Thinking of where to send your child to preschool may make your head spin, and it’s no wonder. There are a lot of great options, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what the best fit will be — not only for your child, but also for your family as a whole.
To make your decision a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of five things to consider that will hopefully help you get one step closer to finding the best preschool for your child.
Location, Location, Location
It might sound obvious, but when you pick a preschool, you want to be sure the location is a good fit for your family. If you are dropping off or picking up on the way to work, is the preschool on the way? Do you want your child to develop relationships with classmates outside of school? If you choose a location close to home, it may be easier to plan playdates or activities. You will be spending a lot of time dropping off and picking up, and you want to make sure the location is practical for your family.
Consider the Schedule
Will your child be eating lunch at school? Is there a naptime built in? How does the schedule work with the needs of other family members? Programs like Parents Day Out will typically have more hours to ensure parents can get a little break during the day. Some have shorter hours, but meet daily. For kids just starting school who have not been in daycare prior, it might work well to start with a program that only meets a couple days a week. If your child needs a nap, but doesn’t nap well outside of home, you might want to consider programs with shorter days so that naptime is still prioritized.
Meet Your Child’s Learning Needs
The great thing about preschool is that it is typically play-based learning. Young kids learn as they play and interact with other children. Some schools will be more student-led, like Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools. Others will be more structured with learning centers and blocks of time carved out for different activities. Also, consider the child-to-teacher ratio. If your child is easily overwhelmed or overstimulated, you might want to go with a school that has fewer children per class.
Consider the Cost
Schools can vary greatly in cost depending on the number of hours a week your child will be in school, as well as the type of education being offered. You definitely don’t want a school that will break the bank, so make sure the monthly tuition is a good fit. Many schools also offer some form of scholarship for eligible students.
Think of Your Needs, Too
If you want to be involved in your child’s learning, schools like cooperative preschools are spectacular for parents who want to be really hands-on with their child’s education. According to Parent Cooperative Preschools International, “A parent cooperative preschool is organized by a group of families with similar philosophies who hire a trained teacher to provide their children with a quality preschool experience. The preschool is administered and maintained by the parents. The parents assist the professional teachers in the classroom on a rotating basis and participate in the educational program of all the children. Each family shares in the business operation of the school (usually a nonprofit venture), thus making it truly a cooperative venture. Parents, preschool children and their teachers all go to school together and learn together.”
Other schools have room moms and preschool boards that parents can get involved with, as well as helping with seasonal parties. Be sure to ask what the expectations for parents are and make sure it matches up with what you are wanting.
The Bottom Line
As you are looking into schools, take tours and ask questions. Make a list of your family’s needs and priorities. Talk to neighbors and friends, and find out about their preschool experiences. You can also learn about the schools and their communities through social media. The good news is that there are a lot of fantastic preschool options available. With some time and research, you will find the best preschool for your child.