Your child’s preschool will be his home away from home—for a few hours several days a week anyway. You can’t just drop junior off at any old place. You need to check out and evaluate the preschool before you let your child attend. You probably get that the place needs to be clean and airy with nurturing teachers. But other than that, do you know what to look for? Once you find out, you can feel comfortable knowing that your little one is in the right place.
Evaluate the basics first because if those aren’t met, you don’t need to waste more of your time. The environment must be safe and be an easy one for teachers to supervise. Your child will likely play, eat, sleep, use the bathroom and wash his hands there, so make sure you inspect all those areas and are satisfied with the way they look. The sinks, toilets, chairs and tables need to be suitable for a small child. The preschool should have room for children to move and play, both inside and out. If all these basics aren’t met, continue your search.
The most important part of preschool is play, so the preschool you select needs to have a pretty impressive setup. Many successful preschools use a variety of activity centers. The centers need to be separate enough so they don’t conflict. You don’t want messy finger painters to interrupt restful readers, for example, and you don’t want either group to be inhibited.
Little kids are active and need to run, climb and jump, so an adequate playground is important. The play structures need to be safe, and someone needs to supervise the children when they are outside. If a school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the playground meets safety standards. If not, you can hire a safety inspector certified through the National Playground Safety Institute. It’s possible for a good preschool to be small as long as there are adjacent facilities to accommodate all the children’s needs. For example, the preschool you select might have room only for indoor play, but it might have access to a community center’s playground.
Other physical aspects of a good preschool include adequate storage space—each child should have his own cubby to store personal belongings, and there needs to be adequate storage space for school supplies and equipment. A good preschool curriculum should include all or most of these elements: materials for artistic expression, games and puzzles, building sets and blocks, a dramatic play area, a soft and cozy space, performing arts activities, science (a classroom animal or plant-growing activities), indoor and outdoor physical activity areas and the occasional field trip.