Early education lays the foundation to help your child make a smooth transition from infancy through the school years. Research has found that kids who attend preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten.

Searching for the right preschool program for your child? Here’s what to look for.

A-B-C, 1-2-3

The alphabet and numbers should be a key goal for the school. Research shows preschool programs pay off in academic development. Preschools help children who are ready to advance, but they also help children catch up if they are behind. The more words learned and spoken around your child, the better, as this helps build his vocabulary.

Ask: What is the curriculum for teaching the alphabet and letters? Do expectations vary based on skill level? Are toys and books age-appropriate?

Play Time

Preschools should encourage imaginative and physical play. Free play allows children to think creatively and learn to entertain themselves. Physical play helps learning through physical experience and develop gross motor skills. A child’s muscle control develops from large, looser movements to smaller, more precise ones.

Ask: When is playtime scheduled throughout the day? Is the outdoor play area well maintained? Does the classroom have several activity areas?

Choosy Kids

Children should have the opportunity to make choices for themselves. This gives him a sense of control. Thinking or cognitive skills develop as he learns to think more complexly, make decisions and solve problems.

Ask: Will my child be allowed to choose some of his own activities during the day? What interesting materials do teachers provide to encourage the development of thinking skills? What questions does the teacher ask to help develop my child’s cognitive skills?

Positive Teachers

A positive and nurturing relationship with a teacher may indicate how the child will respond to teachers and school throughout her life. It also predicts children’s cognitive advancement in preschool. Research has shown early teacher-child relationships affect the child in many ways, including school adjustment, peer acceptance, school liking or avoidance and more.

Ask: What is the ratio of adult teachers and teaching assistants to children? How does the teacher and teaching assistant interact with the kids? How do they encourage the children’s engagement

Social Graces

Children’s social and emotional health affects their overall development and learning. Teachers may use children’s books, activities, praise and more to support and reinforce this important concept. Curricula should promote social and emotional learning similarly to the way you would approach it at home, as consistency is essential in a helping preschooler develop his own judgment.

Ask: How does the school address social and emotional development? How does the school handle discipline issues?

Other Questions to Ask:

  • Are there sufficient numbers of adults with specialized training in early childhood development and education?
  • Does the staff meet regularly to plan and evaluate the program?
  • Are parents welcome to observe, discuss policies, make suggestions and participate in the work of the program?
  • Do parents and teachers confer regularly?
  • Is the school accredited?
  • How much will the school cost and what is the admissions policy?
  • Does the school have extended hours or after school hours if needed?
  • What is the school’s policy on illness?

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