Looking for the best preschool near you? Finding the perfect educational environment for your child is a top priority for any parent. But with so many options out there, how do you choose the right one for your child?
In this comprehensive guide, we'll provide you with the ultimate checklist to help you find the best preschool for your child and family. From location and facilities to curriculum and teacher qualifications, we'll cover everything you need to consider before making a decision. By following our checklist, you'll have the confidence of knowing that you've made the best choice for your child's early education. We'll guide you through the process step by step, so you'll know exactly what to look for when visiting potential preschools. Whether you're concerned about the learning environment, safety protocols, or the approach to early childhood development, our checklist has got you covered.
The importance of finding the best preschool for your child
Choosing the right preschool for your child is a crucial decision that can have a lasting impact on their development and future success. Research shows that attending a high-quality preschool can lead to better academic outcomes, improved social skills, and enhanced cognitive abilities.During the early years, children's brains are rapidly developing, making it a critical time for learning and growth. A well-designed preschool program can provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning. It can foster curiosity, creativity, and a love for learning, setting your child up for success in school and beyond.
Factors to consider when searching for a preschool
When searching for a preschool, there are several factors to consider to ensure you find the best fit for your child. These factors include program philosophy and curriculum, location, cost, hours of operation, class size, and teacher-to-student ratio.
You will want to find a program that aligns with your goals for your child and offers an environment that they will thrive in. You want your child to be safe, well cared for and excited to go to school.
Location is an important consideration as you'll want to choose a preschool that is conveniently located near your home or workplace. This will make drop-offs and pick-ups more convenient and reduce travel time for your child.
Cost is another crucial factor to consider. Preschool tuition can vary significantly depending on the quality of the program, location, and services offered.
The hours of operation should also be taken into account. Consider your work schedule and daily routine to find a preschool that offers hours that are convenient for you and your child.
How many students are there in the classroom? How experienced are the teachers at the school and how long have they been teaching at the school?
Researching preschools in your area
Once you have identified the factors that are important to you, it's time to start researching preschools in your area. Begin by asking for recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors. They can provide valuable insights and firsthand experiences that can help you narrow down your options.
You can also turn to online resources such as preschool directories and review websites to gather more information about different preschools in your area. These resources often provide detailed profiles of each preschool, including their philosophy, curriculum, and contact information.
Visiting potential preschools
After conducting your initial research, it's time to visit potential preschools in person. This step is crucial as it allows you to see the preschool environment firsthand and assess if it meets your expectations.
During your visit, pay attention to the overall atmosphere of the preschool. Is it warm and welcoming? Are the classrooms clean and well-maintained? These factors can indicate the level of care and attention given to the children.
Observe how the teachers interact with the children. Are they nurturing and responsive? Do they engage the children in meaningful activities? A good teacher-child relationship is essential for a positive learning experience.
Evaluating the curriculum and learning approach
The curriculum and learning approach of a preschool play a significant role in your child's early education. Look for a preschool that offers a well-rounded curriculum that includes both academic and play-based activities.
A balanced curriculum should focus on developing essential skills such as literacy, numeracy, social-emotional skills, and problem-solving abilities. It should also provide opportunities for creativity, physical development, and exploration of the natural world.
Ask about the daily schedule and routine of the preschool. Are there specific times for free play, structured activities, and rest? A well-structured routine can provide a sense of security and help children thrive in the learning environment.
Assessing the qualifications and experience of teachersThe qualifications and experience of the teachers at a preschool are crucial factors to consider. Look for teachers who have proper early childhood education credentials and ongoing professional development. They should have a deep understanding of child development and be skilled in creating a nurturing and stimulating learning environment.
Inquire about the teacher-to-student ratio. A low teacher-to-student ratio ensures that each child receives individual attention and support. It allows teachers to better understand the needs and interests of each child, fostering personalized learning experiences.
Examining the facilities and resourcesThe facilities and resources of a preschool are important indicators of the quality of the program. Look for preschools that have age-appropriate materials, books, toys, and equipment that support children's learning and development.
Pay attention to the outdoor play area. Is it safe, well-maintained, and equipped with age-appropriate play structures? Outdoor play is essential for children's physical and social development, so it's important to choose a preschool that provides ample opportunities for outdoor exploration and physical activity.
Checking the school's safety and security measures
Ensuring the safety and security of your child is of utmost importance. When visiting potential preschools, ask about their safety and health protocols.
Check for safety features such as childproofed classrooms, secure entrances, and a well-trained staff. Look for clear policies regarding illness, hygiene practices, and medication administration. These measures ensure that your child is in a safe and healthy environment.
Reviewing the school's reputation and parent testimonials
Before making a final decision, take the time to review the reputation of the preschool. Look for online reviews and testimonials from current and past parents. These reviews can provide valuable insights into the experiences of other families and help you gauge the quality of the program.
Don't hesitate to reach out to current parents for their feedback. They can provide a firsthand account of their experiences and answer any questions you may have. Their perspectives can be invaluable in helping you make an informed decision.
Making the final decision and enrolling your child
After visiting potential preschools, evaluating their programs, and considering all the factors, it's time to make a final decision and enroll your child. Trust your instincts and choose the preschool that feels like the best fit for your child and family.
Contact the preschool to complete the enrollment process and secure your child's spot. Be prepared to provide any necessary documentation and pay any required fees. Once enrolled, communicate with the preschool to stay informed about upcoming events and important updates.
Finding the best preschool for your child is a crucial decision that requires careful consideration. By following this ultimate checklist, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and insights to make an informed decision. With the right preschool, you'll provide your child with a solid foundation for their educational journey.
Are you dealing with potty training challenges with your reluctant preschooler? Many parents find themselves struggling to navigate through this developmental milestone. But fear not, we've got you covered with these 7 proven techniques to overcome potty training challenges.
From creating a consistent routine to using positive reinforcement, these strategies have helped countless parents successfully guide their little ones towards successful potty training. With patience, understanding, and the right approach, you can set your preschooler up for potty training triumph. No more frustration and endless clean-ups - just a happy and confident little one who is proud of their potty accomplishments.
Understanding the challenges of potty training a reluctant preschooler
Potty training a reluctant preschooler can be a daunting task. It's important to understand that every child is different and may have their own unique set of challenges when it comes to potty training. Some common challenges include resistance to using the potty, fear of accidents, and difficulty understanding the concept of using the toilet.
One way to address these challenges is by being patient and empathetic towards your child. Remember that they are learning a new skill and may need time to adjust. Avoid pressuring or shaming them, as this can create negative associations with potty training.
Another challenge parents often face is inconsistency in their approach. It's crucial to establish a routine and stick to it. Consistently taking your child to the potty at regular intervals helps them develop a sense of familiarity and predictability. This routine should be maintained even when you're away from home. Pack a portable potty seat or use disposable liners for public restrooms to maintain consistency.
Patience is key: Setting realistic expectations
Patience is key when it comes to potty training a reluctant preschooler. It's important to set realistic expectations and understand that accidents are a normal part of the learning process. Avoid getting frustrated or disappointed when accidents happen, and instead, focus on the progress your child is making.
Every child learns at their own pace, so it's important not to compare your child's progress to others. Celebrate every small success and offer encouragement and praise when your child uses the potty correctly. This positive reinforcement helps motivate your child and boosts their confidence.
Remember that setbacks are common during potty training. Your child may regress or resist using the potty at times. Stay patient and supportive, and gently guide them back on track. Avoid punishment or negative reinforcement, as this can create anxiety and make the process more challenging for your child.
Creating a positive potty training environmentC
Creating a positive potty training environment is essential for your child's success. Start by setting up a dedicated potty training area that is comfortable and inviting. Choose a child-sized potty chair or a seat insert for the regular toilet to make it more accessible for your child.
Decorate the potty training area with your child's favorite characters or colors to make it more appealing. Keep a stash of books or toys nearby to keep your child engaged while sitting on the potty. This creates a positive association with the potty and makes it a more enjoyable experience for your child.
Make sure to keep the potty training area clean and hygienic. Use child-friendly wipes or toilet paper, and teach your child proper handwashing techniques after using the potty. By creating a clean and pleasant environment, you're setting the stage for successful potty training.
Communication and consistency: Establishing a routineClear communication and consistency are crucial for successful potty training. Start by explaining the process to your child in simple and age-appropriate language. Use books or videos that explain the concept of potty training in a fun and engaging way. Talk about the importance of using the potty and how it helps them stay clean and dry.
Establish a consistent routine for potty breaks. Take your child to the potty at regular intervals, such as after meals, before bedtime, and upon waking up. Encourage your child to sit on the potty for a few minutes, even if they don't feel the urge to go. This helps establish a routine and reinforces the habit of using the potty.
Use visual cues, such as a sticker chart or a countdown timer, to help your child understand when it's time to use the potty. This visual reinforcement creates a sense of structure and encourages your child to participate actively in the potty training process.
Using rewards and incentives to motivate your child
Rewards and incentives can be effective with children during potty training. Consider using a reward system to acknowledge your child's efforts and successes. This can be as simple as sticker or a small treat. If your child has siblings, you can include them in the process by receiving the treat as well and helping encourage the child.
However, it's important to strike a balance when using rewards. Avoid excessive or materialistic rewards that may create dependency or unrealistic expectations. The goal is to help your child develop intrinsic motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
Troubleshooting common potty training setbacksDuring potty training, setbacks and challenges are common. It's important to be prepared and have strategies in place to overcome these hurdles. Here are a few common setbacks and how to address them:
1. Accidents: Accidents are a natural part of the learning process. Stay calm and avoid getting upset. Clean up accidents without drawing too much attention to them. Encourage your child to help with the cleanup process, teaching them responsibility.
2. Resistance: If your child is resistant to using the potty, try to identify the underlying cause. It could be fear, anxiety, or a lack of understanding. Address their concerns and provide reassurance. Use positive reinforcement and distractions, such as books or toys, to make the potty more inviting.
3. Regression: Regression is common during potty training, especially during times of stress or change. Stay patient and supportive. Revisit the basics and reinforce the routine. Avoid pressure or punishment, as it may worsen the regression.
Seeking support: Tips for involving caregivers and teachersPotty training doesn't happen in isolation. It's important to involve caregivers and teachers in the process to ensure consistency and support. Here are a few tips for involving others in your child's potty training journey:
1. Communication: Share your potty training strategies and routine with caregivers and teachers. Ensure everyone is on the same page and following a consistent approach.
2. Training materials: Provide potty training materials, such as extra clothes, wipes, and disposable liners, to caregivers and teachers. This helps them handle accidents and maintain consistency.
3. Open dialogue: Encourage open communication between you, caregivers, and teachers. Share any challenges or concerns, and work together to find solutions. Consistency across different environments is key to successful potty training.
Potty training products and tools to aid the process
Several potty training products and tools can aid the potty training process. Here are a few popular options:
1. Potty chairs: Child-sized potty chairs are comfortable and easy for children to use. They come in various designs and colors to make potty training more appealing.
2. Seat inserts: Seat inserts are placed on regular toilets to make them more child-friendly. They provide stability and support, making it easier for children to use the toilet independently.
3. Portable potties: Portable potties are useful when you're away from home. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to clean. They provide a familiar and hygienic option for your child to use the potty on the go.
4. Clothing: Choose pants or shorts that are easy for your child to pull up and down to encourage independence.
Remember, potty training is a journey, and every child progresses at their own pace. Stay patient, consistent, and supportive throughout the process. With time and the right techniques, your reluctant preschooler will overcome their potty training challenges and achieve success.
Embracing the journey of potty trainingPotty training can be a challenging phase for both parents and children, but it's also an important milestone in their development. With the right techniques and strategies, you can overcome the challenges and guide your reluctant preschooler towards potty training success.
Remember to be patient, understanding, and consistent. Set realistic expectations and celebrate every small victory. Create a positive potty training environment and involve caregivers and teachers in the process. Utilize potty training products and tools to aid the journey. And most importantly, celebrate your child's milestones and successes.
Do you have a child who struggles to separate from you when it comes to attending preschool? This is common for many preschool children when starting school. It can manifest through clinginess, tears, and distress when separated from their parents or caregivers. While this anxiety can be challenging for both child and parent, rest assured that it is a temporary phase that can be managed effectively. Fortunately, there are a number of things parents can do to support their children during this transition to reduce that anxiety and instill confidence in them. Below you will find a number of practical strategies to help your child overcome separation anxiety and thrive in their new school setting.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development, affecting a significant number of children as they transition from home to preschool. It can begin as early as a first birthday and last throughout the preschool years and beyond.
Understanding the causes of separation anxiety is crucial in addressing this issue. It is often triggered by a fear of abandonment and the unfamiliarity of the preschool environment. Separation anxiety can also be intensified by a child's temperament, their attachment style, and any previous experiences of separation or loss. By recognizing these underlying factors, you can tailor your approach to help your child navigate this challenging transition.
Signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in children
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of separation anxiety is vital in addressing your child's reluctance to attend preschool. These can vary from child to child, but common indicators include excessive crying or tantrums when faced with separation, refusing to go to preschool, physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches, and clinging to parents or caregivers. By being aware of these signs, you can intervene early and provide the necessary support to help your child overcome their anxiety.
It's important to note that separation anxiety can manifest differently in each child. Some may display intense distress, while others may show more subtle signs. By paying attention to your child's behavior and emotions, you can gain a deeper understanding of their individual experience and tailor your approach accordingly.
Understanding the causes of separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can arise from a variety of factors, and understanding these causes can help you address your child's reluctance to attend preschool more effectively. One common cause is a fear of the unknown. Preschool is often a new and unfamiliar environment for children, and this can trigger feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Additionally, children who have experienced previous separations or disruptions in their routine may be more prone to separation anxiety.
Another significant factor is a child's attachment style. Children who have formed a secure attachment with their parents or caregivers may still experience separation anxiety, but they generally find it easier to adapt to new situations. On the other hand, children with an insecure attachment may struggle more with separation anxiety, as they have a heightened fear of abandonment and less confidence in their ability to cope with new environments.
The importance of addressing separation anxiety in preschool-aged children
Addressing separation anxiety in preschool-aged children is crucial for their overall well-being and development. Unresolved separation anxiety can lead to ongoing emotional distress, hinder social interactions, and impede educational progress. By taking proactive steps to ease your child's reluctance to attend preschool, you can set the foundation for a positive and successful educational journey.
It's important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and most children eventually outgrow it. By addressing it early on, you can help your child build resilience and develop the necessary coping skills to navigate future transitions.
Strategies to ease separation anxiety before starting preschool
There are several strategies you can implement to ease separation anxiety before your child starts preschool. Establishing consistent routines can provide a sense of security and predictability, helping your child feel more at ease. Additionally, gradually exposing your child to the preschool environment through visits or playdates can help familiarize them with the surroundings and reduce anxiety.
Encouraging open communication with your child about their feelings and fears can also be beneficial. Let them know that it's normal to feel nervous or worried about starting preschool and assure them that you understand their emotions. By validating their feelings and offering reassurance, you can help them feel supported and understood.
Preparing your child for preschool: Tips for a smooth transition
Preparing your child for preschool is key to a smooth transition and can significantly reduce separation anxiety. Start by talking to your child about preschool, explaining what they can expect and emphasizing the positive aspects of attending. You can read books or watch videos about preschool together to familiarize them with the concept.
Visiting the preschool beforehand and meeting the teachers can also help alleviate anxiety. Encourage your child to ask questions and express their concerns. This will give them a sense of control and involvement in the process, making them more comfortable and excited about starting preschool.
Building a strong parent-teacher partnership to support your child's transition
Developing a strong parent-teacher partnership is essential in supporting your child's transition and managing separation anxiety effectively. Communicate openly with your child's teacher, sharing any relevant information about their anxiety and discussing strategies that have worked well at home. This collaboration will ensure that your child's needs are understood and met both at home and in the preschool environment.
Maintaining regular communication with the teacher is also crucial. Stay informed about your child's progress, any challenges they may be facing, and strategies being implemented to address their separation anxiety. By working together, you can create a consistent and supportive experience for your child, promoting their emotional well-being and successful integration into preschool.
Coping with separation anxiety: Advice for parents and caregivers
As a parent or caregiver, coping with your child's separation anxiety can be emotionally challenging. It's important to prioritize self-care and seek support from your own network. Remember that your child's anxiety is not a reflection of your parenting skills and that it's normal for them to experience this temporary phase.
Establishing a consistent goodbye routine can also help ease your child's anxiety. Create a special goodbye ritual, such as a hug, a special phrase, or a small token that they can keep with them throughout the day. This routine will provide them with a sense of security and reinforce the idea that you will return to pick them up.
Seeking professional help for severe separation anxiety
While most cases of separation anxiety can be managed with the strategies discussed, severe separation anxiety may require professional help. If your child's anxiety significantly impairs their daily functioning, persists for an extended period, or becomes increasingly intense, it's crucial to seek guidance from a mental health professional. They can provide a comprehensive assessment and recommend appropriate interventions to support your child's emotional well-being.
April 10-16 marks the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) Week of the Young Child (WOYC). The purpose of the week is to bring attention to the importance of early childhood education and to support young children and their families. Each day of the week has a different theme including Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Arts Thursday and Family Friday. As part of the celebration, we will follow the daily themes to highlight the importance of play to a child's development and the different ways children learn through play in school each day.
Over the course of the week, we will be posting videos about play in the class, along with resources to help you engage in play with your child at home. We encourage you to participate in as many of the activities as you are able to and share with us on Instagram using the hashtag #WOYC21
Activities to try:
Create musical instruments-
*Have your child repeat the beat- clap or stomp a beat and encourage them to mimic you
Some of our favorite music/youtube songs to use in the classroom (just go to youtube and search these names!):
Koo Koo Kanga Roo
The Learning Station
For more information:
Support Math Readiness Through Music
Recipe to try:
For more information and other activites:
Work together wednesday
Activity to try:
Create a block maze or use other material as blocks (i.e plastic containers, tissue boxes, oatmeal canisters, etc.
For more information:
Activity to try:
Make your own puppets and put on a puppet show! Different skill level ideas are available here!
For more information:
How Process Art Experiences Support Preschoolers
How Do I Prepare My Child For Preschool?
By Emily Valentine and Priscilla Garcia - Emily Valentine currently teaches the toddler class at Discovery Child Development Center and Priscilla Garcia is a preschool teacher at Discovery.
While the first day of school can be stressful for children and parents alike, it can also reap great rewards, even in the early days when your child might be upset at having to separate from you, the parent or caregiver. Some children may have a negative reaction to the first day of school, and how you respond can help your child work through those negative emotions and experience success at school.
One way to prepare your child for school is to read books about going to school and relate the book content to the child’s upcoming entry into school. Once you have been able to tour the school and classroom and meet your child’s teacher or watch your teacher’s welcome video, you can talk with your child about the details of their class. Some books we recommend at the beginning of the school year:
As a parent, it is important to be consistent with your drop off routine. Develop a routine for saying goodbye to your child. This can be something that you decide on with your child and could include a hug followed by a kiss, high five, etc. It is important that even if your child is upset and crying that you say goodbye and not try to sneak out. If your child is unaware that you left, they can feel insecure and more upset the next time you drop them off at school. In my toddler classroom for example, it is okay for a child to bring a small security item such as a small stuffed animal, small car or other small toy from home.
Now that you’ve gotten your child in the door, let’s talk about some skills that can be very helpful to practice at home. These are not skills that we expect the children to have mastered, but familiarizing them with these concepts will help them when they are entering the classroom. A lot of these skills are learned through repetition and modeling by the teachers and children will pick them up even more quickly when the teachers and parents are on the same page, working on the same skills together.
Focusing on these things with your child will foster independence and confidence in your child and will help them have a great start in preschool. A lot of these tasks take practice so don’t be discouraged if it takes a lot of reminders. We as teachers will be there to support you and your child and will do all we can to help them get off to a great start!
Supporting English Language Learners in the Classroom
By: Sanja Subasic, Discovery Child Development Center Pre-K Teacher
As a classroom pre-k teacher, I regularly teach students who speak a language other than English at home. Some of the students speak some English and others may little or no English. I have worked with many anxious parents who worry about their child transitioning to the classroom without knowing much English. Fortunately there are a number of teaching strategies that I have found to be successfully in supporting students who are learning English. The strategies I utilize not only help students who are learning the language, but benefit all students in the classroom.
It is important to recognize that there is no single approach that will work for all bilingual children, or children learning a second language.That is why as teachers, it is important that we support children by finding out more about our students, their families, and their culture. We believe that it is important that child’s first language is acknowledged and valued, and it should be encouraged to be continued to be spoken at home. Also, it is important for us to observe what children are interested in and what motivates them, so we can include fun activities in our lesson. The more we understand and know about what to expect when children learn a second language, we can have appropriate expectations. By knowing, for example, that some children learning a new language will go through a silent period, we can recognize this stage and not pressure children to speak.
While supporting bilingual children at our school, there are many methods and strategies we use when teaching English (or Spanish) as a second language to ensure that the child grows up confident, and fluent in more languages. These are some of the methods that help all students (bilingual or monolingual) to succeed in communication.
1) Read Aloud - Reading aloud to students introduces new vocabulary and eposes them to new words they may not otherwise hear.
2) Music - We play music and sing songs. This helps children with memorization and learn new phrases in a fun way.
3) Puppets - Puppets are a great motivational tool for students to practice the language and motivate them to start talking. We have found that some students who are reluctant to talk to teachers and adults, are happy to engage and interact with puppets.
4) Visuals - We post visuals all around our classroom. A student going through a "silent" period can always refer to picture to communicate.
5) Repetition - We repeat meaningful words and phrases, modify our speech, model, and use gestures.
6) Playing Games - Games are a great way for children who are reluctant to speak to participate in play. I use a lot of matching games in my classroom.
Language is a big part of identity, and it is important that teachers work collaboratively with parents to support English Language Learners. Together we can positively help shape their sense of self as their understanding of the world around them.
The Benefits of Learning a Second Language
By Sanja Subasic - Discovery Child Development Center Pre-K Teacher
Growing evidence suggests that giving young children an exposure to a second language, either at home or at school, provides cognitive benefits that can last a lifetime. Research suggests that early childhood is the best time to learn a new language.
I have the privilege of teaching children from families who come from a variety of countries and backgrounds. While learning a new language provides so many benefits, many parents have questions and concerns about what learning a second language will mean for their child’s development. Common questions include:
To address and answer frequently asked questions and avoid misinterpretations, our parents and teachers are encouraged to focus on research findings from a variety of scientific fields including developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, education and linguistics.
Will Bilingualism Lead to Confusion and/or Delays?
Many parents express fear that their child might have a language delay if they continue speaking their native language at home while learning English at school. The research in this field shows that being bilingual does not decrease or increase the chance of having a language delay. Just as there are children who speak one language and have a language delay, there are also bilingual children who have a delay. Even as early as infancy, children can differentiate multiple languages without confusion. Children will sometimes alternate between languages in what is known as code-switching, but that actually shows that they have understanding in both languages rather than confusion.
When is the best time to learn a second language?
While it is never too late to learn a new language, research has consistently shown that the early years are the ideal time for it. Young children are able to distinguish sounds and the brain is at its most flexible. A 2018 MIT study showed that it is best to start learning a new language by age 10 to achieve native-like fluency. Since children are well equipped to learn additional languages during the preschool years, it is a wonderful time for them to begin to learn an additional language.
What are the benefits of learning an additional language?
There are so many benefits to learning additional languages. Raising your child to be bilingual increases their understanding of the world from a new perspective and allows them to communicate with a broader range of people from different language and cultural backgrounds.
Studies have also found that bilingual children often perform better when asked to multi-task and it can also lead to increased ability to concentrate on a task. It has also been shown to benefit brain development and can improve communication skills in a child’s first language as well.
While teaching a child a second language does take time and effort, the investment is well worth it.
Many preschools will advertise themselves as being the best preschool, daycare, or child care center, 5 stars, or award winning. How can you really determine which programs truly are high quality? How do you know if it will meet the needs of your child and if it will be a worthwhile investment for your family? While there are a number of factors that go into this question, there are certain characteristics that differentiate high quality preschool and child care programs from the rest. When touring preschools, you will want to look for schools that demonstrate the characteristics listed below.
Signs of High Quality Preschool
1. Warm Environment - This should be apparent the moment you step into a preschool, daycare or child care center. Are you greeted by a smiling staff member? If you are able to see other office members, do they seem happy? Quality preschools should feel inviting to both parents and students.
What is the general feeling you get in the building? While I always recommend doing as much research as possible when selecting a preschool, it is also important to pay attention to your instincts. I have found when something does not seem right to a parent when they visit a preschool, that feeling is usual right.
2. Low Teacher Turnover - Unfortunately, teacher turnover is a major issue for many preschools. Widespread turnover could be a strong indicator that there are significant issues within the school. Research has consistently shown the importance of having a highly-qualified teacher in the classroom on student achievement. High teacher turnover is also very disruptive for the important relationship building which occurs between students and teachers.
3. Meaningful Student-Teacher Interactions - The evidence is clear that how teachers interact with students has a profound effect on student social and academic outcomes. Relationships matter, especially during the preschool years. When on school tours, watch how the teacher speaks to the students in the classroom. Are they actively engaging with students? Ideally they should be engaging in back and forth communication, asking open-ended questions, introducing vocabulary, and helping students make connections to their lives and prior learning. What forms of non-verbal communication do you see?
4. Effective Discipline Strategies - Learning self-regulation, conflict resolution strategies and how to use language to express feelings are all key skills that preschools should be helping children develop. Discipline should be used as a teaching tool rather than having a punitive focus. We want students to learn the skills that will prevent incidents from happening in the future, and how they can handle difficult emotions when they do occur. Look for evidence of how teachers speak with upset students and how any conflict is handled. Ask the school about their approach to discipline.
5. Clean and Healthy Environment - Your child's health and safety should be a preschool's top priority. The building and classrooms should have high standards for cleanliness, and furniture and equipment should be in good repair. With COVID-19, a healthy environment that should not only include cleaning/disinfecting, and hand washing, but schools should be taking additional steps such as daily student health screening, reduced class sizes, restricting building access. There should also be a focus on air quality which may include air purifiers and high quality filters (MERV 13 or higher if system allows).
6. Engaged Students - Learning should be active and learning should be relevant to the lives of students. This will usually include a large number of classroom centers with quality manipulatives that offer choice and build different skills. The curriculum should be relevant and make connections to the lives of students.Beware of programs that narrowly focus on academic skills, and do not have opportunities for students to play. There should be areas for building materials, art, music, dramatic play, and outside time. Lessons are most effective when they build off prior knowledge and student experiences.
7. Differentiated Instruction - Another important aspect of engagement is differentiation. Instruction and curriculum should be designed to meet the diverse learning needs of a classroom. Students are less likely to be engaged when the curriculum is either not developmentally appropriate for them, or if it does not provide sufficient challenge. Quality schools utilize small group and individual instruction to help meet specific student needs.
8. Open Ended Materials and Activities - Classroom materials should encourage children to think creativity and become problem solvers. Materials like blocks, sensory bins, boxes, recycle goods, and items collected from nature can be used in many different ways. A good way to see if a school encourages open-ended thinking is to examine the art on the walls. Does each piece look the same, or are students able to express themselves and be creative. Giving children the opportunity for self-expression, helps them make decisions and experiment.
9. Partnerships with Families - Quality program view families as partners and frequently communicate with them. Parents should feel that they are partners in their child's education. Ask on your tour what methods the school uses to communicate with families. How is a child's progress shared and how are concerns communicated? High quality programs also provide educational opportunities for parents which could include workshops, webinars, or resource libraries. There should also be opportunities for parents to participate in school activities and volunteer.
10. Values Cultural Diversity - Preschool is a great place for children to learn about the world around them and about people with different backgrounds and experiences. They are also forming their own self concept and should feel that their family's culture is valued and celebrated. Art work on the walls and materials should be diverse and families should have opportunities to share their traditions in classrooms. Books in classrooms should include diverse characters and families.
Which educational philosophy is best for your child?
Discovery Child Development Center is a project-based school that utilizes a constructivist/social constructivist approach to education. It is important to find a philosophy and approach to education that is a good fit for your child and your family when selecting a preschool. We will compare two of those here, constructivist and Montessori.
Constructivism - In this philosophy, students are actively involved in their learning. Through experiences knowledge is constructed. Constructivism roots are found in the work of Jean Piaget on cognitive development. Piaget theorized that children pass through 4 distinct cognitive phases of development and through active experiences, they acquire new knowledge. As children, interact with their environment, knowledge is shaped.
Lev Vygotsky similarly emphasized hands-on interactions with one's environment, but his theory placed a much greater emphasis on the social aspect of learning. His approach is known as social constructivism. For, Vygotsky interactions with others builds knowledge. Vygotsky saw learning as a collaborative process. He describe a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) where learners reach the next level of mastery through working on tasks that our just beyond their current abilities with the support of a teacher or mentor.
Montessori - The Montessori method was created by Maria Montessori when she opened the first Montessori school in Rome, Italy in 1907. Montessori methods focus on children directing their own learning and are given freedom to select activities. Students receive large segments of uninterrupted work time in Montessori classrooms. Montessori classrooms are traditionally mixed-age classrooms. There are specific prepared materials students in Montessori classrooms utilize.
By Mike dlott
Discovery Child Development Center Director
We know many parents have struggled with the decision of whether to send their child back to preschool and daycare. While families need to ultimately make the decision that is best for their family and their own comfort levels, there are certain steps that preschools and child care can and should be taking to protect the health and safety of their students, teachers and families. Our building was closed for several months during the spring and early summer. During that period, I dedicated significant time talking to medical professionals, environmental engineers, scientists and families. While we can never completely eliminate the risks from COVID-19 while it is spreading through our communities, the actions listed are important to reduce those risks as much as we can.
1. Class Size - How many students and teachers will be in my child's class? Research shows that the larger the group size, the greater the risk. At our school for example, we decided to reduce all of our class sizes by 50% this fall.
2. Health Screening - How are students screened before coming into school? It is important that students and families are asked every single day about possible symptoms and exposure to COVID. We set up daily questions through the Brightwheel App that parents must answer before checking their child into school. The app also allows us to quickly communicate with families if there are any health related updates during the day. Temperature checks may be helpful for identify for sick students, but they are not sufficient for screening students.
3. Illness - When should a student stay home from school and when are they able to return? Preschools and child care centers should be able to share the specific guidelines they have for excluding students from school. We utilize a decision tree that clearly spells out when a student would be ask to stay home and for how long. It is also important that there is a clear procedure for when they are able to come back to school (ex. a negative cover test, 10 days since symptoms began).
4. Positive Cases - If a student or teacher tests positive what will happen? While we hope there are not any cases at your child's school, there should be a clear plan for handling any positive cases. Would a classroom have to shut down, how about the rest of the school? Some of this will depend on what the local health department advises, but plans should be developed for any potential closings and may include remote learning options. Now that we know more about COVID, the goal is to have children in school as much as possible and to avoid large closures if possible. Decisions should be made in coordinations with health and safety professionals..
5. Masks - Will teachers and students wear masks at school? We know masks work to reduce the spread of COVID. Adults should be wearing them throughout the day, and all students who are able to wear them should wear them. With practice we have found students, especially in pre-k and kindergarten can do really well with masks.
6. Distancing - What social distancing strategies does the school use? While distancing in a preschool is difficult, there are a number of strategies that can be used to help. Reducing the number of students in a class provides more space to spread students out. We have utilized stable cohorts, eliminating as much as possible mixing between different classrooms. While we normally love having parents visit our classrooms, we have also restricted our building and classroom to essential visitors.
7. Air Quality - What steps is your school taking to keep the air in the classroom clean and healthy? We now know that COVID spreads through the air. We also know that good filtration and ventilation can make a real difference, especially when combined with the above strategies. At Discovery we have added air filters to every classroom to increase the rate of air changes per hour in the rooms. We have also increased the fresh air through our HVAC system, and regularly have our air filters changed. These steps are especially important in preschools and child care centers, as many do not have windows that open for safety reasons.
8. Hygiene - When will children be required to clean their hands? Handwashing should be scheduled throughout a child's day for students and staff. Critical times for washing and sanitizing include arrival at school, upon returning from outside, when using the restroom, before and after meals and before departing school.
9. Sanitizing - What is the plan for cleaning and sanitizing the school? Making sure a preschool or daycare has the highest standards for cleanliness, is always important, but especially now. Are toys and manipulatives regularly cleaned and sanitized? Is there special attention given to making sure high touch surfaces are kept clean?
10. Education - How is information on health and safety procedures shared with families? Communication is vitally important to make sure the whole community is aware of the school's policies and procedures. Information should be regularly shared and there should be a person coordinating the responses. We have a community compact that all parents at our school sign, a health and safety committee, a health and safety parent guide.