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Picking a Preschool

How to find a perfect fit for your child

March 8, 2010
By Jacqueline Bodnar

The time of year is once again here when parents with toddlers begin their search for a good preschool. Finding the right preschool can make a world of difference for both the child and the parent. Making a good connection can help children thrive, learn and enjoy their day. It can also bring comfort and peace of mind to parents, who may be a little leery about sending their children off in the first place.

Choosing a good preschool program largely comes down to doing some important homework before making a decision.

Beyond Liking It

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Simply liking the preschool may not be enough. Friendly staff and affordable prices are not the sole factors that make up a good preschool. If a quality preschool experience is not provided, it may not be as beneficial as parents would like. The National Institute for Early Education Research reports that the quality of early education significantly influences a child's academic and social development.

On that same spectrum, they report that a high-quality early childhood program can benefit children well into adulthood. Therefore, it's important that parents seek out a quality preschool program, one that is likely to bring lasting benefits to their child.

So where do you begin your search for a quality preschool program? Start by compiling a list of referrals from family and friends. Find out where their children went, and listen carefully to the feedback of what they liked and didn't like.

Fact Box

Questions to ask may include the goals of the program, the philosophy of the school, licensing, and the qualifications of the teachers.

Beyond what the parents liked, it's also beneficial to see how the children fared in the process. Children should enjoy the experiences and relationships they build in the classroom.

They should also feel respected, nurtured and challenged. Classroom experiences should be filled with conversations, experiments, reading and projects. They should also have the chance to explore more deeply, when motivated by their natural sense of curiosity.

Teacher Quality

When evaluating a preschool, one key factor will be the qualifications of those teaching the children. The National Institute for Early Education Research recommends that quality preschool programs employ teachers who have a four-year college degree and have received training in early childhood education. They also recommend that a curriculum be used that sets specific goals and expected outcomes, and that the students be regularly assessed as to their progress, with necessary adjustments being made as a result of those assessments.

It is also important to be sure the preschool that is licensed by the state.

Once parents have compiled a list of good preschool options, they should arrange for a meeting with those in charge and take a tour of the grounds. If they can, they should spend roughly 30 minutes observing the classrooms there, to get a good sense of what is taking place. They should be given the opportunity to tour the rooms and see the school's day-to-day procedures in progress.

It will be handy to take a checklist of questions along so nothing is forgotten. Questions to ask may include the goals of the program, the philosophy of the school, licensing, and the qualifications of the teachers.

Children should look forward to going to preschool each day. Parents need to feel they have made a quality decision with the school they have chosen.

Doing a little legwork prior to selecting a school can go a long way toward making.


National Institute for Early Education Research. High Quality Preschool: Why We Need It and What It Looks Like. March 2003. 1.pdf

Jacqueline Bodnar is a freelance writer who lives in Port Orange, Fla. with her husband and two children.



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