As a parent, choosing a preschool is one of the most important decisions you can make. Getting the preschool decision correct means setting your child up for success as they start their educational journey. The right preschool can help them develop educationally, as well as emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically.
With that in mind, here are some important factors to consider when choosing a preschool:
- Educational Model, Curriculum, and Activity
- Class Size
- Nutritional Philosophy
There are some “givens” when it comes to a preschool. Cleanliness and security are two examples of factors that should be top-priority for every preschool you consider. The price of tuition and your budget are also important considerations. We consider those factors and their ramifications to be obvious so we’re not going to address them here. The factors below are considerations above and beyond the obvious.
Perhaps the most important element to consider when choosing a preschool is the educational approach. Is the preschool traditional — that is, they teach basics that will be repeated, relearned, and advanced upon when your child arrives at kindergarten and first grade? Or, does the school use a classical methodology such as Montessori, Reggio, or Waldorf? Or, perhaps the school allows your child to learn naturally, through play and self-exploration?
The best preschools take the best principles from all the models out there and form something unique to best benefit your child. Having said that, it’s important to realize that preschool models vary widely, so be sure to research and find the one that is best for you.
Curriculum & Activity
Directly related to the education model mentioned above is the curriculum a preschool uses and the activities they coordinate to enhance the curriculum experience. For example, does the preschool you are considering use a traditional curriculum that teaches traditional concepts such as learning the alphabet and numbers? Does the activity look like sitting around tables and looking at alphabet shaped numbers and letters? Or, does the curriculum have topics like “clothing” and “community helpers” to teach children educational basics through fun and practical activities?
The student-to-teacher ratio is also important when choosing a preschool. Does the location you’re considering limit enrollment and class size so that your child gets the individual, one-on-one attention they need to assure your child is thriving as they grow? Does the school have extra helpers available for high-attention times such as outdoor play, field trips, and messy lessons? Are the staff carefully selected to make sure they can provide the fun, loving, and encouraging environment your child needs, or does the facility take any warm body who can help monitor a classroom?
Class size and personnel are critical factors in selecting the best preschool.
If the facility you are evaluating provides meals and snacks, it’s important to understand their nutritional philosophy. Are they simply making sure the child has food to eat, or are they taking advantage of the meal/snack opportunity to expose children to nutritious foods. Do they leverage the food time to teach children how to make better food choices? Are the school’s food preparation staff trained in proper nutrition? Do they have a farm-to-table program where they use local, sustainable foods for your child’s nutritional needs? Do they use meal times as an educational opportunity, exposing your child to farmers, growers, and suppliers?
A great preschool will leverage every opportunity to teach your child — even though to the child it might seem like play or fun. This is especially true when it comes to food.
One very important consideration that many fail to take into account is the location of your preschool. It might seem obvious to pick a location near your residence. While a close-to-home location might be ideal, if you have a long commute to work, you will be far away from your child in the event of an emergency. Additionally, if your preschool location is closer to your work, you can spend the extra commute time with your child. We always recommend that time wisely spent with a parent is time better than time spent at a preschool conveniently located close to home.
Along with the important elements above, there are many other factors you could consider. For example, does your preschool provide field trip opportunities? Do they bring in local experts to teach and expose your children to concepts beyond the regular classroom? What types of indoor and outdoor play facilities does the preschool offer your child?
As you can see, there are many important factors to consider beyond the obvious when choosing a preschool for your child. Take a tour, talk to the directors, and observe the preschool in action before making your decision. Oftentimes, the preschool that seems most obvious from a brochure, website, or from talking to a friend might not be the most appropriate choice for your child. Aside from you and your family, this decision often has the most potential to influence your child’s early development.
At Dogwood Lane Children’s Academy, we consider it a joy and privilege to be able to walk alongside you as you make this important decision. If there is anything we can do to serve you, or if you’d like to schedule a tour of our facilities and meet some of our staff, please don’t hesitate to contact us.