It’s no secret that finding quality care for your little tyke can be a daunting task. It can be downright nerve-wracking to send your child somewhere else to receive care. You want to make sure they are in the best hands possible, while also staying within the confines of your budget. Not only that, but the location will also play a large role in your decision. While choosing a preschool that best suits the needs of your child may be difficult, you can make it a bit easier on yourself by taking the following points into consideration.
1. Your Child
While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s actually quite common to make this decision based on how best the preschool meets your needs. It may be the price point that’s best for you or the location. While you absolutely should take these things into consideration when choosing a preschool, you should also consider how well your child will do in the environment. A child that’s extremely sensitive to stimulation, for example, may do better in a gentle, soothing environment. Some children thrive with a majority of unstructured free time as opposed to a rigid schedule. Conversely, other children need that structure in order to feel comfortable.
Take into account the type of environment your child does best in and try to find a preschool to match their needs. It will be much easier for both you and your child if the school is a good fit from the start.
2. The Location
Choosing a location that is convenient for you and your child is an important factor. While parents are willing to travel incredible distances to make sure their children are getting the “right” education, there can be harmful consequences for choosing a school that’s too far away. Is it really feasible to commute an hour each way to get your child to and from school? How will the commute affect other important areas of your life, such as family time? Will your child be able to get enough sleep while still getting up early to get ready in the morning? Creating a stressful routine at home just so your child can go to “the good school” may actually cause unintended damage for both yourself and your kiddo.
3. The Teachers
If you’re able to see the teachers at work, this will really help you to know if the school is a good fit for your child. Hopefully, you’ll see a teacher that genuinely enjoys interacting with the children and is warm and friendly. Getting on the child’s level when explaining important points is a great sign of an empathetic teacher. Conversely, a teacher that is just standing on the sidelines without interacting much with the children probably isn’t what you’re looking for. Schools like Little Sunshine’s Playhouse value preschool teachers as professional educators, not just paid babysitters. Look for a school that treats its teachers well and rewards them for doing a good job.
Another point to consider when choosing a preschool is how the teachers handle conflict within the classroom. A good teacher will strive to guide children instead of just punishing them. Consider how the teachers handle discipline and determine if their strategy aligns with the needs of your child and the values of your family.
4. The Outdoor Play Space
Children that are in preschool should be provided plenty of time outdoors to play and learn. According to the Child Mind Institute, kids who play outdoors are ” smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious,” than kids who spend most of their time indoors. The average child today spends over seven hours in front of a screen and just a few minutes outside each day. While our tendency to spend more time indoors has increased with the progression of technology, children’s needs haven’t changed when it comes to playing outside. Inquire about how much time your child will have outside to play each day. The right mix of structured and unstructured play will help you determine which school will best suit your needs.
5. The First Impression
As their parent, your first impression carries a lot of weight when it comes to what’s right for your child. If you visit a preschool and your gut tells you it isn’t the right fit, don’t ignore that. Many times a preschool may “check all the boxes,” but if something feels off it’s best to heed your intuition instead of talking yourself into a school that won’t work out in the long run. If you don’t feel like the environment is a welcoming space, it’s likely that your little one will feel that way too.
When it comes to choosing a preschool, make sure to ask lots of questions and go with your gut feeling. Keep the needs of your child in mind and watch the teachers interacting with the students if you can. Also, make sure to ask your child about their observations and how they feel about the space. Making a decision together can help make the choice fun and less stressful.