Top 5 Things to Look for in a Preschool
When you’re choosing a preschool, there’s so much to consider and take into account that it can easily get overwhelming. From the environment to the requirements to the staff , there are signs of a great preschool that can be spotted with some time and research. The Creative Learning Academy knows firsthand what makes a preschool program great, so we’ve created a list of five of the most important signs that will let you know to either get away or get on the waiting list.
The curriculum of a good preschool should teach the basics you’d expect, but it should also leave some room for flexibility, allowing children to make choices about their learning. It almost sounds counterintuitive, to let three-year-olds decide what they learn, but experts have said that a structured curriculum that promotes discovery-based learning will help your child grow and stay interested. A good curriculum should involve crafts, group and individual activities, quiet time, reading, and physical activity to help improve motor skills. It should change over time with small tweaks for each child, but most importantly, the curriculum should encourage your little one’s individuality, independence, and creativity.
Most good preschools have their curriculum in a format that you can look at before you sign your child up, and they should also allow you to observe their teaching styles and how they implement that curriculum.
Great preschools will always have a positive reputation. This isn’t to say that you won’t run into the occasional angry parent or bad review, as this could result from disputes with the preschool director or the placement of a child who wasn’t a great fit for that school, but the overall opinion on the preschool should be positive. You should ask for references from the preschool, and if you have the time, visiting the preschool at pickup time will give you the opportunity to speak to parents of the children there to get their honest opinion. Pay attention to the children, too—if most of them don’t look happy to be there, it’s probably a good sign to keep looking.
Qualified teachers and caregivers will be another sign of a good preschool choice. Though it’s not required in all states, the main benefit of choosing a preschool over a nanny or babysitter is the training, so you should look for a preschool whose teachers and staff have a background in child development and at least two years of college. Training in CPR and first aid are also important certifications for a teacher or caregiver to have. If you visit the preschool and the teachers are positive, enthusiastic, well-organized, and love their job, that’s usually a sign that you’re in the right place. The teachers should ask about the children to ensure that they’re a good fit for the preschool program, and if they love what they do, it’s indicative of a low turnover rate, which means more stability for your child.
The rules of the preschool should be clearly communicated to both you and your child. It’s important your child knows what he can and can’t do, and positive reinforcement and behavior guidance are good things to look for. Pay attention to how the teachers and students interact with each other, especially in situations where a child is misbehaving or upset, to see how they handle it. A teacher yelling at a child and sticking him in time-out without otherwise addressing the issue is a red flag, as positive redirection, acknowledgement of the child’s emotions, and working through the problem calmly with the child are important parts of good discipline practices. A preschool should also have rules and regulations for you, as well, such as illness policy, how they handle emergencies, and clear operating hours.
Overall, the staff should be clear with your child on rules. A positive sign of a great preschool is a relationship of respect between the teachers and little ones, rather than wielding authority like a war-hammer to “keep kids in line.”
The final important thing to take note of is the environment the preschool provides. A good preschool will have an open floor plan to make sure the children can be seen by the teachers at all times while having plenty of room to play. Safety precautions should be evident, such as rounded corners on hard objects, covered electrical outlets, and secure storage of materials that could pose a hazard to the children, such as cleaning supplies or paint. Toys should be age-appropriate and safe. The area should be clean with clearly delineated spaces for different types of play and activities, and the furniture—like bookshelves, storage bins, and tables—should be low and within easy reach of the children so they don’t have to ask for help when getting a toy or book.
An all-around great place
In short, the top 5 signs of a great preschool include qualified and friendly teachers, a safe and accessible environment, clear rules and methods of discipline, a great reputation, and a curriculum that is stimulating, flexible, and discovery-based. The preschool program should have an open-door policy, allowing you to stop by and see your child at any time, and it should encourage you to take part in your little one’s experiences there, such as inviting you on field trips, to help with activities, and to visit when you want. Teachers should be open with you about their policies and how your child is doing, and the preschool as a whole should feel like a community, encouraging individuality, independence, and creativity. As the Creative Learning Academy knows, children are wonderful little beings who deserve attention, encouragement, and playtime, and these signs will help you find a preschool that promotes that ideal.
In Succasunna? See how we stack up to the list.
If you’re reading this, chances are that your child is approaching the grand young age of three and you’re beginning to worry about getting them into a great preschool. As parents, we know that the benefits of preschool—socialization, early learning, getting into a routine—are important to preparing your child for kindergarten, so it’s not something you want to skip out on. Finding the right preschool can be difficult, though, especially if you’re not sure if your child is ready, and looking early can better your chances of getting your child into the preschool of your dreams. The Creative Learning Academy has some factors to help you figure out when the best time to begin looking for a preschool is.
Is your child ready?
Something parents tend not to think about is whether or not a child is actually developmentally ready for preschool. Most preschools accept children at the age of three, sometimes two and half, but just because they hit that age range doesn’t mean they’re suddenly ready to go to preschool. It’s important to keep track of your child’s development to make sure they can handle the environment and being around other children and caretakers.
For instance, a certain level of independence is generally expected from children in preschool, such as being potty-trained, having the ability to wash hands when needed, and being able to eat lunch without assistance. They should have some experience being away from you, as well as playing with other children in a group setting. If they’re used to routines and schedules, they’ll be well-suited for preschool, but if one day is different from the next, then trying to get them on a more stable routine will help better prepare them for preschool.
Be sure to talk to prospective preschools and see what will be expected of your child. It’s okay if your young one is not quite ready, as there are steps you can take to help. It would be upsetting or difficult for your child if she is sent to preschool when she just isn’t ready for it yet.
What size town do you live in?
The size of your town and the demand for and number of preschools will also play a role in how early you should begin looking. In larger towns full of kids and eager parents, good preschools that won’t burn through your wallet often have long waiting lists and few spots available. If you’re in a smaller city, though, you might luck out and have a few good options with shorter waiting lists and more spots. Larger cities that have a limited number of great preschools will mean that you should start looking as early as you can. Most preschools begin their academic year in August or September, which means you should start looking in December or January of the winter before your child will start preschool—if not sooner. As for smaller towns, starting to look in the January before your child is set to start preschool is probably a good idea, but it won’t narrow your choices quite as much as in a big city if you’re still trying to decide if your child is ready. The key is to start looking early, and if you end up on a waiting list, check back regularly to let them know you are genuinely interested in the preschool program .
Start looking early
Once your child hits two years of age, it wouldn’t hurt to start casually poking around your town and seeing what preschool options are available. Ask about requirements for the children they accept, and look into their waitlist—finding out how many people are on it and how long the wait is will let you know how early you need to apply. Check with other parents around you and see what preschools they love, and ask them when they started looking and applying, as that will usually give you a good indicator as well.
Great preschool programs like the Creative Learning Academy can be hard to find because reputation through word-of-mouth keeps spots full, negating the need to advertise. Give yourself ample time to research the best preschools. You’ll appreciate the effort when your child and you both fall in love with a great place.
Live in Succasunna? Call and ask about our waiting list.