Question: We're thinking about putting our child in preschool two or three days a week. There are so many options to choose from, and it's hard to know who we can trust. What should we look for in choosing a suitable preschool or play group for our daughter?

Answer:

As in any situation in which you leave your child in someone else’s care, your primary concern for a potential preschool experience will be that it is safe, beneficial for your child and enjoyable. Here are some thoughts and questions to bear in mind as you consider the possibilities.

Your preschool check-list

  • What is the basic outlook or world view of the school? Do the teachers and administrators share your values, or will what you teach at home be undermined by the day’s events at school?

  • Do the teachers have special training in working with small children? How long have the teachers been employed there? A high turnover rate among the staff should raise some concerns.

  • How many children will be assigned to each teacher? In general, the smaller the classes or groups, the better.

  • Are the facilities safe and sound? Are staff members trained to handle an emergency? Is there a reasonable level of cleanliness? If the school accepts children who are not toilet trained, are the changing areas adequately separated from other activities, especially food-handling?

  • Is the school endowed with an adequate supply of toys, games, crafts and other equipment? Does the day’s schedule include free playtime as well as structured activities?

  • What is the school’s policy regarding children who are ill? Do you notice kids with runny noses and hacking coughs running around with the others? If sick children are not sent home, you might see a dramatic increase in the number of colds and other illnesses your child develops.

  • What is the school’s approach to discipline? What measures will be taken if your child misbehaves? Do you agree with them?

  • Does your child know any of the children in the school? Sometimes a familiar face can make a transition into an unfamiliar environment much easier.

  • Does the staff mind if you drop in from time to time to see how things are going? Do they encourage parents to be involved with the school? Think twice if a school is resistant to parental visits or participation, which should be welcomed. A school and a child’s parents should be teammates, not competitors.

  • Do you know other families who use the school? Some candid input from graduates of the facility can be very useful when you are deciding whether or not to send your child there.

  • Do you see a real heart for children among the administrators and teachers? Fancy learning programs are far less important at this age than a genuine interest in your child’s well-being.

Excerpted from The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 1997, 2007, Focus on the Family.

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