Picking a preschool is strange thing. Whaaaaaat??? My BABY is ready for me to drop her off and leave her there without me?!?!?!? Absurd. Even for the most independent of moms and kids. Preschool can also be daunting and intimidating for people who live in areas (like Los Angeles) where serious research, study, applications and waiting lists are required. I thank my lucky stars that (even though I do live in Southern California), I live in an area just outside of all that city-preschool chaos.
At one point, I was even against sending my oldest to preschool. But things changed when she turned three. Here’s how I found my preschool… hope some of these pointers help you out too!
1) CONSIDER LOCATION. This was a biggy for me. I wanted convenience… a place where I knew I could get to within a 5-10 minute time frame in the morning… especially because I knew I’d be loading up my preschooler AND her little 1 year old sister in the car for drop-offs and pick-ups. Anyone who has to load up two toddlers to go anywhere knows that the less time it takes to get there (i.e.: the less stress you have in the morning) the better. (Our preschool is walking distance… like, one street over from our house.)
2) CONSIDER SCHEDULE/OPTIONS. My personal preference was to do minimal hours. I was not interested in a preschool that required full-days, Monday-Friday (I just didn’t need it, given my schedule is flexible). However, someone who works full-time will most likely need a full-time preschool to jive with their work schedule. I also wanted a schedule where pickups/dropoffs could work with my 1 year old’s schedule at the time. (My three year old is currently in a Tuesday/Thursday, 9am-12noon program… works perfect for all of us.)
3) ACADEMIC OR PLAY-BASED? Know the difference. Do you want your three year old learning math and phonics? Do you just want them to play at this point? It’s your choice… and trust me, there are PLENTY of choices that schools offer. Educate yourself, make a choice and stick with it. (Our school plays: paint, gardening, music, reading, lots of glitter and glue. Anyone interested in purchasing some colorful wall art?)
4) PRESCHOOL WILL *NOT* DETERMINE WHAT COLLEGE THEY GO TO. Contrary to what some preschools will try to sell you, promise me you’ll remember this one thing: IT’S PRESCHOOL. Keep this phase of your tot’s life in perspective, people. Preschool is important for socialization and for teaching kids how to exist in a classroom setting with a group/teacher (prep for Kindergarten)… keep your wits. Your kid is a toddler (2, 3 or 4, I’m guessing). They’re children.
5) TAKE A TOUR, PREFERABLY WITH OTHER FAMILIES, DURING SCHOOL HOURS. Most schools offer tours during classroom hours for newbie parents so you can see everything in action. If you can though, I suggest joining tours with other families that are checking out the school as well. (Don’t you wanna see who your child’s potential classmates’ parents are?) Other parents will often ask valuable questions that you might forget to ask too… piggyback on their smarts.
6) ASK STUPID QUESTIONS. I never went to preschool, I had no idea what kids even do in preschool. So, I probably asked a ton of dumb questions on the tour. What will my kid do when she’s here? How old are your teachers? How many kids in one class? Are the teachers ‘certified’ in CPR, etc? What happens if my daughter splatters paint on another kid and starts a revolution? (Don’t worry, she hasn’t). The big non-stupid question: Will my kid need to be potty trained?
7) SCOPE OUT THE SAFETY. Look at the jungle gym. (Will you freak out knowing that your kid will play on it without your constant supervision?) Look at the classroom. (Are there weird steps that someone can fall on? Is everything safely put away?) Look at the restrooms. (Are they clean?)
8) ASK AROUND. This is probably the thing that worked best for me. Friends, family and work contacts in the area can give all sorts of insight if you ask them. (This is THE thing that led me to my preschool.)
Basically, I just went with my gut. Preschool is a big step for a child and a parent. It’s the beginning of not-a-baby-anymore phase… but finding somewhere you’re comfortable with, once you know your child is ready, will make the transition easier and fun for everybody. Good luck!
What Tips Helped You Find Your Kid’s Preschool?