Studies show that there are several benefits of preschool for children between the age of three and four. Preschool helps children develop social skills, independence, and the routine and structure of being in a classroom. Many studies even indicate that children who attended preschool go on to achieve better test scores in school and even have higher college graduate rates than their counterparts who did not go to preschool.
One of the most important factors and your child having an effective preschool experience is choosing the best preschool for them. Finding a good preschool can be overwhelming because there are so many preschools to choose from and their teaching philosophy varies so much. In most cases, both public and private schools who are kindergarten through eighth grade also offer a preschool. Sometimes public preschools are less expensive because they are subsidized by the government, and often private preschools have great reputations for providing good education. Almost all private preschools (more than 80%) have a religious affiliation, although the impact of that religious affiliation on the preschool’s curriculum varies from one private preschool to the next.
Although it might feel overwhelming to figure out which preschool is best for your child, one simple way to start is to look for a school that possesses the National Association of Education for Young Children’s (NAEYC) list of eight signs of an effective preschool:
- The preschool’s teaching philosophy is free-play based. Studies show that expecting preschool-age children to sit still for long periods of time to absorb knowledge is both ineffective and creates a negative perception of school.
- There is a wide range of learning material provided to suit the different interests and temperaments of each child. Look for art supplies, reading books, puzzles, “manipulables” such as building blocks, and counting objects. Children should be able to gravitate to what interests them, and not be forced into the same activity.
- The schedule should involve a lot of small group play and rotating centers. The teacher should not conduct the same activity for the entire group the entire time, where timid or distracted children will get less out of it.
- The foundational skills of education (reading, writing, arithmetic) should be conveyed through real life experiences. This includes observing nature and cooking experiments, rather than being expected to memorize the facts.
- The curriculum should involve very little structured schoolwork like worksheets, and primarily rely on learning through play. Testing should generally not be involved in a good preschool education.
- When the climate allows, playing outside is widely accepted as a great preschool building block.
- Story time should be conducted individually, in small groups, and sometimes as a whole group. Reading opportunities should not be restricted to the entire group at the same time, as some children struggle to pay attention in these situations.
- The most critical part of a great preschool education is that the child enjoys participating and does not dread going to school. Having a positive outlook on attending school will be an asset throughout their entire educational career.
Additional Tips for Choosing a Preschool
A few factors that may help you decide if a preschool is a good fit for your child include:
- Does the preschool have any formal accreditation or certification? The NAEYC offers an accreditation to both public and private preschools who meet certain criteria and pass a rigorous review. Having an official accreditation helps ensure the preschool’s practices follow the standards mentioned above.
- Does the preschool’s discipline policy follow your own parental practices? Let’s be honest, a room full of 3-year-old children will sometime lead to chaos. How does the school handle disciplinary issues and how does it align with your own way of handling it?
- Does the school’s security and safety practices make you feel comfortable with leaving your child for long periods of time?
- Is there a good communication channel between teachers and parents? Asking a question or communicating a concern at pick-up and drop-offs is difficult while a bunch of small children run and scream.
Did you have trouble looking for a preschool for your child? What were the most important attributes that you looked for? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.