Choosing the right preschool for your child

It is that time of year when parents are starting to make decisions about where to send their child to preschool.

If you are new to sending your child to preschool, you need to know that it is important to start looking for a place early and to get on a list. Quality preschool programs can fill up rather fast and then you are left scrambling to find another place to go.

If you are looking for a preschool, you may be wishing you had a check list of questions to ask or things to do so I am going to do my best to give you a little help.

Step One

The first thing you will need to know are the basic logistics of the preschool programs in your area. It is a good idea to check out more than one preschool and compare the information. 

Find Locations:  Find out the location of the preschools in your area that are a convenient driving distance for you.

Get Referrals: Ask other parents where they send their children to preschool and to tell you what they like about their child’s preschool. The reasons they give may influence your decision to send or not send your preschooler to the same school.

Make Contact: Contact a few preschools in your area and ask the following questions…

  1. What age does my child need to be to enter your preschool program?
  2. What days of the week do ___ year olds attend your preschool?
  3. What time does preschool begin and end each day?
  4. Do you have extended or after preschool hours (if this is needed)?
  5. What will the tuition rate be for my ___ year old?
  6. When is tuition due?
  7. Is tuition due weekly, monthly, annually?
  8. What other expenses will be involved in addition to tuition throughout the school year?
  9. Will the children go on “out of school” fieldtrips?
  10. Will the preschool provide snack or will this be the parent’s responsibility?
  11. How many students will be in my child’s classroom?
  12. How many teachers will be in my child’s classroom?
  13. What are the dates your preschool starts and ends?
  14. What dates are you closed throughout the year?
  15. Do you follow the same calendar as the local school systems?
  16. How do you notify parents of last minute school closings due to inclement weather or other?
  17. What are your policies about illness and keeping children home?
  18. Is your preschool licensed or certified by any agency? If so, which agencies?
  19. Do you have a website I can go to for additional information?
You may be able just to ask for an enrollment packet to get the answer to most of the above questions.

For preschools that are full you can ask…

  1. Is there is a waiting list and how do I get on it?
  2. How will I be notified if an opening comes up?
  3. What is the cost to get on your waiting list?
  4. When do you make final decisions and close or finalize enrollment?

Step Two

Once you have narrowed down your choice based on location, cost, session times and days then you will want to see if you can stop by and visit the preschool. This is a good reason to start looking before the current school year comes to an end so you can actually see the school while it is in full swing. Many preschools close during the summer and will not be available to give tours.

Visiting the preschool:

I recommend going without your child on your first visit to the preschool. This will give you the chance to check out the school and ask a few questions before introducing the preschool to your child.

  1. Call ahead and see if you can set up an appointment to see the school.
  2. Ask if you can return for a second visit and bring your child with you to visit the classroom and meet the teacher.
  3. Keep in mind that if you are visiting during school hours that the teacher may not be able to stop and chat with you for any lengthy period of time.
  4. A visit like this should be your opportunity to observe the classroom environment and to get a feel for the classroom environment as well as the personalities and teaching approach of the teachers in the classroom.

During your visit to the preschool you may wish to consider the following:

ObservationsWhat to look for…Questions (the answer should be yes!)
ArtworkThe kind of artwork that is displayed around the room.Does the artwork look child-made?
Table ActivitiesThe types of activities out on the tables.Do the activities provide opportunities for interaction, conversation, creativity, decision-making, and hands-on play or exploration?
Toys and EquipmentThe toys and equipment available for playAre there plenty of toys to keep a large group of children busy and engaged in play?Are the toys and equipment of good quality and good condition?
CentersThe types of choices (centers) made available to children through play.Is there an easel, water table, sand table, and other centers such as science, math, art, writing, books, puzzles, play dough, and blocks set up and open for play throughout the room?
Cleanliness and OrganizationThe cleanliness and organization of the environment.Are tables, chairs, toys, shelves, cabinets, floors clean and free from excess clutter?Are toys and materials organized in baskets and set out to foster decision-making, interesting choices, play, independence, and responsibility?
CubbiesCoat hooks, baskets, or shelves.Is there a place for children to store their personal belongings while at preschool that they can reach and manage independently?
ConversationsThe conversations of children and teachersIf children are present and playing in the classroom, do you hear talking, laughing, singing, asking questions, and expressing their ideas, preferences or point of view?Do you hear the teachers speaking warmly, kindly, and respectfully to the children? Do you hear teachers encouraging the children to be confident learners by inviting them to make choices, decisions, and be a part of the activities in progress?
MovementChildren at PlayDo you see children moving about the room, engaged in centers, working with their hands, exploring materials, and at play with one another?
OutdoorsThe outdoor environment.Is there an outdoor area where children can run, climb, walk, explore, climb, and participate in other types of play?

The above table provides some of the most common areas of considerations when visiting most preschool classrooms.

Questions for the teacher:

If you have a chance to talk to the teacher, then you may wish to ask the following kinds of questions…

  1. How long have you been teaching ___ year olds?
  2. How long have you been with this preschool?
  3. What kind of background in education and experience in teaching young children do you have?
  4. What is your teaching philosophy (In what ways do you believe children learn best)?
  5. What is your discipline policy? (How you will handle inappropriate behavior in the classroom)?
  6. What kinds of rules will you expect the children to follow and how will you help the children meet your expectations?
  7. What type(s) of curriculum (if any) do you follow?
  8. In what way(s) do you assess “progress”?
  9. What kinds of activities will the children do throughout the day?
  10. Do you have a daily schedule I can keep?
  11. In what way(s) do you provide parent communication?
  12. Will you be having parent/teacher conferences?
  13. How do you feel about parents visiting in your classroom (Does the teacher have an open door policy)?
  14. How do you feel about parents volunteering in your classroom? In what ways can parents volunteer to help out in your classroom?
Notice that I am not giving you right or wrong answers to the above questions. These are just for you to use as a guide in order to get a feel for the kind of program you will be sending your child to. 
The Perfect Preschool
There really isn’t a perfect recipe for helping you choose the “perfect” preschool for your child. In the end, it will be your job to find a preschool that seems to be the right fit for you and your child.  Trust your own instincts in the process and find a preschool that makes you comfortable and confident leaving your child.
It is important that you love the preschool and feel accepted and appreciated as the parent of your preschooler.  If you lack confidence in your child’s preschool, it is very possible that your child will pick up on your concerns and feel apprehensive about going to preschool.  Your child’s preschool should meet the needs of the whole child and you want to feel confident that your choice in preschool will make the early learning years for your child and your family a successful experience.

What does preschool look like?

The following is a gallery of photos I put together from my own classroom to help you visualize the preschool experience.  If you are reading my blog regularly, hopefully you are learning about the preschool experience because there is much more than I can possibly show you below! You can hover over each photo to read a little bit about what we do in preschool.

And don’t forget outdoor play!

Of course, every classroom will have its own personality, style, and design -but hopefully, this will at least give you insight as to what preschool is all about as you head out to visit preschools in your area.

My very best in your search for your next preschool.

May your preschooler have the best experience possible!


Do you have other tips?

If you have other tips for parents on what to look for when searching for a preschool, please share them in the comments below!

Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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