Choosing a preschool for your child to attend for the year or two before starting primary school can be daunting. Where should I send them? How do I know if they will enjoy it? Will they be safe? What exactly am I looking for?
The following are some points to remember when looking for a preschool that will suit you and your child.
Visit the preschool WITH your child.
Visiting the preschool with your child allows you to assess it from both perspectives.
If the preschool invites you to call during ‘working hours’, accept their offer as this is the ideal time to observe the interaction between the adults and children. Alternatively, the preschool may host a ‘Meet the Teacher Day’. Watch how the adults speak to the children…
Do they get down to the child’s level?
Is the child listened to?
Does the child enjoy this interaction?
Look at the wall displays
Do they seem child friendly e.g. are they at child’s eye level?
Is child’s own work displayed?
Do the wall displays convey a variety of themes/projects covered by the class?
Is there an obvious freedom in the child’s art work (as opposed to each artwork being a carbon copy of the next)
Look at the variety of play areas in the room(s)
Can you see different areas in the room that the children spend their time in at preschool? These would include areas for:
Art and craft
Group play and discussions
Pretend play area.
Is there a place where your child can relax and unwind?
There will be times when your child will want to pull back from the group and just chill for a while. If there is an area where this is possible, he/she will have the time to process situations and rejuvenate enough to get back into mixing with their buddies again.
Check out the outdoor policy
It is important that your child gets a chance to get outside at least once a day, especially if they are attending a full day service. Have a look at their outdoor area to see if it safe and secure with plenty of space to run, climb and chill out.
Is there emphasis put on : Learning through play & Social and emotional development?
Social and emotional development is enriched when children have plenty of time to interact with their peers freely, under the watchful eye of a caring adult who will guide and encourage appropriately. Check with the preschool about time for free play (i.e. when children choose their own activities) versus structured group time. Outside of meal times, free play time should last more than structured time (under the guidance of the right adult, this is where they will learn more).
Also, take note of child-led activities. This is where a project (big or small) is determined by the chldren’s interests and not only what the teacher thinks they should be focusing on. There should be a mix of both. When there is sufficient child-led projects or activities, this will naturally evoke a love of learning.
A love of learning, as well as the social skills learned by mixing with peers, will help the child with their academic learning in the future.
Ask some scenario questions
Ask questions about issues that you may be worried about. Asking all your ‘What happens when…’ questions will help you to get an understanding of the personality of the preschool and the adults in it. Though all preschools must follow certain curriculums and frameworks, they are run by individuals with various personalities and strengths and passions. The more questions you have answered, the better idea you will have about whether the preschool suits you and your family.
Remember that no question seems daft to a seasoned preschool teacher 🙂