I asked myself, how do I find preschools near me? And what do I ask? Finding the right preschool for a child will surely be a difficult search, especially if you consider the fact that a lot depends on your choice; after all, you want to make sure your child will spend time in a nurturing, healthy and educative environment. This means that you should be thorough with your research and keep an eye out for important details. You can start by checking local parenting magazines or the Internet and by asking other families for referrals, since most people won’t recommend a place unless they really like it. By using basic factors such as the cost or the distance to work or to home, you can narrow your list down to just a few choices. Here’s what comes next…
Making the call
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to only a few choices, you can continue your search by giving each preschool a phone call. Over the phone, you can ask a few preliminary questions – the ages of the children, whether or not the school is licensed and/or accredited, as well as the teacher-student ratio and other such details. However, you won’t really get a feel of what the preschool is like unless you pay it a visit yourself, so make sure to schedule one before you end your call.
Paying a visit – What to ask
Your next step should be visiting the preschools that are still on your list. Throughout this process, you will want to keep in mind a few details mentioned below, but most importantly, you should always pay attention to your gut feeling and observe the way teachers and directors react to your questions. Ultimately, deciding on a preschool is a very personal choice so it’s important that both you and your child feel comfortable with it.
Once you get to the preschool, you should ask the tutors and the director about everything you can think of, from hours, fees and holiday schedules to the philosophies they uphold when it comes to issues such as discipline, feeding or education. You may want to verify the preschool’s license in order to check that it is up to date and you should definitely request a schedule of the day’s activities and a copy of the school’s policy. This way, you can make sure that the school upholds a well-established set of rules, even when it comes to exceptional situations, and you will feel more comfortable entrusting your child to the school’s teachers. Furthermore, you can ask about the curriculum of the preschool, which should be stimulating for the development of your child. This means that it should include plenty of time for physical and intellectual activities, group programs, regular story times, individual activities, meals and free time as well. Furthermore, a good curriculum is one that changes over time in order to give your child the opportunity to experience new things. Finally, it would be ideal if the activities were adjusted to meet each child’s abilities and skills, as this will encourage independence and the development of your child’s individuality.
Another key detail that can provide you with useful information is the teacher turnover rate. Low turnover means that teachers are satisfied with their working place and that the preschool compensates them well, which in turn means that they are more likely to ensure stable, consistent care for your child. Especially at this age, it is important for your child to form a strong relationship with his or her teacher and this would be difficult if staff is constantly replaced. When you visit the preschool, make sure you observe how the teachers interact with the other children. They should demonstrate responsibility, experience, but also warmth and enthusiasm.
Last but not least, you should make it a point to observe whether or not the facilities of the preschool meet your cleanliness and safety requirements. Take a look around and make sure that the walls, floors and kitchen area are clean. This area should be far from the bathrooms. You can also throw a quick look at the trash cans – if they are over flowing, that’s obviously a bad sign. Safety is also of critical importance – strangers should not be able to walk in from the streets and children shouldn’t wander too far. Upstairs windows should be barred, toys and play equipment should be in good condition, while medicine or other hazardous substances should be out of reach. You might also consider finding a school with an outdoor play area, but this can be difficult to achieve in the city, so at least make sure there is plenty of indoor space.
It’s also a great idea to let your child test the preschool you have chosen. You can observe his or her interaction with the teachers, whether or not he or she enjoys the activities that are taking place or the toys available. A comfortable, warm feeling is what you are looking for!
Preparing for preschool
Now that the search for preschools nearby is finally over, you can help your little one by preparing him or her for the big day. Even for a child that has been in daycare for a while, the transition to preschool can be pretty though. For instance, your child might be worried that you are not coming back to pick them up once you drop them off at school, which is why you should never try to take your leave while he or she is not paying attention, but rather come up with a goodbye ritual that you repeat every morning. You can also give your child a head start on the skills he or she will acquire during preschool by organizing social activities with other children, by reading to them every day, by practicing listening activities or by providing art supplies at hand (such as paper, paint and crayons).
Every child is a little anxious before the first day of preschool. You should try to avoid empty cheers such as “There’s nothing to fear” and, instead, you can help your child with information. Tell him or her where they will be spending the day, what activities they will engage in and with whom. You can even read stories about the first day of school, such as Linda Leopold Strauss’ Preschool Day Hooray! Most importantly, there is almost no issue you cannot solve as long as you are close, caring, supportive and loving with your child.