| What is Preschool | Is Preschool Considered a School | Preschool Age Requirements | When Should Parents Apply | How Much Does Preschool Cost | Why is Preschool Important | Preschool Philosophies | How to Choose a Preschool | What Should Parents Look For | Things to Look Out For | Preschool Checklist (Printable) |
This is the ultimate guide for parents who are considering or choosing a preschool for their child.
You will find a checklist on what to look for and how to choose.
Everything you need to know about preschool selection starts here.
Preschool, also known as nursery school or pre-k, is a facility that provides early childhood education to young children until they are old enough to start kindergarten.
Preschool learning is not mandatory and most preschools are private organizations. Parents who want to send their children to preschool need to look for suitable facilities and pay for the expenses themselves.
Some states offer public early childhood programs such as Pre-K or Transitional Kindergarten, but availability varies by state.
Preschools are not accredited schools. In most states, preschools are considered child care centers. They are required to obtain a Child Care license and meet state safety requirements.
For some types of preschool, such as Montessori, there are organizations that provide accreditation to preschools that meet their standards. But getting accredited is not a requirement for Montessori schools to operate.
Each preschool has its own age requirement. Typically, they require the child to be at least two years old to enroll. The most common preschool-age requirement is age three.
In general, 3 years old is the age when children can begin to benefit from being a part of a group. This is when kids begin to engage in reciprocal relationships and show less separation anxiety when they’re away from their mothers.
Some preschools also require the child to be potty-trained. Most children are potty-trained by the age of three, which coincides with the age when they can start benefiting from the new settings.
When Should Parents Apply
Many preschools, especially reputable ones, have long waiting lists. You may need to apply even before your child is at the required age to secure a place. Make sure you check with each preschool for their application deadline, too.
Preschool cost varies by type and location.
Private preschools tend to be expensive. Here in Peninsula, California, private preschools can cost up to $1200 – $2500 per month.
Co-op preschools are run by parent volunteers. They are usually less expensive but parents need to contribute their time in exchange for the lower rate.
Transitional kindergarten / Pre-K, mentioned above, is offered publicly free to children, but the requirements are different by state. For instance, in New York, all four-year-olds can apply for Pre-K. But in California, only children whose birthdays fall in a specific range are eligible.
Head Start is a federally funded program that provides free comprehensive early learning and family support to preschool-aged children from low-income families. However, their funding levels aren’t always sufficient to provide access to all eligible children. Apply as early as possible if you are eligible.
Studies show that early childhood education in general increases a child’s cognitive development, reduces grade retention, and improve behavior during elementary years1.
Some studies even find that when these students grow up, they tend to involve less in delinquency and are more likely to have a skilled job2.
Research also finds that kindergarten readiness is a reliable predictor of future school performance3.
Parents should choose a preschool based on the quality of the teachers, the policy enforced by the preschool Director, resources, the overall environment, and fit for your child, not so much on its written education philosophy.
Oftentimes, when you talk to preschool directors, you will find that they like to emphasize their education method.
Parents are, therefore, led to believe that they should pick the right preschool based on the marketed philosophy.
However, preschools do not need any accreditation to use the names of those education methods. Subscribing to philosophy does not guarantee it will deliver the same type or the same quality across the board.
Your child’s experience will mostly be shaped by the teachers, the environment, and the policies of the preschool.
It is more important to understand how the teachers are interpreting and incorporating that philosophy into their teaching than whether they have a certain buzzword in their marketing brochure.
To choose a good preschool, after narrowing down several that fit your budget, schedule, and commute, schedule a tour. During your visit, talk to the teachers and staff. Observe closely to see if they meet the criteria in the next section.
The National Institute Of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has studied the issue of early child care for decades.
It has consistently been found that the quality of child care centers (including preschool) is highly correlated to the outcomes of the child later4. It is prudent to find a high-quality preschool for your child.
The NICHD has found that fewer than 10% of the facilities it surveyed fall in the “very high quality” category. That means most preschools are mediocre and some are even low in quality.
Parents have the important job of spotting the right one among many options. Fortunately, preschool quality is very easy to assess if you know what to look for.
Here are the criteria of a high-quality preschool according to research.
1. Teachers have formal post-high school training
Studies find that higher teacher education predicts higher quality care. Look for teachers who have formal post-high school training, such as a 4-year college degree in child development, early childhood education, or a related field that addresses developmental needs of preschool children4.
2. Teachers are positive and caring
Early childhood learning is built on trusting relationships. Studies confirm that when teachers are positive and caring, children learn better and their development is more advanced5.
Positive teachers are happy and in good spirits. They are upbeat, helpful, and smile often at the kids. They may pat a child on the back or hold their hands.
The teachers also repeat the child’s words, comment on what they say or try to say. They answer children’s questions and they don’t dismiss or ignore their concerns. Positive teachers are nurturing. They don’t engage in negative interaction such as scolding or yelling at the child.
3. Teaching is interactive and engaging
Look at how teachers interact with the child during class.
Teachers should interact positively and frequently with the children. They ask thought-provoking questions and help kids to think deeper. They encourage children to talk. They also praise the child’s positive actions and inspire them to learn.
Teachers should be engaging rather than merely lecturing. They may sing songs, tell stories, read books or describe events. They use games and crafts to teach, and allow children to be active contributors to the classroom.
Besides academic topics such as alphabets, counting, and shapes, teachers should also cover daily life knowledge3.
4. Use positive discipline and patiently guide the child’s behavior
Ask the school for a clear explanation of the discipline policy.
All preschoolers are developing self-regulation and social skills. They need help to learn social rules and the words to express frustration. Good teachers should practice positive discipline. They should enforce discipline by patiently explaining and teaching, not by punishing.
Under no circumstances should children be physically punished or given a punitive time-out.
5. A lot of free playing time and social learning with teacher’s help
Free playing has been proven to be one of the best ways for preschoolers to learn6.
Playing and physical activities stimulate brain growth and enhance early development7. Free play promotes prosocial behavior and allows children to develop social competence8,9.
Look for a play to learn preschool that not only incorporates plenty of free playing time in their schedule but also has teachers who proactively guide conflict resolution and facilitate social learning (rather than just letting preschoolers “figure it out” on their own, because they can’t).
Also See: Importance of Play in Early Childhood
The child’s behavior may become worse if the preschool quality is low
Although attending preschool is associated with better cognitive development and social competence, studies show that the child’s behavior may worsen if the preschool is lower in quality.
This is another reason why parents should make an effort to look for a good preschool.
Pay an unannounced visit
Sometimes, what we see during a school tour may not be the real deal. When there are visitors, we all tend to be on our best behavior. That includes teachers.
Drop in during class time unannounced and see if you like the way the preschool runs when there are no other visitors. A quality preschool should have teachers who act the same way whether there are visitors or not.
Ask about teacher support and turnover
Teaching young children is a tough job and teachers should be paid fairly. It is hard to be a happy teacher when you are underpaid.
Ask the director about how the preschool supports its staff in terms of livable compensation, benefits, and professional development. Also check their teacher turnover rate as a high turnover is a sign of systemic problems.
Talk to other parents but keep an open mind
Talk to current and past parents if you can. But know that not everyone has the same definition of quality. You may have to ask more specific questions to get an accurate picture.
Verify the license is up-to-date
In the US, every child care facility needs to meet a set of safety standards to be licensed. Occasionally, some preschools let their licenses lapse.
Before finalizing your decision, check if the preschool has an up-to-date license. A preschool that doesn’t renew its license should raise a red flag (or worse, some are unlicensed).
Choosing a preschool can be overwhelming. Use this checklist to help you navigate the selection process.
Download A Printable Preschool Checklist
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Barnett WS. Long-Term Effects of Early Childhood Programs on Cognitive and School Outcomes. The Future of Children. 1995:25. doi:10.2307/1602366
Barnett WS. Preschool education and its lasting effects: Research and policy implications. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. 2008.
Grissmer D, Grimm K, Aiyer S, Murrah W, Steele J. Fine motor skills and early comprehension of the world: two new school readiness indicators. Dev Psychol. 2010;46(5):1008-1017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20822219.(Video) ECCD Checklist/ Manual
Early Child Care and Children’s Development Prior to School Entry: Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. American Educational Research Journal. March 2002:133-164. doi:10.3102/00028312039001133
Downer J, Sabol TJ, Hamre B. Teacher–Child Interactions in the Classroom: Toward a Theory of Within- and Cross-Domain Links to Children’s Developmental Outcomes. Early Education & Development. October 2010:699-723. doi:10.1080/10409289.2010.497453
Fisher EP. The impact of play on development: A meta-analysis. Play & Culture. 1992;5(2):159-181. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1992-42498-001.
Becker DR, McClelland MM, Loprinzi P, Trost SG. Physical Activity, Self-Regulation, and Early Academic Achievement in Preschool Children. Early Education and Development. December 2013:56-70. doi:10.1080/10409289.2013.780505
Coolahan K, Fantuzzo J, Mendez J, McDermott P. Preschool peer interactions and readiness to learn: Relationships between classroom peer play and learning behaviors and conduct. Journal of Educational Psychology. 2000:458-465. doi:10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.1248
Guralnick MJ. Why Early Intervention Works. Infants & Young Children. 2011:6-28. doi:10.1097/iyc.0b013e3182002cfe(Video) How to use the ECCD Checklist
Parents should choose a preschool based on the quality of the teachers, the policy enforced by the preschool Director, resources, the overall environment, and fit for your child, not so much on its written education philosophy.What is the most important item in a preschool? ›
Lots of reading time, arts and crafts, music, dance, exploring the natural world, outdoor play—these are all critically important to young children.
- Is the school accredited and licensed? ...
- Are the teachers credentialed? ...
- Does the school meet your family's needs? ...
- Does the school meet your child's needs? ...
- What is the school's educational philosophy? ...
- What is the school's approach to discipline? ...
- Will your child be safe here?
- Building toys.
- Dress-up clothes and props.
- Art supplies.
- Unique child art on the walls.
The Montessori method—which aims at developing children's senses, academic skills, practical life skills, and character—is the world's oldest extant early childhood curriculum model and is used today by Montessori teachers throughout the world.What are the 7 parameters to select an ideal preschool? ›
- Distance. Consider the location of the school. ...
- School Campus. ...
- Credibility of the school. ...
- Teachers and Faculty. ...
- Teaching Methodology. ...
- Communication and Transparency. ...
- Do they provide Snacks?
- What's happening in the classroom? ...
- How are teachers and children getting along? ...
- How do teachers guide, and when needed, redirect children's behavior? ...
- How do teachers talk with children? ...
- How do teachers communicate with parents?
- Reggio Emilia.
- Parent Co-Ops.
- Bank Street.
Valid and reliable checklists or rating scales can quickly provide useful information about children's skills, knowledge, behaviors, preferences, and interests. They can be used for a variety of purposes such as developing children's goals, planning for intervention, and monitoring progress.How do I assess my child for preschool? ›
Methods of child assessment can be informal (conducting natural observations, collecting data and children's work for portfolios, using educator and teacher ratings) and formal (using assessment tools such as questionnaires and standardized testing).
Pick a childcare center with a warm and welcoming environment. Make sure that the location is also safe for young children. Find out if the school has safety and security procedures to protect their students. Are the buildings, classrooms, playground and outdoor areas safe for kids?What is the best age to start preschool? ›
There's no definitive answer to the question, “when do kids start preschool?” There's an average age range for preschoolers of between three and five years old, but some kids will be ready sooner, and some kids may need to wait a little longer. There are many benefits to sending your child to a high-quality preschool.What are the 5 R's of early childhood education? ›
Reading, rhyming, routines, rewards, and relationships help young children develop the social, language, and emotional skills needed for healthy brain development.What are the 4 basic criteria for a quality early childhood environment? ›
- Safe and Secure. The safety of children is paramount, and the design of the learning space should reflect this priority. ...
- Developmentally Appropriate. Every piece of furniture needs to be geared toward children. ...
- Easily Accessible. ...
- Intellectually Stimulating.
A good preschool classroom includes a block area, a dramatic play area, a science area, a library, and an arts area. At the beginning of each day, during what's called free play time, children decide which area to play in.What is the best teaching method for preschool? ›
The Play Way Method
Teachers in good preschools use play as an important tool to groom and educate children. Of course, introducing the little ones to innovative games and blending them with basic learning work like magic. For example, certain games motivate kids to learn new alphabets, colours, numbers, and more.
Educators, on the other hand, still widely regard the Tyler model as the most effective paradigm for curriculum development.What are the 4 curriculum models? ›
There are at least 4 curriculum development models that have been recognized and often used; the Tyler model, Taba model, Oliva model, and Beaucham model. The model names are based on the names of curriculum developers.What is the most important factor in determining the quality of a preschool? ›
1. Professional and stable teacher workforce. The workforce is the most critical component of quality in an early childhood program.What are the 5 five foundational components that are essential to quality childhood programs? ›
- Classroom interaction. ...
- Positive environment. ...
- Support. ...
- Stable workforce. ...
- Administrator support. ...
- Appropriate curriculum for age group. ...
- Family interaction. ...
- Quality improvement.
The three discrete components of a well-designed early childhood environment—the temporal, social, and physical environments—really do not stand alone. They're like ingredients in a well-designed recipe.What is a parent checklist? ›
The parent checklist includes questions and resources that parents and caregivers can use to help ensure their children are getting the education they deserve. The checklist suggests key questions, tips for educational success and resources for more information.What is childcare checklist? ›
A checklist is just what it sounds like: a list that educators check off. Using this method is a little bit like going bird watching. Start with a list of items you want to observe and then check off each item when appropriate.What choices should parents have to select their children's schools? ›
Along with the schools' curricula and philosophy, you will want to know about school policies and services. Parents may also wish to consider the after-school programs a school offers, for example, sports, clubs, tutoring, or academic enrichment.Is 3 or 5 days of preschool better? ›
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to deciding how many days your child should attend preschool. Whether your child attends three, four, or five mornings per week is ultimately a personal decision based on the particular needs of the child and family.What is the difference between a Montessori preschool and a typical preschool? ›
In a traditional preschool, kids more or less learn the same things at the same time, in the same ways, and are expected to meet the same benchmarks. Montessori preschools are focused more on individualized learning. There is less overall structure and more freedom for children to learn at their own pace.What are the two types of preschool programs? ›
The main preschool approaches today are: Montessori. Reggio Emilia.What are red flags in daycare? ›
Red flags: Lack of interaction with adults; children not engaged with materials or adults; lack of materials in classroom. 2. Emotional support from caregivers. Child care teachers should be loving, attentive and focused on the children in their care.What are 4 things caregivers provide to children? ›
Parents and caregivers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. They provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and also as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.What should a checklist include? ›
- Give a name to your checklist. The name of the checklist represents the purpose and use of creating it.
- Date / Date range. ...
- Add tasks in your checklist. ...
- Continue repeating for every task.
A checklist is a type of job aid used in repetitive tasks to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. A basic example is the "to do list".What should a 4 year old know academically checklist? ›
- Sing songs.
- Skip and hop on one foot.
- Catch and throw a ball overhand.
- Walk downstairs alone.
- Draw a person with three separate body parts.
- Build a block tower with 10 blocks.
- Understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
- Draw a circle and square.
Things they can reach for, hold, suck on, shake, make noise with—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books. Things to listen to—books with nursery rhymes and poems, and recordings of lullabies and simple songs.What every parent should teach their child? ›
- Be respectful.
- Be thankful for what you have.
- Honesty is the best policy.
- Never give up.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Don't be quick to judge people.
- Admit mistakes.
- Take care of your physical health.
- A name and a nationality from birth.
- Family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment.
- Basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services.
- Be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.
The Assessment Checklist for Children (ACC) is a 120-item, caregiver-report, psychiatric rating scale that measures behaviours, emotional states, traits, and manners of relating to others, as manifested among 4 to 11 year-old children in care.What is the preschool evaluation scale? ›
The Preschool Evaluation Scale (S. B. McCarney, 1992b) is an individually administered, norm-referenced rating scale intended "to contribute to the early identification of students with developmental delays" (S. B. McCarney, 1992, p. 4).What types of assessment tools are used in early childhood programs? ›
A variety of assessment tools and approaches, including rating scales, checklists, norm-referenced tests, portfolios, and observations, can be used to learn more about the child's strengths and challenges.What should a parent look for in a good preschool? ›
- Distance. Consider the location of the school. ...
- School Campus. ...
- Credibility of the school. ...
- Teachers and Faculty. ...
- Teaching Methodology. ...
- Communication and Transparency. ...
- Do they provide Snacks?
- They can follow simple directions. ...
- They can handle being away from you for short periods of time. ...
- They can focus on a task. ...
- They want to play with other kids. ...
- They have basic self-care skills. ...
- They're potty trained. ...
- They know what to expect in the classroom.
Enrolling preschool at three years of age helps your preschooler develop fine motor skills such as writing letters and numbers. These skills inspire preschoolers to continue with academics in the future by going to kindergarten when they are five years old.What are the different preschool curriculum models? ›
Abstract. Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia education remain three of the most popular models for alternative early childhood education. Each of these approaches has developed globally, with a rich history of supporting children's educational freedom.How do I choose a school curriculum? ›
- Your child's needs. The most important thing to consider when picking the best school in Pune is the curriculum and how well it fulfils your child's learning style and needs. ...
- Pedagogy. ...
- Teaching quality. ...
- Relevant skills. ...
- Cost of education. ...
- Success rate. ...
- Scores versus skills.
- Find Out What Programs are Available. How can you know what to choose if you don't first know what's available? ...
- Narrow Down Your Large List. The pool of curriculum possibilities may be larger than you anticipated. ...
- Investigate the Materials Deeply.
The five basic types of curriculum are Traditional, Thematic, Programmed, Classical, and Technological. The most used curriculum can be found within these broader categories.What are the 5 teaching models? ›
- ENGAGE. In the first phase of the learning cycle, the teacher works to gain an understanding of the students' prior knowledge and identify any knowledge gaps. ...
- EXPLORE. ...
- EXPLAIN. ...
- ELABORATE. ...
Curriculum Design Frameworks
- Self-sufficiency. ...
- Significance. ...
- Validity. ...
- Interest. ...
- Utility. ...
- Learnability. ...
A good curriculum is one in which we address the physical, mental, spiritual, cultural and intellectual health of the child, in a joined-up way. Young people should learn to question and be encouraged to make a meaningful contribution throughout their lives for the good of us all.What is the most popular school curriculum? ›
Popular curriculum choices
The English national curriculum is the most popular curriculum choice in the world, followed by a US-oriented curriculum and the IB.
The traditional approaches to curriculum change may be classified under three categories: (1) the administrative approach; (2) the grass-roots approach; and (3) the demonstration approach.What are the three types of curriculum used in schools today? ›
Subject-centered, Learner-centered, and Problem-centered designs are the three basic types of curricula.What are the 5 teaching strategies for preschoolers? ›
- Logo/symbol labeling. ...
- Sound recognition & matching. ...
- Switch out activities. ...
- Start a garden. ...
- Get the senses involved in science. ...
- Establish rules. ...
- Tailor activities to your students.
The first thing to teach preschoolers is counting and letters. These skills are foundational to all knowledge they'll acquire through the year; it is best to start here.Which learning style works best for most preschoolers? ›
Kinesthetic. The most popular learning style preference is the kinesthetic category. These students prefer to be taught in a concrete way with real life examples and exploration. They learn best through all of their senses.