We’re enrolling Hazel in preschool in August, and I’m still a little bit in shock and denial that she’ll be old enough for preschool already. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry on her first day. Ha! We’re only doing 2 days a week for half days, but I’m never not with the girls, so it will be really tough for me to not be there to experience part of Hazel’s day with her.
We’ve been looking into/touring/interviewing several preschools in our area to try to find the best one that aligns with what we believe (and studies show) to be the best for her development. But it can be so hard to get a good feel for a preschools philosophies when you’re only there for a short time, so I had 5 key questions I asked each preschool to help me determine the best fit for us.
Below I’m sharing those 5 key questions, as well as why these questions are important and what the ideal answer is for those questions based on what studies show to be best for a child’s development at this age.
1) What’s your teacher to child ratio?
*Why it’s important: Being a teacher and caring for multiple kids is a lot of work. If teachers are stretched thin by the amount of children under their care, it makes it more difficult to provide quality. More teachers and less students means the teacher has time to give your child and the other children more attention.
*What to look for: Licensing, at least in California, states there must be a ratio of at least 1 teacher to 12-15 kids (it can vary due to a few factors). The school we decided to enroll Hazel in has 1 teacher + 1 aid with 12 kids.
2) What is the staff turn over?
*Why it’s important: Knowing how often staff members quit will give you some insight into what type of place it is to work. You also want your child to have consistent care. It can be hard on them to have to adjust to having a new teacher.
*What to look for: The longer the staff members have worked there, the better. Look for a place that has had the same teachers for 5+ years.
3) How much outside time?
*Why it’s important: Studies show that children learn best through play, not through workbooks, strict curriculum, or technology. They learn through exploring, touching things with their hands, and using their imagination, and that can happen so much more outside where the possibilities are endless than it can if your child were inside.
*What to look for: Maximum outside time. Some facilities have limited daily outside time (one we looked at only provided 1 hour of outside time per day), which isn’t best for our children’s development. If you find a preschool that takes children out to play even in the rain, that’s even better!
4) How do you handle hitting and sharing?
* Why it’s important: If they don’t handle hitting and sharing in the best way, your child might have set backs in that area or might bring home some bad habits.
*What to look for: That they encourage conflict resolutions and problem solving.
5) Do you separate ages?
*Why it’s important: Being with children of all ages teaches our children social skills and and can play a big role in self-esteem.
*What to look for: A preschool that mixes ages is best for our children’s social development and self-esteem. If your pre-school also cares for infants, they will separate the infants from the big kids, and that’s totally fine. But you don’t want one that separates the older kid ages (ie 3 year old room, 4 year old room, etc). When ages are mixed, the other kids model behavior for the younger kids, and the older kids learn compassion by caring for/helping the younger kids. They also form friendships with kids of all ages, whereas in a facility where ages are separated, they can oftentimes be separated from a friend just because they or their friend turned another year older. Mixing ages is also more inline with a family culture. Everyone in the family has an important role and is respected, just as each age has an important role in the preschool environment.