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The prospect of sending your child to preschool can be daunting, especially if you’re a new parent who’s never had to send a child to school before. It’s perfectly natural to be anxious about choosing a preschool for your child – after all, the quality of your child’s early educational experience will have a significant impact on their development. Touring a preschool is a great way to get a sense of whether it will be a good fit for you and your family. To make the most of a preschool tour, it is a good idea to think of a list of questions which you can ask the guide. We’ve put together a list of the most important questions to help get you started.
1. What Qualifications, Training and Experience Do the Teachers Have?
Your child will be spending a lot of time around teachers, and the type of relationship which develops between your child and his or her teachers can have a big influence on how well your child adjusts to this new stage of life. Find out about how experienced the preschool teachers are, what qualifications they have, how long they have been working at the particular school you’re touring, and what the child to teacher ratio is. You may also want to ask about the staff turnover rate – consistency is important in a young child’s life and you don’t want to be sending your child to a school where he or she will constantly have to adjust to new teachers.
2. What Are the Goals Set By the School for Social and Academic Development? What Sort of Social Interactions is My Child Likely to Have?
It is important to get a sense of the developmental milestones your child will be expected to meet and how your child’s development will be measured and reported. It is also a good idea to ask about the particular play-based model the school follows and the sorts of learning experiences which are encouraged. Does the play program emphasize problem-solving, creativity, and exploring feelings? How does the play program translate to academic development?
3. What is the School’s Teaching Philosophy?
This question links closely to the question above. Before attending the preschool tour, familiarize yourself with the most common preschool teaching philosophies, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf and Bank Street. Find out how the school implements its chosen philosophy: how does its philosophy inform the curriculum and class size? If the philosophy is focused on individual learning, what is done to foster cooperation and collaboration? If the learning model is group-focused, what is done to emphasize autonomy and personal leadership?
4. How Much Time Will My Child Be Spending Outdoors on a Typical Day?
This is a really important question, as your child’s preschool years will play a big role in the development of their gross motor skills and physical fitness. In an increasingly technologically-driven world, kids are spending insufficient time outdoors engaging in physical play, exploration, and imaginative games, so it’s important that the school your child attends incorporates lots of outdoor time into the curriculum. You’ll also want to know what the school’s sunscreen policy is.
5. How Secure is the School Premises?
You’ll be leaving your child at the school every day, so you want to be sure that the premises are secure, that access is carefully restricted and controlled, and that your child will not be exposed to any hazards or risks on the playground. For example, you might want to ask whether the school implements a photo-ID policy for anyone new who arrives to pick up your child.
6. How Much Screen Time Will My Child Have? What is the Balance Struck Between Technology and Play?
While you want your child to be exposed to technology, you also don’t want to send your child to a preschool where screen time isn’t appropriately limited. How is technology incorporated into the curriculum? Is it being used as a substitute for something which is more tactile and experiential?
7. How Does the School Handle Conflict and Discipline Issues?
It is inevitable that your child will encounter some conflicts as he or she navigates what appropriate social behavior is with peers. How does the school handle conflict? What is the school’s approach to discipline and what discipline methods are used? A bad experience of discipline at a young age can affect a child for years. You want to be sure that your child will be taught the bounds of appropriate social behavior in a positive, constructive way.
This list is fairly comprehensive, although you’re likely to come up with a number of other questions as you reflect on your priorities as a parent and what kind of school will suit your child and your lifestyle best. While on the tour, pay careful attention to how your questions are treated, how welcome you and your child are made to feel, and the general atmosphere of the preschool and its staff.