Social Emotional Learning
Ask what type of social emotional learning practices are in place. Each preschool will have different tools and resources, but you want to ensure that the school is prioritizing the skills that help children learn and interact with others. A school should be able to explain what skills are taught and how they infuse social emotional learning practices throughout the day. Look for a school that prioritizes self-regulation strategies such as breathing practices or a calm-down area.
While there are academics that students gain in their earliest years of school, they’re also working on developing skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and empathy. Look for a school that prioritizes the development of these skills by sharing about your child’s growth during conferences or conversations.
Teacher and Student Interactions
Look for a school with a lower student-to-teacher ratio, as fewer students in a classroom allow the teacher to provide more attention to each student.
Ask about the structure of the day in terms of how instruction is given. How much time do students spend in whole group instruction, small group instruction, and individual instruction with the teacher? Young children have a short attention span and cannot be expected to do long periods of whole-group instruction. Look for a school that has some individual time built into the schedule so that each child has one-on-one time with the teacher.
Play is the language of young children. Look for adults who engage with the children in play and encourages children to play. Play is not extra to learning at this age – it is learning! You’ll want to find a school that understands that preschool is all about learning through play and builds it into the program.
School and Family Relationships
Families are a child’s first teachers, and children benefit when schools and families collaborate. Ask how families can be engaged in the program. Look for a school that has family initiatives such as home visits, parent conferences, open houses, and family nights.
Ask how the school handles challenges that arise. Look for a school that prioritizes problem-solving as a team rather than a punitive discipline plan.
Inviting School Environment
You can get a feel for a school as soon as you approach it. Pay attention to how students are greeted as they arrive for the day. Is the school greeting and acknowledging the children, not just the adults? Do they get a warm welcome when they arrive at school?
Take a look around to see if the environment looks and feels like a preschool. Is student work on display? Does it feel like a child-focused environment? Bonus points if there is representation of the families in the building as well, through family photos or other displays.
Safe, Secure, and Clean
Look for a school that feels safe as soon as you walk up. You want to be sure the school has measures that control who enters the property and has safety plans in place.
You’ll also want to ensure the classroom environment feels safe. Check to make sure everything looks to be stored safely and that children can move freely without risk of harm.
Check to ensure that surfaces are wiped, floors are vacuumed, and anything the children will have contact with looks clean and sanitized. You’ll want to be sure that anything a child will be using is stored at a child’s level and stowed safely when not in use.
While this can feel like a daunting list, it’s also important to lean on your instincts. Pay attention to the way the school feels to you and whether you believe your child would thrive there. Don’t be afraid to seek answers to these questions and any others you may have. It is important to find the right fit so you and your child can get a great start on their educational journey.
Click here for a list of questions to ask at a pre-school visit.