What to Look For When You Are Looking at Your Child’s Preschool Options

SHARED By: Vicky McLaughlin, M.Ed, Director of Early Learning Foundations Preschool

As parents begin touring preschools, attending open house events and discussing options with their friends and neighbors, many wonder exactly what to ask to help guide their decision and determine what is best for their child.

Classrooms – It is vital that parents visit each school that they are considering to see what the classrooms are like.  A preschool classroom should be clean and organized. It should tell a story of the class with student’s artwork displayed and daily schedules posted. Mixed age classrooms look and feel very different from same-age group models. Benefits of a mixed age group include children often stay with the same teacher for at least 2 years, and each child gets the opportunity to be both a leader and a learner.  Same age group classrooms (2’s, 3’s and 4’s) allow teachers to focus on that particular age and developmental stage as they plan activities and learning experiences.

Educational Background- This is the most important question that parents need to ask! Look for Preschools that employ early childhood educators. Each classroom should have at least one NYS licensed early educator in charge of the group. Experience with children is essential, but nothing replaces the knowledge of child development and the theoretical foundations that drive classroom practice.

Class Size– New York City determines the maximum group size for each age group. The preschool that you are considering may have smaller or larger class sizes depending on the size of the room. Take into consideration how your child responds to noise and crowded environments. Ask how the group is managed and be sure that there is a good balance between small and large group activities.

Teacher-Student Ratio- The teacher-student ratio refers to the number of students per teacher in each class. Very young children (2’s) need smaller teacher –student ration than 3- 0r 4 -year-olds.  They have custodial needs that teachers need to attend to. Children ages 3- 0r 4 -years-old are more self-sufficient and should be practicing higher level self-help skills. They should not depend on teachers as much as each other at this age. Ask about the roles of each teacher, how they are determined and whether the ratio changes throughout the day.

Special Programs-Preschool in Manhattan can be pricey! Ask what “amenities” the school provides.  Are there afterschool “clubs” or specialists who visit the classrooms? Nothing can replace stellar classroom teaching, but it is nice for children to look forward to a “treat” each week.

Who Directs the Program?- Meet the program director. Ask a lot of questions. Find out about their management style. Neighborhood preschools tend to rely on word-of –mouth when it comes to reputation. If friends and neighbors have had consistently good experiences with the preschool director, it is a good bet that you will be in good hands, too.

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