Preschool shopping for your child is an intimidating process. It should not be tackled without doing thorough research. You are entrusting your child’s care and development to people who barely know you or your child. The process for selecting a preschool for your child depends on finding out which preschool is the right fit for you and your child. Ask questions to find out which preschool is a match for you and your child.

Once you have narrowed down a few preschools that you like, you will need to find the school that most closely matches what you are looking for. Here are some questions that will help you as you refine your preschool decisionmaking process:

Staying in Touch

  • Is there a director on site each day? The teachers are responsible for teaching, not for answering calls from prospective parents and vendors. A director should be on site to provide backup should a teacher be called away from school or become sick after the school day has started.
  • How will the school contact a parent if there is an issue at school?
  • As a parent who should you contact with an issue at school?
  • Does the school keep up-to-date records of home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, addresses?
  • What is the school policy on who is allowed to pick up your child if you are unavailable?
  • Will school send home a monthly newsletter or e-mails with important school information?

Teacher-Student Information

  • What is the staff to student ratio? Often this number is set by the state board of education. The ratio will vary by age of the child.
  • Ask the preschool director if there is a policy in place for the absence of a staff member due to illness. Will a substitute teacher be placed in the classroom?
  • How often do staff leave the school each year? I live in a semi-rural area. Preschool teachers and assistants are not well paid. It is not unusual to find a teacher/assistant leaving mid year to find a better paying job. I started giving gifts to the teachers at Xmas and end-of-year to thank them for their service to my kids.
  • Will the same teachers be in the classrooms each day? What is the schedule if teachers and assistants only work several days per week?

Behavior Management Policy

  • What is the behavior management policy of the school/classroom?
  • How will teachers implement timeout? Again I live in a semirural area where the staff at one preschool sometimes did not have the verbal skills or patience to give children instructions and guidance in a constructive manner. In one case I found out that one of the assistants had not graduated from high school, but instead had been given a diploma for attendance due to severe learning issues. She could not make eye contact with the kids or engage with a large group of 2 years olds. I questioned why the school would hire this type of staff member. We switched preschools soon after.
  • What is the policy on hitting, scratching, and biting?

Academics in the Classrooms

  • When are parent-teacher conferences?
  • When are reports cards distributed?
  • When are children’s skills evaluated? Mid-year? Monthly? Children at 2 through 5 years develop at their own pace, but it is important for a school to recognize when a child is failing to meet milestones.
  • Will students be assigned jobs each day in the classroom: snack helper, line leader, head counter? Kids love any job assigned to them.
  • While preschools do not teach reading, it is important to ask about a preschool’s reading and school readiness program: letters, shapes, numbers, letter sounds, etc.
  • Are children given an opportunity to explore outside their classroon: outdoor play, nature walks, etc. The preschool day may only be 2.5 hours, but children need to have some time outdoors to “blow off steam”!

Safety and Hygiene in the Preschool Classroom

  • What is the bathroom policy of the classroom? Do all children go to the bathroom at the same time? Will a teacher be available to take a child that needs to go at another time?
  • Is there a bathroom in the classroom?
  • What is the handwashing policy for students and staff? (Usually after bathroom breaks and before snacktime.) I was horrified to find an inexperienced staff member place a Rubbermaid tub of celery pieces intended for snacktime on the changing table in my child’s toddler classroom. Eeewww, indeed!
  • Are the toys in the classroom washed/disinfected on a regular basis? Replaced if broken or missing pieces?

When you meet with the director or the preschool teacher, let them know your expectations for your child’s preschool experience. If your reaction is that the preschool staff do not seem to want to accommodate your needs, it might be time to find another preschool.

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