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10 Tips to Pick the Best Preschool

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Educator Mia Pritts created the “Preschool Quality Indicator Checklist,” a list of ten quality indicators parents should look for during their search. Pritts is a childhood education expert who was in the team of preschool pioneers who started the groundbreaking campus preschool system at Google, Stanford, and Pixar.

The checklist includes:

1. License check

Only consider options that are licensed by the state regulatory agency for all center-based programs and family child care homes. These options are held to a high standard and answer to a higher authority. Ratings are documented and easily assessable.

2. The basics

Ask about hours, educational philosophy and curriculum, teacher credentials, teacher turnover rates, and guidance strategies. A program should know these details automatically without much research. If not, it’s a good sign they are not highly invested in following their own mission statement, the quality of their educators, or providing quality education.

3. Visitor policy

Take time to review the school calendar. Are there opportunities for parents to be involved via family activities, volunteer opportunities, and their visitor policy? These activities allow parents to not only be more engaged but to become more familiar with the staff of the program, the teachers that will be educating your children, and help you to become better acquainted with other parents in the program.

4. Daily schedule

If you have an infant, the program should follow the individual schedule of each baby, so that they eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, and have meaningful time with caregivers and other infants throughout the day.  The opportunity to spend time outside, even for babies, is ideal. Look for the least restrictive environment possible, where infants are not strapped into a bouncy seat the entire day and can move about and explore their surroundings.  For toddlers and preschoolers, a more structured day with a predictable schedule and routine is best, with a good amount of free play and outside time each day.  Ask where lesson plans are displayed, and how often parent-teacher conferences are held.

 




 

5. Outdoor time

Speaking of outside time, make sure to ask how often children play outside, and where they play outside (on-site yard or playground, nearby park, nature walks, etc). Ideally, they will get outside daily or even multiple times per day.

6. Quality check

Ask about any quality assessments or ratings completed by the program, or accreditation. These accomplishments can easily help indicate a high-quality environment.

7. Teacher ratios

What are the teacher to student ratios? Compare to your state regulations. Lower ratios are another indicator of a high-quality program. Ask how teachers are covered when they are on vacation, or sick – are there floating teachers employed with the program, or do they have access to a pool of substitute teachers? Having resources for staff to be out as needed will help promote a stable environment for children.

8. No yelling

Are teachers engaged with the kids? Do they kneel down to their level versus talking down to them? Can you hear the sound of happy, busy children or do you hear yelling? Look for context behind any noise and activity.

9. Mommy gut check

As a mom who also works in the early childhood education industry, Mia recommends parents go with their gut. Check how you feel when you’ve stepped into the building.

10. Televisions

A preschool program with a TV is a big no no – minus a few exceptions. This signals lack of engagement and activities for children.

The process of finding the perfect preschool can be daunting, but following this checklist will save your sanity and give you the confidence of making an informed decision on which ever center you decide to be the start of your child’s educational journey.

Wonderschool also has you covered; we keep classroom ratios low, help teachers with licensing and industry best practices , help parents easily monitor teacher’s credentials and quality assessments, and make it simple for parents to visit and get answers to their most important questions. This helps teachers focus on what they know how to do best — creating an excellent quality environment for your kids.

 

Pritts is the ‎Head of Early Care and Education at Wonderschool, a digital marketplace of boutique early child care programs that help parents find preschools.

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