How to Find a Good Preschool without Losing Your Mind
In New York, the admissions process is tough. From interviews to expensive applications to various assessments, getting into a high-quality preschool takes a lot of time, energy and effort. Many top preschools market themselves as Ivy League feeders, while others promise that without their services, a child could wind up under-performing academically and behind socially.
Plenty of parents buy into this hype, but is it true?
Well, yes, to some extent. Research has demonstrated that children who attend high-quality preschools are more likely to read early and understand basic mathematics, are more likely to graduate on time and are more likely to attend college and embark on a satisfying career. On the other hand, parents who pay attention should be able to derive these same benefits by selecting a preschool that addresses the academic, social, creative and physical needs of their children, thereby ensuring that their children obtain the advantages of a solid preschool education without paying tens of thousands of dollars for it.
What Children Need
In preschool, children have five basic needs:
- First, a nurturing relationship with the teacher is one of the best predictors of preschool success. Children need a learning environment where they can build trust and feel safe, secure and happy. Do the teachers you observe smile, hug and generally engage in kind, loving interactions with their small students?
- Second, children in preschool should be introduced to the alphabet and numbers. Research indicates that young children who learn to read early will be more successful academically than their peers. Are the teachers you talk with passionate about these basic skills? Do the classroom walls, songs and games demonstrate this passion?
- Third, children need some freedom to choose. Preschools should offer their youngsters free play time in which a variety of activities is offered. This fosters a healthy, growing independence and social skills. Does the class schedule include free playtime? Are play stations geared toward a variety of different activities available?
- Fourth, playtime should be physically as well as mentally engaging. Children need play time to develop gross motor skills, so preschools should feature play areas with structures to climb, jump and run around on. Does the class schedule include an outdoor or play structure time? Are the facilities spacious enough for children to play vigorously in and around them?
- Fifth, children need consistency. Since most preschools are privately run, they could operate under a variety of educational and religious tenets. Children should attend a school that most closely matches the values and structure they have at home. What is the officially adopted teaching philosophy of the preschool? How does that work itself out through daily activities? Is there any religious or character instruction included? Does the environment and school structure easily fit in with your home environment and structure?
Finding the Right School
The best way to identify the right preschool is to make appointments to visit a variety of schools. Typically, on each visit, you will be shown inside the classroom, introduced to teachers and given the opportunity to observe children, activities offered, teacher-student interactions, emphasis on ABCs and 123s and other areas of interest. As you visit each school, you will see how the various instructional methods are worked out in the learning setting, and you should be able to identify which preschools most closely meet your child’s needs.
Some parents will hire a nanny qualified to teach preschool instead of sending their kids to a public setting. If you are searching for a nanny with the right qualifications, visit eNannySource.com.