If you’re like many working parents, you have likely had to put your trust in a preschool to care for or educate your child. Whether you are away for a typical full-time workweek, or simply need someone to help care for and enrich your child while you run errands, you’ve likely spent countless hours researching the best options for your child. However, after scanning reviews online, talking to other parents, and reading any orientation materials provided by your child’s school, you may still be left wondering if you’ve made the right choice. Luckily, by learning to recognize some signs of a good preschool, you can feel more confident in knowing whether you’ve found a good fit for your child and your family.
1. Condition and Location of the Facilities
Before you even step foot inside your child’s school or daycare, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the location of the facility, cleanliness of the premises, and general upkeep of the surrounding area. If you immediately feel uneasy due to maintenance issues such as unkempt lawns, trash that has not been disposed of properly or poorly lit walkways, it is understandable that you may question the facility’s attention to detail. In addition, if the facility is in a neighborhood or area surrounded by heavy traffic, vandalism, or other major concerns, it’s likely that this would cause concern for any parent. Regardless of whether you are considering a home-based daycare or a larger-scale option such as Little Sunshine's Playhouse it is understandable that you and your child should feel at ease with the overall condition indoors and outdoors, and how the facilities are managed in general.
2. Teaching Style
These days, a childcare facility or preschool is not just seen as a place to supervise children while parents are away. Instead, many parents expect that their child will experience educational enrichment by qualified professionals. This includes motor development, socialization, opportunities to practice speaking and listening, music and movement, and even basic concepts in other core subjects. With the sheer amount of learning opportunities your child will have, it is important that you are comfortable with an educator’s classroom management style. For example, it’s helpful to recognize if your child’s teachers utilize the typically-favored authoritative style, or if they tend to use more authoritative or permissive approaches.
3. Developmentally-Appropriate Materials
A major component of the education process is the type of learning materials that students have access to. Regardless of the age or stage of your child, the facility you choose should have both educational and play materials that are physically safe, accessible, and mentally stimulating. For example, you might notice that an area for infants may have a variety of books and objects that are soft enough and easy for tiny hands to grasp, or high-contrast colors that appeal to their developing vision. In comparison, an area dedicated to preschoolers may have more advanced climbing structures for gross motor development, board books with short phrases for building vocabulary and crafting supplies for young artists. In addition, if your child has special needs, it is important that your caregiver demonstrates the accommodations they will be able to make for your child.
4. Multimodal Learning Opportunities
Over the years, educators have become more attuned to the fact that no two learners are the same. Since intelligence cannot be evaluated and demonstrated in just one way, it’s important that the preschool you choose provides different modes of teaching and evaluation. Whether your children are visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners, a combination of multiple, or something in between, having a school that provides multimodal learning opportunities can help give them the confidence to learn and express themselves.
Even if the preschool you choose seems to have ticked every checkbox on your long list of what you believe constitutes a quality school or daycare, it can feel worthless if you don’t have a rapport with the people you trust with your child. While this may take time to develop, there are some early indicators along with your intuition that can help you decide if you’ve made the right choice. For example, if your child looks forward to school most days and seems genuinely comfortable with a caregiver or educator in addition to regularly demonstrating new skills that they’ve picked up in class, that can be a positive indicator that you’ve found a good fit for your child. Parents should also feel comfortable in sharing concerns, asking questions, and even dropping by as needed if there are any major issues as long as it does not disrupt the classroom. Facilities that are transparent by sharing information regularly with parents as well as encouraging volunteer opportunities for parents can also be promising signs.
With all the options available today, it can feel overwhelming wondering if you’ve made the right choice for education or childcare. However, by being an informed and aware parent guided by both knowledge and intuition, it certainly is possible to set your child up for success and give yourself peace of mind.