? Is that place clean and orderly?
- Are the bathrooms cleaned?
Questions you should ask:
- What does the daily schedule look like?
- Are there specials such as Computer Pals, Yoga, sports, etc? Are there separate fees for these?
- What does a typical lesson plan look like?
- What is the ratio in this classroom?
- How much outside time do the children get?
- Do children need to be potty trained
- How frequent as assessments done on the children?
- How do teachers communicate with families?
- What should the child have at school every day?
- Which meals are provided? What is served?
- How do you handle picky eaters?
- What happens at drop off and pick up?
- How is discipline handled in the classroom?
- What is expected of the families?
- What holidays are you closed? Is tuition due for these days?
- How do you handle inclement weather (ice, snow, etc.)
The next step
You may know right away if this is the preschool for you or you might need to compare your options. Many schools will have paperwork or a website to visit for more information. Find out what the next step is in enrollment. Some centers may have a waitlist. Be sure that you get all your questions answered, so you can compare schools.
Talk to your child about how they felt. While the decision is ultimately yours, it is important to take your child’s feelings into consideration. If they feel uncomfortable or didn’t engage well with the other children, that could be a negative factor later.
Good luck in your search!