Studies show that children gain a lot from going to preschool. For one, they become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more important, they learn how to socialize — get along with other children, share, know what to expect in a classroom setting.
We know our kids are sponges at this age, so keep in mind this is a time when children particularly need high quality personal care and learning experiences. So how do we compare options and ask the right questions?
To write this post I consulted with Chelsea Dizon, Owner and Program Director of the soon-to-open Little Sunshine’s Playhouse in Littleton. Chelsea is a mom of two, holds credentials in education and was a public school teacher for five years before deciding to open a school and increase the early childhood education options in the Littleton/Aspen Grove area.
4 Questions to Ask A Potential Preschool
1. What is the basis for classroom activities each day?
Even for a young child, what keeps them busy during their day away from you should be thoughtful and based on some kind of curriculum. Some schools will sometimes have a 12 month rotating curriculum so your child may encounter the same topics each year. Free play and play-based classrooms are important, but structure is what separates a preschool from a daycare. The most effective programs focus on the whole child including socio-emotional development. Find out about both the social/emotional elements of learning as well as the more foundational math and reading skills.
So you’ll want to find out if each day/week/month has a focus, and if there are things you can be doing from home to reinforce lessons at school.
2. What developmental milestones will you be monitoring in my child?
It is important that when considering an early education facility, caregivers and teachers in the facility are well-versed in children this age. They need to have sufficient skills in guiding small groups of children in order to give full attention to individual young children’s language and literacy efforts in particular. They need to be able to draw out shy children while they help very talkative ones begin to listen to others as well as to speak.
One of the biggest advantages to a setting with teachers who have studied and are experienced in early child education and development is building a greater understanding of your child, knowing where they shine and where they need more development. You’ll want to feel you are on the same team with your child’s teachers, in that everyone is working toward the same goals.
3. How will I know what’s happening in my child’s classroom?
Will they allow you to come and observe a class as you are exploring your options AND what about once your child has enrolled? Is there technology that allows you to check in from work to see how your child is doing? What kind of communications can I expect from my child’s teacher every day? How do you send announcements? Raise concerns with parents?
Related to this, you should ask about school and classroom security. Ask how and when non-staff can enter the building and access classrooms.
4. How do you enroll? Do you select families to be a part of this school?
Schools where parents get involved can extend the experiences that a child has in the classroom to real-world activities that happen in the home. That said, some schools will want to meet you and understand your family’s goals before you apply and enroll. Others will not require this step, but I would encourage you to create an opportunity to meet administrators and understand what they feel differentiates their school.
Obviously there are many factors that go into choosing the right preschool for your child and family. From logistics like location and schedule to talking with other parents, your checklist may include a number of other criteria that will guide your decision.
If you live in Littleton and will be investigating preschool options for your child, I encourage you to learn more about Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and talk with Chelsea directly. Their curriculum is Reggio Emilia inspired and focuses on the whole child. All ages (6 weeks through Pre-K) are exposed to a second language (sign when they are infants and toddlers and then Spanish.)
Chelsea believes the most important preparation for kindergarten is building confidence so your child feels great about school and is ready to take on the world, learning as they go. She has also offered to waive the enrollment fee (a $300 value) for any family that mentions this Denver Natural Mom post.
Check out Little Sunshine on Facebook.