Choosing a preschool for your child to attend is an exciting time. Just think of all of the friendships your child will forge, the memories they will create, and the lessons they will learn!
But it can also be a stressful experience for parents, especially if this is your first time. You obviously want the best for your child. You want them to be happy. You want them to learn. Most importantly, you want them to be safe. But how can you be sure that you are making the best possible choice when choosing which early childhood program to enroll your child in?
Ultimately, you should rely on your own intuition and judgement in evaluating programs and facilities. After all, you know what feels right.
That being said, there are questions that you can and should ask to help yourself get a better feel and understanding for what the different preschools on your shortlist have to offer. By gathering all of the information that you can about each preschool you are considering, you can feel much more confident that you are ultimately making the best possible decision for your child.
To help you collect this information, we’ve compiled a list of 25 questions that you should ask when choosing a preschool. The first five questions will help you narrow down your list so that you can identify which programs and facilities deserve more attention. The ones that follow are split into four categories—Accreditation & Policies, Staff, The Program, and Facilities—which can be particularly helpful during a preschool tour or open house.
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Before You Go
These questions can help you narrow down your list of potential programs into a much shorter list, which can be more manageable for you to visit and ultimately compare.
1. What program is my child eligible for?
In order to best accommodate children of different ages, many preschools offer multiple different programs. These are typically separated by age. For example, at Trinity we offer two separate programs: Les Enfants for, and a Preschool program that consists of both Prekindergarten and Kindergarten.
By understanding which program your child is age-eligible for, you can ask more informed questions as you make your comparison.
2. What does the schedule look like?
Every family has different scheduling needs, and it is important to identify the programs that can support your family’s schedule. Do your best to understand:
- When the school day starts and ends
- Whether or not there is before or after care
- Whether or not there are part-time options
- Whether the program goes the full year, and if there are differences in summer hours
3. Where is the school?
This ties into the question above. You know how far your family can travel to get your child to and from preschool. Use this understanding to realistically create a geographic boundary that can help you narrow your search.
4. How much does the program cost?
Similarly, cost is another important factor which you can use to quickly determine whether or not a program falls within your budget. Because many programs do offer financial aid, you should be sure to contact any programs on your shortlist to determine whether or not they offer any need or merit-based scholarships or aid that can make the program more affordable.
5. What is included in the tuition?
For some preschool programs tuition will encompass all fees that a family can expect to pay. Other programs will list these fees out separately. Things like lunch, snack, aftercare, before care, summer hours, and field trips can all quickly add onto the total cost.
Accreditation & Policies
Asked before a preschool tour, these questions can help you narrow down your list of candidates. But you should also feel comfortable asking these in person as well if you did not have the chance before your visit.
6. What licenses and accreditations does the program carry?
Different states and even localities require different licenses and accreditations from programs that care for children. Do your best to understand what is expected in your area, and find out whether or not the programs on your list meet those requirements.
7. What are school policies for sensitive issues?
Every preschool program has their own policies for handling issues like discipline, medication, allergies, food, potty training, and more. Know what is important to you and your family, and be sure to inquire about those particular policies so that you are choosing the school that most closely aligns with your family values.
8. How do graduates perform at their next level of placement?
This question is designed to help you understand how the program will help your child prepare to enter the school system. By understanding how past students have tended to acclimate when moving to next level placement options (and beyond), you can form an opinion as to how your own child will perform.
The staff and faculty members who will actually be caring for your child on a daily basis are perhaps the single most important factor for you to consider. These are, after all, the people who will ensure the safety and well-being of your child when you are not around. It is important that you trust them.
9. What certifications and experience are required of staff?
By understanding what certifications and experience the preschool requires of the people it hires, you can gauge their values and ensure that they align with your own.
10. What is the student-to-teacher ratio?
Countless studies have suggested a very high correlation between low student-to-teacher ratios and increased student success.
Why? Because the fewer students for which a single faculty member is responsible, the more individualized attention they can give their students, and the more value a child will gain from their interactions.
11. What does turnover look like?
Understanding what turnover looks like—how often staff quits or moves to different roles—can offer you incredible insight into a preschool program’s atmosphere. Ideally, you will seek a preschool with low faculty turnover, which can offer your child stability as they both acclimate to and experience the education process.
12. What does parent-teacher communication look like?
All parents want to ensure that their child’s needs are being met, and this necessarily must involve communication. Communication between the parent and child, but also communication between the parent and the child’s instructors. Understanding what communication looks like—what it entails and how often it can be expected—can be incredibly helpful in setting your expectations and ensuring that the program you choose falls within your family’s needs.
13. Are rules enforced clearly and consistently?
As mentioned above, consistency is incredibly important for preschool children, who are doing their best to learn what is and isn’t socially acceptable. Ensuring that discipline and rules are enforced consistently and clearly, and never arbitrarily, is an important factor to consider.
14. What training or development opportunities are available for the staff?
A truly great preschool (or any school) values its faculty and staff, and takes steps to ensure that the members of their community are given opportunities to advance and develop their craft.
Asking about professional development opportunities can help you gain a deeper insight into the values of the school, and also ensures that the staff is always following the most up-to-date guidance.
Preschool forms the bedrock upon which your child’s entire academic future will be built. By evaluating the academic components of the preschool, you can ensure that you are choosing a program that will allow your child to truly thrive and learn the skills that they need to be successful.
15. How does the program facilitate the development of language skills?
Language and communication are some of the most important skills for a child to learn, and the earlier they can start doing so, the better. Often, the single best way of facilitating this development is by having real and meaningful conversations with each child.
16. What math and pre-literacy programs do you utilize and why?
Just as language skills are important, so too are math and reading skills. Understanding how the school builds these skills in their students can help you determine the quality of the program and meets your personal standards.
17. How do you individualize the curriculum for each student?
No two children will ever learn exactly the same. Some are more inclined to learn through discussion, some through visuals, and some by actually working through the subject matter with their own hands. It is important that the preschool you select for your child understands this and has a plan in place to individualize the curriculum for children who learn best in different ways.
Similarly, children who are struggling or thriving may demand their own curriculum in order to best meet their needs.
18. Are there opportunities for children to be independent, creative, and curious?
Though academics are of course important, it is also important that a child is able to still be a child. That means ensuring they will have opportunities to be independent, creative, and curious on a daily basis.
19. How do you teach the whole child?
Related to the above, how does the program aim to address all of a child’s needs in order to ensure that they are developing into a whole, balanced person? In addition to asking about academics, ask the school about social, emotional, and physical development as well.
20. What does a typical day look like?
Understanding the typical day to day flow of activities can give you a better sense of what your child will experience on a daily basis. Sample schedules can be some of the most informative pieces of information that parents can reference during the comparison process.
21. What is the school’s mission?
Each preschool is going to have its own unique mission, and exemplify that mission in different ways in the classroom. Understanding their mission can help you ensure that it aligns with your family’s own goals.
Making observations about the physical conditions of any school you are considering for your child can be instrumental in ensuring you make the best choice possible.
22. What do the facilities look like?
When you actually get on the premises of a preschool, it’s incredibly important for you to observe the quality of the environment. What do the facilities look like? Are the facilities safe and secure? Are they clean? Are first aid kits and fire extinguishers obviously placed and readily available?
23. Do children have access to age-appropriate toys and technology?
This question is particularly important for facilities that educate children of different age ranges. Younger children require toys, games, and technology that are very different from the toys, games, and technology that would be appropriate for older children. Any quality program will understand this and take steps to ensure that they are meeting the needs of both groups.
24. Is diversity embraced?
While every program will claim that they value and embrace diversity, one of the surest ways of gauging this on your own is to look for cues of representation in the environment. Are people of different cultures, sexes, ethnicities, and religions represented in the books, dolls, toys, and decorations available to children? What about the faculty and staff?
25. Is the children’s work on display?
While this may seem like a small touch, displaying the children’s work (both academic and creative) can do wonders for a child’s self-confidence. Look for signs that this confidence is fostered, and that children are given the opportunity to be proud of what they accomplish.
Choosing the Best for Your Child
Ultimately, as a parent, you always want what is best for your child. By asking the questions outlined above, you can feel more confident that your final choice of preschool will be the one that will allow your child to thrive.