Choosing the Perfect Preschool
Choosing a preschool is a big deal! Since a lot of mamas will be enrolling their little ones in a preschool this summer, I thought it might be helpful if I went through my decision-making process when choosing the perfect preschool for Ryan. It's never easy to send your child away and into the arms of caretakers who aren't family... but starting preschool is an exciting milestone and if you prepare yourself and your child, it can be a fun and positive experience!
And if you're reading this and already a teary mess just at the thought of sending your little one to their first day of school, you're not alone. Read all about how emotional it was for me when Ryan first started preschool here. Spoiler alert: lots of tears (happy and sad)!
9 Questions to Consider When Choosing a Preschool
1. How far is the preschool from work & home?
One of the most important factors when choosing a preschool is location. Some mamas will consider an amazing school if they love it, even if it’s not in their neighborhood. But, my rule is 15 minutes max... I don’t want to worry about traveling further than that (on a regular traffic day) to get to my baby in case of emergency… you see my mom hat is always on. So my tip is, pick THE BEST preschool close to home or your workplace.
2. How much does it cost?
Most preschools and daycares in LA are private and with that comes fees. There are community public schools available in some areas, so do a quick search and see what your options are. Decide on a budget for preschool that works for your family. This will help you eliminate any schools that aren’t a fit cost wise before you start touring schools.
3. What are the school policies?
You want to be in the know about school policies and how they handle various situations and how they observe holidays.
Consider if their disciplinary policies match those in your home. For example, you may choose to not practice time out at home, but maybe the school does... that would be important to know to avoid confusing your child. Other things to consider:
How does the school work on problem-solving with the kids?
How does the school approach learning?
How does the school prepare children for kindergarten?
4. How is the teaching staff?
You want to know that your child will be in good hands. I don’t trust my babies with just anyone. The best way to get the down low on the staff is to speak with parents who already have children attending the school you're considering. Their feedback is gold! Parents will tell you things that will turn you off, too, so it helps when you are looking to eliminate schools from your consideration set.
You'll also want to schedule a tour to check out the school during normal school hours so you can see how the teachers interact with the children. Keep an eye out for happy kids, lots of interaction between the teachers and kids, and smiles. Touring schools is so important! More on that soon.
5. What is the enrollment process?
Some schools are year round and will allow you to enroll your child at any time as long as they aren't at capacity and your child meets the age requirement. Other schools have a strict start date of late summer / early fall and won't allow enrollment before or after.
How long are summer and winter breaks? It's important to consider schools' schedules especially if you are a working parent and would benefit from a year-round program rather than a program that takes summer months off, for example.
What are regular school hours? Some schools will open as early as 7:30 am and keep your child in care as late as 6:00 pm. Others will have a mandatory close at 3:00 pm. Again, school hours is another important factor, especially for working parents.
6. What is the average class size?
To me, the smaller the class size the better. A smaller classroom means teachers can be more attentive to your child’s needs. For most families, this is the first time your little one will be away from home and mama… a more intimate setting is preferred for a smoother transition. Get an in-person look at the teacher-child ratio during a tour.
7. What do the facilities look like?
I highly recommend scheduling a tour! When you do a tour of the school on a regular school day, you’ll want to see how the school is kept. I love to see how the classrooms and play areas are kept throughout the day. Also look to see what kinds of toys (educational vs. non) are available for the kids, and do they offer indoor and outdoor learning spaces?
Restroom upkeep is important too. Where will your little one be doing their business? If not potty trained... how will the school support your child’s potty training journey?
8. How is their lunch program set up?
Be sure to ask if there is a kitchen on site where they prep lunch. If there is a kitchen, what are your child’s options… are the meals balanced... do the parents pick out meals for their kids in advance or do the kids get to choose for themselves? If there’s no kitchen ask if the school has access to a reliable lunch delivery program or if your child needs to bring lunch with them.
9. How do they handle special needs?
Different schools will have differing policies regarding allergies, potty training, napping, and socializing. Be sure to ask how they approach the topics that are most important to you, and any other special needs your little may have.
Tour the School Before Making a Final Decision
Once you've considered the questions above, narrow your choices down to your top 2 or 3 schools. Schedule a tour to see all of them during school hours first without your little… so you aren’t distracted while observing... then schedule a second visit with your little to see how they interact in the school, with the staff, and with the children.
Mamas, take your time when making this decision! There’s a lot to consider when choosing a preschool that is the perfect fit for your family... it can be overwhelming, but it’s worth it in the end.
Trust your instincts and do what you feel is best for your child in the next stage of their development. I knew which school was right for Ryan as soon as I visited. You'll know it when you see it!
Good luck with the search!
Mamas, who have successfully sent their kiddos to school... I'll be going through it again very soon as it's time to consider Ryan's grade school for when he completes his preschool program next year. Please share any tips I missed in this blog in comments below. xo!