Which childcare center is the right choice for your preschooler? If you're not sure which program to pick, take a look at some questions to ask before you select an early childhood education program for your preschooler.
Are There Age Minimums/Maximums?
Many childcare programs and centers consider preschool ages to be three to five years old. But this doesn't mean that every program will have one three to five-year-old room. Some schools divide preschoolers by age (three-year-olds, four-year-olds, and five and older), while others use a multi-age classroom approach.
Before you select childcare, make sure your child is old enough/not too old for the pre-k classroom. Along with age minimums, some centers may have other requirements for preschool entry. These could include (depending on the program) the ability to use the restroom without a significant amount of adult assistance or mastery/partial mastery of other self-care-related skills.
How Many Children Are In Each Classroom?
Even though the other children create a social environment in the classroom, your preschooler also needs some individual attention. This means you need to find a school that offers the just-right blend of socialization and one-on-one educational experiences.
Along with educational or developmental needs, the number of children in a pre-k classroom also impacts direct supervision. If there are too many children in one class space, the educator can't supervise everyone equally. The U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Children recommends a maximum preschool (ages three through five) group of 12 to 20 children. This should include at least one trained adult for every six to 10 preschoolers.
What Will Your Child Learn?
Different preschools use different educational approaches and curricula. However, they all usually include similar content areas, such as early literacy (reading, writing, language, and communication), mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, and physical/motor skill development.
Ask the center's director or the lead educator to review the curriculum. Discuss general learning and development milestones, activities, and the approaches the pre-k educators use. Look for a program that includes age/developmentally-appropriate activities, encourages the young students to learn in hands-on ways, invites exploration, and avoids overuse of teacher-led lectures or media viewing.
What Happens During the Childcare Program School Day?
This question is more specific than asking about what your child will learn. The curriculum or activity plans can give you a general idea of the content areas that the pre-k classroom covers. But it won't fully help you understand what happens during a normal school day. Talk to the director or teacher about the daily schedule, the amount of time your child will engage in activities/learning periods, meal and snack times, nap times, and the balance of indoor/outdoor play.
Contact childcare centers near you to learn more.