Starting your child’s education early can provide your child with many benefits, both academic and social. But finding the right preschool can be a difficult decision — depending on the area where you live, you might be overwhelmed with options. You want one that provides not only a high quality education or readiness for grade school, but also one that will offer exceptional childcare. You want to make sure that the preschool you choose will equip your child for the rapidly changing requirements and expectations in schools and prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. So how do you go about finding the right preschool? Why is preschool such an important step in your child’s education? What are things to look for in a preschool? Let’s talk about the answers to these questions and how you can give your child a wonderful head start.
Why Is Preschool So Important?
Currently, about 75% of children in the United States are part of a preschool program and just under half of children who are below the federal poverty line are enrolled. Statistics show that preschool can help children both academically and socially in life, giving them advantages they might not otherwise have had. For example, one study showed that a quarter of at-risk children were more likely to be high school dropouts if they didn’t receive a good preschool education. A shocking 60% of at-risk children were less likely to attend college without a preschool education and 70% had a higher chance of being arrested for a violent crime without quality preschool. This shows that these first and formative years are actually quite important.
Past being positive for at-risk children, it can also help generally foster good social practices among young children — teaching them to share and play together, for example — and get them started on basic reading, writing, and math skills.
What Should I Be Looking For in a Preschool?
Of course, one of the most important things to be on the look out for is the caliber of their teaching. Even if preschool education activities don’t look quite like what we might consider education, there should still be a reason for the activities. Coloring or painting, for example, teaches children about colors — and often shapes, as well. Check out the teachers’ backgrounds and experience levels as well.
The classroom itself should be tailored towards younger children, with an open floor plan and low furniture for easy access. Obviously the area needs to be clean and you want to make sure that electrical sockets are covered, materials like paint or cleaning supplies are out of reach, and that any sharp edges are rounded. A well cared for classroom can indicate the level of attention and care put into the students and how safe the environment will be.
And, of course you want to be paying attention to how students and staff interact. Are students who need a little more help getting the attention they require? Are children who are a little more advanced already being challenged? Watch what the rapport between students and teachers is — it can tell you a lot about the dynamics at play.
How Do I Go About Finding the Right Preschool?
Of course you want to pay attention to the aspects above, but one of the best ways to go about finding the right preschool is to visit. Being able to see the classroom, meet the teachers, and observe the children are all parts in choosing a preschool. It will also let you see the area the preschool is in and gauge how your child might fit in.
If your child has friends who are also entering preschool, talk to their parents about how they made their choice, and see if they have any recommendations or wisdom to share.
Choosing the right preschool can have a big impact on your child’s future, not just academically, but also socially and developmentally. You want teachers who will help instill a love of learning in your child and help him or her grow in more ways than one.