Preschool gives your child an introduction to the world of education before he ventures off to kindergarten, but the learning program is actually about more than coloring and playing dress-up. A quality preschool program supports all aspects of your child's development in a safe and stimulating environment. Evaluating the program's various aspects helps you narrow down the selection to choose the best learning environment for your preschooler.
The physical environment of the school affects your child's safety, health and ability to learn. A clean preschool environment free of dangers, such as sharp corners or broken equipment, keeps your little learner safe. The layout of the furniture within the classroom is another consideration. The teacher should have a clear view of the entire room from different vantage points to provide adequate supervision of the children. Be sure the school has a secure, locked door and policies in place on allowing children to leave with someone other than parents. The preschool should also have working safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and first-aid kids. Look for a preschool that practices safety drills with the students in preparation for an emergency situation.
The teachers and administrators guide the preschool program's philosophy, goals and atmosphere. Review the qualifications of the teachers and administrators to ensure they have experience and certification in early childhood education. Beyond knowledge of child development, teachers should engage the students with various hands-on learning activities. Administrators are responsible for setting and enforcing the policies regarding safety, teacher training and student learning. The program manager, if there is one, handles licensing regulations and general program operation.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children includes relationships between students and adults in the standards for early childhood programs. Creating positive interactions develops a supportive community that allows the young children to take risks as learners. The program should focus on authentic and caring interactions between teachers and students, but parents are also a key part of the equation. Look for a program that encourages parent and community involvement. This includes visiting the classroom, volunteering and attending special events.
Not all learning takes place the same way in preschool programs. According to PBS.org, preschools are usually either academic or play-based. Many preschools fall into the play-based category, which is also described as "child-led learning." Children learn both academic and social skills through self-selected activities arranged in a learning-center format. Academic programs use a teacher-led approach and focus more on structured learning activities. Seeing the classroom in action can help you decide which type of program is most compatible with your child's learning style. Regardless of the type of program, the preschool curriculum should incorporate a variety of learning activities to meet the needs of young children.