The following is designed to help families know the questions to ask when looking for a preschool for their child. To find the best preschool for your child you may need to look at several in your area. Remember you know your child and his/her needs best.
Before you go:
Ask the school, or look on the school’s website for a copy of the program’s learning goals, discipline policy, and other information.
- Do the program’s stated goals match my own goals for my child?
- Do the goals address all areas of my child’s development: social play and control of emotions; language skills; familiarity with letters and numbers; science, art, and physical development?
- Am I comfortable with the discipline policy?
Meeting with the staff:
It is key that you schedule a meeting with the teacher that may be working with your child, when available the program director and/or principal are key members to your child’s educational team.
Ask these questions:
- Does the program have a state license, or if not, is it exempt from state licensing because it meets the school district’s standards instead?
- If the state has a quality rating system, does this program have the top ranking?
- Is the program accredited by a national, regional, or state accreditation entity such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children or the American Montessori Society?
- Does the lead teacher have a bachelor’s degree?
- Does he/she have certification in early childhood education?
- Does the classroom aide have specialized training in early childhood development?
- What is the average length of time staff have worked their?
- How many hours of in-service training are they provided each year?
- What is the teacher to children ratio?
- Are there no more than 20 children in a class?
- Does the room have separate learning centers (reading, art, dramatic play, writing, blocks, etc.) with interesting equipment and materials to encourage learning?
- Do the lesson plans take into account the various learning styles, cultures, disabilities, and languages of the children and their families?
- Does the curriculum provide opportunities for the children to explore topics in detail and in several different ways?
- Does the class follow a daily routine that offers a variety of activities throughout the day? (i.e. art, make-believe play, outside play, reading, and science activities)
- Do children have outdoor unstructured playtime every day, except when the weather is extreme?
- Does the class take at least two field trips a year?
- Do teachers have access to trained professionals such as a social worker, mental health consultant, and/or behavior specialist to help children who have challenging behaviors or attention problems?
- What kind of accommodations can the school provide for your child? (bathrooms, desks, play areas, lunchrooms etc.)
- Are parents welcome to drop in without making an appointment?
- How do you communicate with the staff? (face-to-face meetings, phone, email)
- Does the teacher keep the parent(s) regularly informed of the child’s progress and school activities in a language they can understand?
- Does the program hold parent/teacher conferences at least twice a year?
- Does the school have a number of ways for the parent(s) to be involved and help their child at home? (i.e. a school newsletter, classroom volunteers, family events, book or toy lending library)
Spending time in the classroom
It is recommended that you spend at least an hour in the classroom your child will be in. Ask yourself the following:
- Do I feel welcome?
- Are the teachers warm and caring with the children?
- How do the teachers handle problems and conflicts?
- Do teachers work with children individually and in small groups of three or four?
- Does staff show acceptance and respect to all children regardless of culture, race, language, or disability?
- Do the children appear to be happy and engaged in activities?
- Do the children have opportunities to select what they want to do at times throughout the day?
- Are the children talking and interacting with each other?
- Do the children seem to be working well with one another (sharing, playing cooperatively, and taking turns)?
- Do you see evidence that the teachers use a variety of methods to teach letters, numbers, shapes, and new vocabulary words?
- Does the classroom have a library with a variety of books and other reading material?
- Do they have alternative formats if needed for your child?
- Are the materials in good condition?
- Do the teachers encourage hands-on learning such as learning science concepts with water and sand or math through cooking?
- Are the furniture, playground equipment, and toys age appropriate, clean, and in good condition?
- When the children are outside, are the teachers engaged in and encouraging the children’s play?
- 44. Does each child have enough room indoors and outdoors to move around without interfering with other children’s play space?
- One of the best ways to decide whether this program is right for your child may be to talk to other parents who have enrolled their children in the program. Ask for phone numbers or email addresses of some of these parents as references.
- Go back, take a second look to see if you had the same experience the second time.
- Ask if you can bring your child for a visit to see how he/she likes the classroom environment.
- Ask questions, these are just a starting point don’t be afraid to have many questions when it comes to choosing a pre-school that is right for your child.
Looking for more tips for transitioning your child into pre-school?
Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents, caregivers, and experts about their experiences with school health plans.
Are you looking for resources to help your child?
Check out our Resource Locator to find the government and non-government agencies that can provide the services that your child needs.