Finding a preschool is an exciting process. You’re on the search for your child’s new home away from home where they’ll grow physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally. With so many different settings, approaches, and factors to consider, the process can be intimidating and involved. Here are our 10 tips for finding a preschool for your child and their needs.
1. Start Early
If you’re a new parent, the thought of your child going to preschool has probably crossed your mind. You’re not alone, and now is the right time to start thinking about finding a preschool. Regardless of what age you may think preschool is for, the reality is that it’s important to begin your search for a preschool early to ensure that your child gets a spot when they need it. It’s not unheard of for some preschools to have waitlists that span multiple years.
2. Decide the setting
You’re deciding what childcare setting is best for you. Do you work full-time or part-time? Do you have consistent days that you need child care every week, or do you need care that accommodates a changing schedule? Would your child benefit from the social nature of a larger classroom, or more intimate one-on-one care from a nanny? These are just a few of the many questions you should ask yourself to help you choose which preschool setting works best for you. Some preschool settings to consider are center-based preschool facilities, family child care homes, public preschool programs, and nannies and babysitters.
For example, Kids’ Care Club is a center-based preschool that serves children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. Each classroom is divided by age with an academic curriculum that best aligns with your child’s current stage of development. We invite you to learn more about our Infants, Toddlers, Two-Year-Olds, Preschool, and Pre-K/TK classrooms.
There are child care and resource referral agencies that can assist you in finding child care providers that fit your family’s needs. Take these recommendations to Google Maps to determine their distance from you. After all, if it’s not convenient, it may be the best fit for your family.
While your decision for choosing a preschool should never be based solely on the experience of others, it can be helpful to see what other parents in the community are saying about a center’s services. Remember, take these with a grain of salt. Rather than letting reviews entirely attract or deter you, use them as a means to open up a conversation if there’s a specific concern addressed.
For example, if a school has mentioned high turnover with the teachers, ask the school what their turnover rate is for the teachers. Make sure to address any red flags during your tour.
5. Schedule a Tour
You’ve done your research on the preschool and jotted down a couple of questions, now it’s time to schedule a tour! Depending on your county, some child care facilities may require virtual tours due to COVID-19 restrictions, while others allow in-person visits. Regardless, contact the center to schedule a tour. A tour is a perfect time to address any specific questions not answered in your research process. Below are some of the questions we suggest asking during your tour.
- What is your teacher-to-child ratio?
- How do you handle discipline?
- What is the teacher turnover rate?
- What is your school’s philosophy and approach to teaching?
- What are the program’s tuition fees?
- Are you accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)?
We’ve prepared a parent checklist to help you in identifying a high-quality preschool program – we encourage you to bring it along with you on your first visit to the school.
6. Obtain the School’s Schedule
If you plan to attend a center-based preschool facility or family child care home, ask the school for a sample school schedule to get a stronger sense of what a day in the life of a preschooler will look like in their new classroom.
Each classroom looks a little different here at KCC to foster your child’s mental, physical, and social-emotional development. We invite you to explore what a typical day looks like in our different classrooms. Please note that these are examples, and schedules are subject to change based on a given day: Infants, Toddlers, Two-Year-Olds, Preschool, Pre-K/TK.
7. Observe the School Environment
You’re on the tour at a prospective preschool. Keep the following questions in the back of your mind, and look for these elements during the tour. If you don’t have quite enough time, you can always ask them in a follow-up email.
- Does the school have culturally diverse content and materials?
- Are there activities that encourage self-expression?
- Are there resources or activities in the classroom that regularly expose the children to literature, language arts, music, science, and nature?
- Is there a balance between various-sized group activities, spontaneous play, and teacher-guided activities?
- Is there a balance between rest, quiet periods, and outdoor activities?
- Is there a spacious outdoor area for play with learning opportunities? Does this include a garden/art studio, music gazebo, stages, bikes, climbing walls, and more?
There’s a lot going through your mind when you first visit a school. Trusting your gut is an underrated decision maker – note any elements of concern that may arise during the tour. Some elements of concern are unorganized classrooms with insufficient activities, not enough teacher involvement, and no clear limits, positive reinforcement, or guidance for children’s behavior.
8. The Teachers
Early childhood educators should be sufficiently qualified, both in their professional background and early childhood education. In addition to qualifications, your child benefits from positive and nurturing qualities, as well as the teacher’s ability to communicate and collaborate with parents to support your child’s development. Observe the teacher-to-child ratio, knowing that the number of teachers in a classroom greatly impacts adequate supervision of children, promotes high-quality interactions between educators and children, and supports your child’s emotional, cognitive, and physical development.
Here at KCC, our faculty, administration, and staff are strong, varied, and talented. Approximately 75-80% of our staff have college degrees. The early childhood education field is constantly evolving, and we reserve three staff development days to equip our teachers with the most up-to-date knowledge, as well as support them in continuing their education. Our teachers support the development of our children through establishing strong parent-teacher relationships, with daily reports via the Learning Genie app. Teachers observe, document, and reflect on the learning, development, and progress of children through Desired Results Developmental Profiles throughout the year.
9. School Safety and Precautions
Center-based child care and family day care homes are required to be licensed in the state of California. A licensed facility ensures that your child is in a safe environment that is in compliance with state safety regulations. A licensed facility undergoes an initial pre-licensing inspection, and safety regulations are maintained by periodic, unannounced site visits by Licensing Program Analysts (LPAs). Licensing works with child care providers by addressing any changes that need to be made to ensure the safety of your child, as well as investigating any complaints about a facility.
Center-based child care and family daycare homes are required to be licensed in the state of California, and thus must follow a strict standard of school safety and precautions. If you are exploring child care that doesn’t need to be licensed, make sure you check in on the school’s safety and precautionary measures.
10. Does Your Child Approve?
The most important question. Preschool is a completely new experience for your little one, and will be accompanied with a transition period. If the center allows, we highly encourage children to visit the classroom before the first day of their attendance. This exposes them to the fun that awaits them! Kids’ Care Club requires that children visit the classroom at least twice before they come in.
Schedule a Tour!
Are you located in San Diego and looking for a center that supports your child and their needs in a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment? We invite you to contact us to schedule a tour today.