How to Find the Right Preschool

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By Maria T. Pepin

Choosing the right preschool for your little one can be a difficult decision. There are so many things to consider and you are probably having a hard enough time letting them go to being with. However, once you find the right one, it will definitely set your mind at ease!

Here are some great tips to get started:

* Write down a list of preschools that you are interested in checking out. Get recommendations from family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. You can also search the Internet for reviews on preschools in your area.

* Educate yourself on the different teaching philosophies that preschools may follow. These include: Waldorf, Piaget and Montessori. Each of these teaching styles works best for different children. Find out which teaching philosophy each preschool uses and decide what is best for your child.

* Make sure the preschool is licensed by the state. Ask to see a copy of their credentials. Also, if the preschool is accredited by the NAEYC- you can rest assured there will be quality learning and care for your child.

* Find out the number of children per class and the number of teachers in that classroom. There should be at least one teacher and one aid for every 12 students. If one staff member is responsible for too many students, accidents are bound to happen. The more teachers per children, the better.

* What type of curriculum do the teachers follow? Check out how the daily schedule is structured. Ask about the skills your child will learn while in preschool. Does the preschool have both active and quiet activities during the day? There should be a balance of time for motor development, creativity, peer interaction and quiet time.

* Play is important for children. Some preschools have a large area indoors where children can run and exercise if the weather is not suitable. Make sure the classrooms are clean and safe. Check outside…is there a fenced in play area? Swings, slides and sandboxes should all have childproof padding. Children should be well supervised at all times.

* Observe the preschool classrooms before signing your child up. If you can go unannounced, even better. How do the teachers interact with the students? They should be nurturing and have positive relationships. Are the teachers well trained in early childhood education? Do they have developmentally appropriate materials (books, puzzles, maps, art supplies) available for the children?

* What is the preschool’s policy on discipline? Find out what happens if your child does something wrong. Do they use time outs? While time outs may work for extreme situations, children need to learn how to work out their problems, not be isolated from them. Make sure you are comfortable with the preschool’s methods of handling conflict.

* Always trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone else and what they respond to. Does your child need structure? Perhaps a preschool that lays out the day, complete with rules and assigned activities would suit them well. Watch how your child behaves in the classroom. Do they seem relaxed and happy? If everything feels right to you… you are probably making a good decision.

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