Touring a Preschool for Your Child
You're feeling that your toddler needs more stimulation and peer contact than he or she gets at home or in day care. But how does a parent find the right preschool? Many local parents are raving about Happyland, Village Tree, Montessori, and Home Sweet Home. But what is it about these preschools and other facilities that make parents and children smile?
Take a tour of at least three preschools and arrive with a list of questions.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
Every preschool has their own style. Does the school have a vision or mission? What is the teaching philosophy? Montessori and Waldorf have well documented philosophies. But each school has its own spin on what's important. For example, is teaching reading a high priority? Or is there more focus on peer interaction and social skills? Some styles are focused on teaching more academically or some more play-based. What is the daily curriculum and how much does it vary from day to day?
There are things you'll need to be aware of day to day to see if it's a good fit for you and your child. Is nap time part of each day? What is the earliest time that a child can be brought to school and what is the latest they can be picked up at the end of the school day? Does the school charge for late pickups and how much?
While preschoolers aren't exactly learning rocket science yet, it's good to be aware of the quality of care. What are the credentials and experience of the teachers and teacher’s aides? What is the staff turnover? Which teacher has been at the school the longest and for how many years? What is their experience with physical and developmental disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum? Are teachers allowed to administer medication? Are they trained to handle medical emergencies and other situations such as earthquakes?
How is behavior and discipline handled at school ? Is discipline positive? Does it involve redirection? Are teachers and staff respectful of students and their families? In class, do the children sit at tables or desks or on the carpet or do they run wild around the classroom? How much time is spent outdoors at school? Is staff receptive to receiving feedback and input from parents?
Some schools have a built in co-op style, and others are less hands-on for parents. How involved are parents in curriculum planning at school? Do parents volunteer at school? What is the expectation for parent involvement?
It's always good to get a vibe on the school's student population to get a sense if your child will thrive in that environment. Who are the other students? How many children are in the classroom, and what is the adult to child ratio? How old is the oldest student in class, and how old is the youngest? Must a child be potty-trained? Does the school help with potty training? Are their resources for children with special needs or exceptional abilities?
Diet & Allergies
These days a lot of kids require special attention in the form of diet and allergies. How are special diets such as kosher, vegan or gluten-free dealt with for snacks and lunchtime? Are healthy snacks served such as fruits and veggies, or are sugary cookies and crackers part of snack time? Some schools offer lunch programs, and it's worth asking about if that is an option.
Illness & Cleanliness
Usually schools have very clear policies on illness. It's good to find out a school's specific guidelines on when it's ok to send your child to school or not. What if a classmate has a communicable disease such as measles or chicken pox? And are there policies in place for unvaccinated students? If a classmate has head lice, are other parents notified, or does it stay private? Are tables and work areas sanitized during the day especially after eating snacks or lunch?
Some schools have a waitlist and it's usually good to find out right away is this will be an issue with your timeline. Find out, too, if there is a registration fee and if it's non-refundable. Also, what is tuition? And do they offer half-day, full day, and partial or full week? Many of the bigger preschools have a tuition based on which schedule you choose. Some schools like La Playa and Free to Be Me offer strictly half day preschool, but tuition may still vary based on how many days a week you attend. If you have kids close in age, always find out if there's a discount for multiple kids attending.
Christina Moreno, Director of Home Sweet Home Preschool and Toddler Discovery Center in Culver City, offers up the following wisdom to parents scoping out the right preschool: “When arriving at a school tour take in the environment around you, does it feel comfortable and inviting? Listen…do you hear the buzz of children at play or do you hear the teacher’s voice above everything else? Do the children appear to be happy and carefree? Can you picture your child spending everyday in this environment? Trust your mommy instinct, your first impression is usually right on!”
To scope out some of the local preschools, check out Great Schools.