The months have flown by as fast as every parent said they would, and even though it still feels to you like your child should only be a newborn, the time has come to begin looking at preschools. You may be wondering if you should go with the free public preschool you might have access to or if you should spring for a private preschool which may be a higher quality.
If you want to give your child the best early start you can, but you aren’t quite sure what to look for in a quality preschool, don’t worry about it. We’ve got your back, and we have all the information you need to wow your partner with your insightfulness about selecting a preschool. You’ll look like Father of the Year and learn how to spot a good preschool. That’s a double win.
Look at the Kids’ Faces
A preschool can look great on paper and you can easily be fooled by seemingly overenthusiastic adults. But the one thing that can’t pull off a lie no matter what is a kid’s face. Young kids don’t have poker faces. You’ll see everything you’ll need to know about that school by doing an onsite visit and paying attention to the kids you walk by.
Do they seem to be having fun? Or do they look like you do on a Monday morning after you’re headed back to work after a too-short weekend? Do they seem engaged with what they’re doing, or do they seem to be bored? The reactions are telltale signs as to how your child will feel about that preschool too.
Young children have turned wandering or running off into an art form. They can give people the slip before anyone even knows they’re missing. It’s a scary, but impressive, talent when you think about it. It’s bad enough when your child does that at home, but it can become twice as problematic when they do it at preschool.
You’ll want to make sure the school has great security measures in place to stop your child from wandering outside, like having a playground enclosed with a fence. And while you’re at it, check to make sure people have to be buzzed in the front door before they’re allowed to enter the building. While you don’t want anyone wandering out, you also don’t want strangers coming in without permission.
A good preschool will offer a child more than a chance to stretch their minds – they should also get to stretch their legs. If children don’t have a designated play area outside where they can get some fresh air and work their muscles, you should keep looking for another alternative.
With childhood obesity still a major problem in this country, getting some exercise time during the day is a priority for children. Plus, it’s fun for them and can build their confidence as well when they learn how to master the playground equipment. Remember what a big deal it was when you finally made it across the monkey bars at the playground when you were a kid? Your child deserves to have that kind of challenge and feel that pride too.
Look at the Walls
Do the walls look plain and bare like the preschool just moved into the building? If so, that preschool might not put enough emphasis on education. A good preschool shouldn’t just be a daycare – they should be striving to teach children the basics they’ll need for kindergarten like letter recognition and socialization.
A good preschool will have items of interest on the walls to keep a child stimulated because when that child’s eyes wander as they undoubtedly will, they’ll be learning something and staying engaged.
Do the Teachers Read?
It doesn’t matter if your child knows how to read yet. Even if they don’t, and most won’t at this age, they still benefit from being read to by an adult. They’re taking in information about language and its usage, the tone of voice, and the variety of expressions used by the teacher as they read the book.
Research shows that children benefit greatly from being read to, even as early as during infancy. To give them even more exposure, make sure you keep reading to them at home, even when they’re in a good preschool that’s doing their part during the day.
Rely on Word of Mouth
There are no tougher critics of a school than the parents of the children who go there. See if you know any parents who use the preschool you’re considering and ask them what they think of it. Ask your friends which preschool they use for their children.
If you’re still stumped, consider calling the school where your child will go to kindergarten and ask the principal if he or she knows of any good preschools in the area.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.