Eenie, Meenie … A Better Way to Choose a Preschool
Selecting a preschool is an important decision. You are entrusting this school to help your child develop a love of learning and prepare your child for the demands of primary school. With so many preschools to choose from, it can be difficult to wade through all the options.
Start by touring as many preschools as possible to get a feel for the different philosophies. It’s important to see a center in action. You may go in thinking a Montessori program is what you want and come out thinking you are more in line with a play-based program. Your “parental gut” should be the ultimate barometer on which preschool will be right for your child and your family.
Keep these questions and tips in mind when vetting a preschool:
• Is there an emphasis on social and emotional development? Social and emotional skills are what most affect school adjustment. A child who is confident can work independently, regulate emotions, interact positively with peers, problem solve, follow directions and communicate wants and needs; it is this child who will have a more successful entrance into primary school than children who do not build their social and emotional skills at the preschool level. Eenie, Meenie … A Better Way to Choose a Preschool
• What does the classroom look like? Are there many different “interest areas?” Are they distinct from one another? A well-intentioned preschool will have many ways to play, such as a dramatic play area, block area, library, writing center, science corner and more. Children need choices to address their individual learning styles and temperaments.
• Does the classroom showcase the children’s artwork? Doing this lets the kids know their work is important and meaningful. Also, look for diversity in the artwork. For example, if a child draws a picture of a face and puts an eye where the mouth would go, that’s okay! If a child chooses to put only a nose on a face, that’s okay too. He is a minimalist! This reflects a child’s individual creativity and learning style. Remember that it is about the process, not the finished product!
• Is the preschool’s curriculum creative and emergent? A creative and emergent approach to curriculum allows teachers to design lessons around the children’s interests. When children are engaged, they are excited, curious and intensely involved in learning experiences that are meaningful to them.
• Get the preschool directory and call a few of the parents. A beautiful website and marketing materials do not make an excellent preschool. A few referrals from existing parents are priceless!
Ask yourself what overall skills are important for your child to have to be successful in school? Here are some skills and traits that are important to me as a parent:
• Be a good friend
• Regulate emotions
• Creative and humorous
• Love learning
• Think critically
Whichever preschool you choose, make sure you are comfortable communicating with the directors of the center and the teachers in the classroom. Communication in the parent-teacher partnership is key to your child’s early development!
Diane Stata-Heintz is executive director at The Children in the Shoe Child Care Centers and Preschools. She lives in Chevy Chase with her husband, Jon Heintz, and their three young children.