Now you have the phone numbers, you’ve asked the over the phone questions, and even set up the appointment. . .what else do you need to know? The first couple of steps into the door can tell you a lot about a preschool. Here is a list of the things that I think are really important, the things that pull me in or have me running the other way.
The Visit (what to look for)
- Noise. A room full of 3-5 year olds should not be quiet! If you listen for a minute, you should be able to hear happy chatter. Children talking with one another as they paint, build and read.
- Teacher/Child interactions. While you are there discussing the preschool with the teacher, are the children interrupting you to get to her (or him)? How does the teacher react? Does she answer the child’s question, or send them off? Remember this is their turf. . .and they should feel comfortable to ask questions or request help at any time. I turned down one school because I couldn’t get past the bad feeling I left with. Not one child spoke to the teacher while I was there. Hmmm?
- Play. What type of toys are out for the children to use on their own? Building toys, pretend play items, puzzles, books?
- Art. Are the children free to do art through out the day or is it only available at a certain time? Do they include messy art? You want a YES on this one. Are the walls decorated with children’s masterpieces? There is a difference between crafts and creative art. It is important for children to experience the process of art. . .and that does not end with 12 pictures all exactly the same hanging in a neat row.
- Outside. Make sure to see the outside space. Is there enough room for the kids to move? Are there toys that promote solo play as well as cooperative play? Are there areas that are shaded? Are there any quiet spaces to sit? Fancy equipment and an extra large yard are not necessary for quality outside time.
- Business Information. There should be a license for them to practice child care hung on a wall in the school. That will inform you of their license number and a number you can call to verify they are in good standing with the state. You can also use that number to learn of any complaints that have been filed against the school.
(what to ask)
- What schedule do they follow? How long is their free play (this one should take up quite a bit of the day. . .it is how preschoolers learn!). Do they play outside everyday? How long is their group time (for most schools they will increase the time through the year, ending with longer group time just before the kids leave for kindergarten.)
- How do you discipline? When do you involve the parents? This was on the top of my list of questions with Big M. He is active, curious and can be quite a handful. I was looking for a teacher who would be allow him to be himself, but also enforce rules. I needed a teacher who would communicate with me, so we could work together to make Big M’s first school experience rewarding.
- What are your fees? Ask about tuition, when and how it needs to be paid. Is there a deposit fee? What extra fees can you expect? What are the late payment fees? Are there late pick up fees? Are there field trip fees?
- Do you have an open door policy? What I mean by that is, can a parent drop in at any time of day, without notice? If the answer is no. I would leave.
This series ended up much longer than I expected. I was hoping to leave you with all of the reasons that I chose the school that I did. Maybe next week?
Please add any tips you have for selecting a preschool!