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Finding the right preschool or daycare

Guide

1/21/2022 | Mikhal Weiner

Being a parent means making endless choices for your children. Some are more mundane (like what the family will eat for dinner) and some are more crucial (like where you choose to live). Making a decision about your child’s preschool falls on the weightier side of the spectrum. Even if you’ve had your child in a daycare setting, preschool is different. This will likely be your kid’s first interaction with an educational environment, and you need to make sure you’re sending them to a setting that will encourage growth, where they will be sure to learn and thrive. 

Do you want a more rigid environment, or one that’s driven by free play? How far are you willing to travel to the school? How important is it, to you, that the educators be aligned with you in terms of discipline. These are all questions you should be asking and, if you’re co-parenting, you should be talking them through with your partner as well. Here are a few topics that should be on your list as you go about enrolling your child in a preschool that’s right for your family. 

Do you prefer a certain educational style?

All educators, whether they’re teaching little ones or college students, have an educational philosophy that guides their work. When it comes to preschool, there are a few main philosophies that you’ll likely encounter when you start asking about how kids learn. If your family is religious, for example, you may favor a preschool that aligns with your faith. On the other hand, you may prefer a program that’s led by the children’s interests and passions. In that case, a preschool aligned with a Montessori or Reggio Amelia approach would be good to look into. Either way, be sure to ask the teachers what they believe in and how that approach manifests in their day-to-day practices.

Does the school have certain requirements?

Some schools may require that your toddler be completely potty-trained or not nap anymore for enrollment. Others may have strict requirements when it comes to introducing allergens into the schoolroom. Some teachers may not require that your child be potty-trained, but still ask that you adhere to a certain system when teaching this life skill. It’s best to ask teachers all about these things so that you’re sure that you’re comfortable with them ahead of time. 

Will you be able to meet with the staff before and during the school year?

Great preschools (and all other schools) are based on open communication. This doesn’t mean that you should expect a teacher to be available 24/7 for text updates, but it’s very acceptable to request to meet with teachers both before and during the year. After all, you want to know who your child is spending all their time with! One good question to ask is how the teacher envisions communication with parents, and whether you’re on the same page about it. 

What’s your disciplinary style?

If you’re a strict disciplinarian, you may not feel comfortable with a style you perceive as “too soft.” On the flip side, though, if you adhere to “gentle parenting” or similar styles of discipline, you might not be happy with too much yelling. Seeing as the educators at your child’s preschool will be the ones doing a lot of the discipline from now on, it’s worth asking how they plan to go about it.

How soon should you be thinking about preschool?

This depends largely on where you live. In bigger urban areas, preschool registration can start up to 18 months before your child ever steps foot in the space. New York City, for example, is notoriously competitive when it comes to certain private preschools. If, on the other hand, you live in a smaller area (whether urban or rural), you have a little more breathing room; enrollment is more like six months ahead of time. Asking yourself the questions listed above should help you narrow your choices down significantly. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of calling up the schools and checking deadlines.

Photo by Monica Sedra on Unsplash

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