8 Tips for Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

8 Tips for Choosing the Right PreschoolI get some interesting reactions when I tell people my 2-year-old goes to preschool. A lot of people are shocked that I would send him to preschool so young.

That is, until I share that he’s in a parent-child classroom just for two-year-olds (where parents stay with the children for half of the year) that’s run through our family’s church and operates for just 1.5 hours once a week. And did I mention it’s entirely play-based?

Ohhhhhh, well in that case, that’s wonderful!

Yes, it really is! 

Preschools are as diverse as our children themselves, and the decision of when and where to send your kid is not one to be taken lightly. It should be based on a variety of factors that take into account the school itself and also the specific needs of your family and child. 

With preschool registration for the fall already in full swing, here are some tips to consider as you search for your family’s ideal location.

8 Tips for Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

1. Determine your goals.

What are you hoping your child gets out of the preschool experience? Is it mostly about socialization with other children? Adapting to a more structured routine? Learning her ABCs and 1,2,3s? 

What you’re hoping your child achieves through going to preschool plays a big role in determining which one is right for you.

2. Make a list of your priorities.

Is it essential that the preschool be located close to your home or work? Are you looking for a morning or afternoon program? How important are factors like size and cost? What about food options, like snacks or lunch?

Other important considerations are the preschool’s approach (which can include Montessori, Waldorf, play-based, faith-based, and child-led) and accreditation status (the National Association for the Education of Young Children is the main accrediting organization for preschools and early learning centers).

It might be tough to find a preschool that fits every one of your desires in all of these categories, so decide which ones are deal-breakers for you and start there.

3. Seek out personal recommendations and feedback.

Local friends and family can provide valuable insight into a preschool’s general reputation in the community. And you can always seek out feedback from parents with children currently enrolled in the program. Ask them for their honest opinion and you’re likely to get it.

4. Visit in-person.

There’s only so much you can learn through a website or over the phone. Seeing a preschool for yourself gives you a much better sense of the way it operates, and if it will be a good fit for your child.

If possible, visit when children are present so you can see the site in action. Then make key observations and ask pointed questions of the staff. 

Do you see any safety concerns? (A friend of mine was very excited about a childcare facility until she saw the playground, which is right next to a main street and has a frighteningly low fence between the swing set and traffic.)

How’s the noise level?

Is the space welcoming and inviting? What kinds of toys and learning items are present?

What are the staff members’ qualifications? Are they required to have any kind of certification?

You can even visit with your child to judge how he reacts to the preschool. Just remember that even if he seems reserved, the school might still be a good fit, especially if your child often takes some time to warm up to new places and people. 

5. Consider your child’s unique needs.

Every child is different, and some preschools are better equipped to handle those differences than others.

For example, some preschools may require your child to be potty-trained, while yours is struggling a bit in that area.

Or maybe your child relies on her daily afternoon nap, and the timing of the program doesn’t accommodate that. 

Or perhaps your child has special needs that the preschool’s staff aren’t well versed or experienced in handling. 

Think through what kind of environment your child will need to thrive, and seek out a preschool that’s a good match. 

6. Don’t wait.

Depending on your geographic area, preschool waiting lists can get long. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect one and then realizing it’s completely full for the next year.

7. Consider if home preschooling is right for you.

I know some moms who ultimately decide to handle preschooling on their own, either because they’re planning on homeschooling for the long term or just because they feel it’s best for their child at this particular time.

I simply don’t have the creativity or patience to make home preschooling a success, but I admire those who do!

If you think this route might work for your family, there are plenty of online resources to give you ideas and inspiration. I personally love the site Learning2Walk.com, which is full of activities, crafts, and printable resources for preschooling at home.

8. Trust your gut.

In the end, your list of preschool pros and cons doesn’t hold a candle to your mama instincts.

If a specific location looks great on paper but just doesn’t feel right to you, skip it. If another option doesn’t meet every single piece of criteria and yet makes you and your child feel comfortable, then it’s probably the one. Sending your kiddo to preschool is tough enough as it is; having a feeling of security and peace of mind will make the transition better for everyone.

How did/will you go about choosing a preschool for your child? Was it a tough decision?

image via Dollar Photo Club (affiliate link)

34 responses to “8 Tips for Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child”

  1. We found our school after having a disastrous experience with another school. We found the first one by looking for accredited daycares in our area. I knew I wanted to send my kid to a daycare that would be held to the standards of a school. Luckily shortly after we started with our ‘new’ daycare it was accredited. He has learned so much and he is just about to be moved to the official pre-k classroom! Now we are looking into an excel program that is offered through the state and hopefully we will get him in.

  2. This is a great list – and rather comprehensive. I am scheduled to visit a school next week for our 3 year old. We have chosen this school because all the local moms give it rave reviews and it’s right down the street from our home. I am hoepful this is going to be a match made in preschool heaven!

  3. My preschoolers stay home with me, but now that I have only one left, she goes to school 1-2 days a week and still does the rest at home. Luckily, we get school tuition free at our parochial school as my husband is an employee of the ministry, so we did not have to search.

  4. I can’t agree with the in-person more! The one I thought I wanted my child to attend just didn’t have a good feel for me when I went there in person. I’m SO glad I visited before enrolling.

  5. Great tips! I used to be a preschool teacher and, when I became a mom, these were all important things I looked for. I think another thing that surprises parents is the registration schedule. Our church preschool, for example, is already almost finished with registration for next year. Some parents don’t think about it until May and by then it’s already full.

  6. We didn’t really “do” preschool. I mean I did things with my girls at home, but it wasn’t really planned out or organized with a lesson plan or anything.. we just continued on like we had been in earlier years until Kindergarten!

  7. I visited three preschools before knowing that the one we sent our eldest to was the right choice. It was based on many of the things you listed here, including his temperament, proximity to our home, and price! Also convenience for simple things like being able to pack a hot lunch and easy drop off and pick up were nice perks. But the main part was the environment. Kids were self-sufficient and learning a lot. I would also recommend looking up reviews of the school online for parent testimonials.

  8. This is very timely for me. I’m trying to decide between two preschools for my daughter next year. She’s been in a home daycare so far, and I want something with a little more structure and focus on learning, but still a lot of play. It feels like such a huge decision, but I feel like it shouldn’t be a big deal. Anyway, great list — super helpful, as always 😉

  9. Although it’s a bit early for me to be thinking about this, I’m already weighing doing preschool at home versus taking her somewhere. I think if she has enough kids around without going to school I might try teaching her myself. But I have to get my husband on board first! He’s skeptical.

  10. These are great tips. I was lucky because I go to a church with an outstanding preschool program. Many of my friends kids go there and I didn’t have to do much research at all. Our minds were made up!

  11. I initially chose the preschool that I worked at because that just made the most sense. When I switched jobs, I was lucky to have five years worth of inside knowledge on all the other preschools in town. Your tips are great for parents starting from scratch!

  12. Our nearest preschool is 30 minutes sway minimum. Due to increased travel for work, I’m seriously considering homeschooling our girls. It’s not my ideal situation, but it might be best.

    Our girls are social and we focus on learning and play for them and us everyday. As a result, if we do homeschool, I’ll be okay with it.

  13. All good, practical tips! I’m working on a similar post since my son is starting next month. It’s true that there are so many options for preschool, and if your child benefits from it, nothing wrong with starting earlier.

  14. I loved your personal anecdote at the beginning because I feel like it really illustrated how different preschools can be! The tips you included are wonderful, and I especially like that you mentioned visiting in person before making a decision. I feel like that goes hand in hand with using your gut to make a decision. My daughter isn’t quite preschool age yet, but I’m already starting to think about all of this! Thanks for a great article!

  15. I think visiting a preschool and seeing how it’s run and getting a feel for it’s environment is a really good idea. I wouldn’t want to send my kid to a place I didn’t know anything about. I think your gut will tell you what you need to do once you’ve done your research and checked out places. There are some things you can just tell there is something off. I agree that it’s good to trust your gut! Great info, thanks!

  16. I love the idea you posed about visiting in person. I’ve made some mistakes in the past because i didn’t do enough research into the school. We ended up having to switch schools. Sure enough I was sure to research before I switched. I learned from my mistakes. I think checking the place out in person could prevent a lot of stress in the future.

  17. I love your tips for finding a good preschool. My son is getting to that age, and I want him to really enjoy school. I agree that asking friends for a good recommendations is a huge plus, since I know plenty of young moms.

  18. I agree that you need to be sure to consider your child’s personal needs when picking a preschool. I would add that you should check out the school to see if the personality of the teachers will be good for your child. It’s important that your child can have a good experience communicating and interacting with the teachers so they can get the most out of their preschool days. http://www.youthlandacademy.com/preschool

  19. Thank you for these tremendous tips. You mentioned in this article you should consider the goals you have for your child when choosing a preschool. My daughter is really shy, so I would love for her to have an opportunity to work with other kids and learn to express herself a bit more. I’ll have to look for a preschool that focuses on those kind of skills and activities.

  20. My little girl is about that age were she is going to be starting at preschool here very soon. Me and my wife have been looking for the right preschool to take her too. I like your advice to visit the school in person and see everything they have to offer to you and your child. Thanks for the great advice.

  21. I like how you suggest to figure out what factors of the preschool are most important to you before you start looking, so you know immediately what you’re looking for. My little boy will be starting preschool this next year, and I’m looking for one fairly close to where I work so that if there are any emergencies I can be there very quickly. So now I’ll be sure to include that in my search, along with some of the other priorities that I have for my son’s daycare. http://riverdalecommunityschool.com/programs.php

  22. It’s good to know that when it comes to choosing a preschool that there are some things that we can do to make sure that we find the right one for our son to attend. I am glad that you mentioned that when it comes to visiting in-person that it will help give us a better sense of how they operate and if they will be a good fit. This is something that will help put me at ease so that I know that we are talking him to a good school.

  23. A friend of mine is getting ready to go back to work, but they weren’t sure how to choose the right daycare for their kids. It makes sense that you would want to ask your local friends for insight. It would be nice to get their opinion on things that are required in the facility.

  24. We are excited for our youngest to start Kindergarten. She has watched all of her sisters go to school and is talking about how excited she is daily. Since we are in a new location, we are currently looking for a new school for her and I really liked your fourth tip. Visiting the school is a great way to make sure that the school is a great fit for your child. I will be sure to check the staff qualifications and ensure that the environment meshes well with my daughter’s personality and learning style.

  25. Once again an excellent blog from pickanytwo.net. At first, I would like you to thank you for sharing this excellent blog about preschool and its significance. Here i learned a lot about how to choose the best preschool from your valuable tips. Keep blogging!

  26. Its been a great post and help a lot in finding the right schooling for your children. I think visiting a preschool and seeing how it’s run and getting a feel for it’s environment is a really good idea.

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