10 Things to Look for in a Preschool Program

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers a list of 10 things to look for when evaluating a preschool, kindergarten or child care center.

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If your child is between the ages of 3 and 6, you might want to consider very carefully whether her learning environment is providing her with what she needs to learn at her full potential.

Is Everybody Happy?

Be sure that all the children are occupied at any given moment. A good environment is one where the children spend most of the time playing or working and aren't left to wander aimlessly or sit quietly for too long.

All the Live Long Day

Your child should have access to various activities throughout the day. Be sure the classroom is equipped with building blocks and other construction materials, as well as props for make-believe. Ensure that there are plenty of picture books and materials like puzzles and matching games, so that children are not all trying to do the same thing at the same time. Paints and other art materials should be present in plenty, also.

One on One

It's crucial that teachers work with each child individually, in small groups and with the whole group in appropriate time segments every day. No child should be neglected and the teacher should not be working with the whole group at all times.

Note the Surroundings

A child's surroundings are important. Ensure that your child's classroom is well lit and has good ventilation. It should be decorated with original artwork by the children, along with their own writing and stories (as told by the children and written down by teachers). As much as possible, the work the children produce should be celebrated and put in places of honor.

Opportunities to Learn

The learning environment should provide opportunities for the children to learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday life. Notice if there are plants in the classroom, or even a pet gerbil. The children should engage in meaningful activities, group projects and the calling of the roll. Food is essential to a quality education. Be certain that snacks are served and consider carefully the quality of any snacks or meal services provided by the school.

Play Time, Too

Your child should be part of projects that they put down and take up again. Also, there should be long periods of time to play and explore. In the best classrooms (at this age level) worksheets are used little if at all.

Fresh Air

Be absolutely certain that your child gets to play outside during the day. Time spent outside in the sunshine and fresh air should never be sacrificed to gain more instructional time, and at this level outdoor time should never be withheld as a punishment.

Reading Time

Notice whether the teachers read books to the children. Ideally this should happen one-on-one as well as to smaller and larger groups. It should also take place at different times during the day, not just at a designated group story time.

What're They Teaching Him?

Curriculum is crucial. Your child may be brighter than most, or he may need more attention than most. In a good learning environment this won't matter (except in the cases of gifted or learning impaired children, for whom special arrangements should be made). The curriculum should be adapted for those children who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers should demonstrate an understanding of the varying rates at which children learn and be able to accommodate at all times.

Ask Around

Take note that other children (and their parents) look forward to school. Ask parents of some of the children there how they feel about the school. Are they secure in sending their child to the program? The children should be happy, if not eager to attend school each day. And take careful note that complaints of feeling sick are not a regular occurrence among the pupils. Also ask if the program is NAEYC accredited. Programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children are required to complete rigorous evaluation to prove that they meet high standards of excellence in early childhood education.

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