By Dr. Lesley M. Epstein
Finding a preschool is never an easy task. There are so many things to consider. Finding the one preschool that is right for your child will make his days enjoyable and stimulating and give you peace of mind. Choosing a preschool takes a clear set of objectives on the parents’ part, frank discussions with the preschool director, a willingness to take advice and keep an open mind, and above all, sharp eyes and questions when touring to bring a school’s true soul into view.
When you tour the preschool, there are many characteristics you should look for. As you enter the classroom, the children should be engaged in various activities as they play and learn. You should see happy, relaxed children who are socializing with other children and interacting with teachers. The classrooms need to be set up for a variety of learning areas. These learning centers will allow for small and large group activities so children are able to make choices as they learn. Learning materials and curriculum need to be tailored to the child’s age. Teachers should be involved in the children’s development by interacting and helping children learn how to learn. There should be samples of developing language, fine motor and gross motor skills and concepts. Pay attention to how the teacher talks to children and if they get down on the children’s level. Ask about the school’s philosophy of education and see if it is being followed in the class.
Notice if walls reflect a creative, child-centered curriculum. Art work should showcase the individual spirit of a child and it needn’t be perfect. Children don’t learn cookie cutter style and their work shouldn’t look the same. Classroom walls need to indicate curriculum including print, math, graphs, recipes, poetry and photographs of children and their families. Curriculum should also extend outside the classroom; ask about specialized learning such as Music classes, Physical Education, Foreign Language and Computers.When reading the daily classroom schedule, notice the balance of activities between vigorous outdoor play and quiet indoor play. Activities should allow ample time for children to work and play individually or in small groups, with the focus on activities that are child initiated as opposed to teacher directed. It is best to ask if the school is accredited and to read about that accreditation.
Preschools are run by people. Parents need to talk to the people, directors and teachers and then decide if this is the preschool for them. An educated and well-trained staff will ensure a positive, healthy preschool experience. Spend time looking and asking questions and then feeling comfortable about the choice you make as your child enters into his journey of learning.
Dr. Lesley M. Epstein, As the proud founder of Cambridge Schools™ Dr. Epstein has been actively committed to preschool education and parenting since 1972. She has served as an educational consultant for national organizations and businesses as varied as IBM, Columbia University, and The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.) Dr. Epstein has designed many cognitively based preschool programs, which are widely used and recognized as national prototypes, and she lectures at education conferences and seminars throughout the country. Dr. Epstein is widely published, having completed “Day By Day,” a daily thematic approach to early childhood education in preschools across the United States. Dr. Epstein is associated with a wide array of local, state, and national organizations, and has received numerous awards, honors, and board memberships for her exemplary work.