After narrowing your choices down to the maybe 3 or 4 schools you’re interested in, it’s time to set up an appointment to tour. Use these questions to get a holistic picture of what your child’s new preschool will really be like day-to-day.
You’ve already developed some good routines at home (and, if you haven’t, here are some to try). Picking a daycare that matches the way you’re raising your child is critical. Children thrive on stability, so ask questions about their disciplining techniques. Ask about their daily routines, too, so that you can help your child adjust at home before they start attending.
1. Do you have a general philosophy for childcare? Is it more involved or laissez- faire?
Start by evaluating your answers to that question. Do you have a more permissive parenting style or are you something of a helicopter parent? There are pros and cons to each, so there’s no wrong answer. Once you’ve pinpointed your own process, try to find a daycare that will support that. (Think Montessori vs. traditional learning)
2. How do you handle behavioral problems? For example, what do you do when children bite or hit?
What you’re looking for here is, again, something that mirrors what you enforce at home. If you give your children time-outs, revoke certain privileges, or enforce restitution, you want your child’s school to support your at-home process.
If a school doesn’t have a quick answer to this, then they’re likely inconsistent with their disciplinary methods. You should probably look elsewhere.
3. What does your day-to-day look like?
A good school will have a solid daily schedule. When you make your final selection, you can start adjusting your child’s home schedule so it matches their new school routine.
4. How do you comfort children who are upset?
Going to school for the first time can be a major adjustment for some children. Some places will allow children to self-soothe while others will pick up your child and gently console them. Others will use a combination of soothing, distraction, and implementing a predictable routine. Matching the style you use will give you and your little one peace of mind: you both get consistency and you don’t have to worry about kids coming home and expecting something different.
5. How much time do you spend outside?
Outside playtime is so important for kids. According to Harvard Health, playing outside cultivates skills that help us plan, prioritize, and multitask, and promotes healthy risk-taking activities. Pick a daycare that encourages that growth.
Safety & Communication
Safety is probably your top priority when picking a school for your little one. Have them break down for you what their policies and procedures are for communication.
1. How frequently do you update parents on their children’s behavior? Do you offer a daily report?
When you pick a school, you’re picking another partner to help you raise your child; it takes a village, after all. You need to know that they’ll communicate with you regularly so that you can stay abreast of your child’s behavior and make adjustments accordingly.
2. What security measures do you have in place?
Ask questions about their drop-off and pick-up process. Who has access to the building? See if they have security cameras. Thoughtful security measures can include video cameras, keyless entry, and enhanced drop-off/pick-up processes.
3. What is your safety protocol for emergency situations?
Depending on your location, you might want to know if they have regular earthquake, tornado, or hurricane drills. You’ll also want to know what their planned response is to intruders. What do they do to ensure that their staff and your children are well-equipped to handle an emergency?
Health & Safety
Safety is probably your top priority when picking a school for your little one. Have them break down for you what their policies and procedures are for communication. You need to know their approach to emergency situations.
1. What do you do when a child is starting to feel unwell?
If they notice that a child isn’t feeling well, what’s their policy? Will they contact parents immediately and send the child home, or just monitor their symptoms, especially if they’re minor symptoms? Almost all schools will send kids home after a certain point, and you should ask what that is: will they only send a child home if they’re vomiting? Or do they pay attention to other symptoms?
2. What are your cleanliness standards?
Find out how frequently they clean each classroom and ask what their practices are for preventing cross-contamination between kids. Do they wash hands regularly after most activities and before meals or snacks? Kids can be kind of yucky, so there’s no preventing some exposure to that kind of stuff, but you can pick a facility that does their best to mitigate those problems.
These are the people that will be interacting with your child on a daily basis. They are helping you raise your children, and you want them to do it right. Some of these questions are critical for you to feel fully invested at your child’s school and allow you to rest a bit easier knowing that your little one is with someone you trust.
1. How are your teachers trained?
Do their teachers have a formal background in childhood education? If not, how do they train their teachers?
2. Are all teachers CPR-certified?
Most teachers are CPR-certified, but it never hurts to double-check.
3. What’s the student-to-teacher ratio?
Class sizes are getting bigger and bigger. You can expect that a smaller student-to-teacher ratio will also be a bit pricier, but you’ll also rest assured knowing that your little one won’t be overlooked.
4. What is your teacher turnover?
Employee retention says a lot about a place. If their teachers are running away after a year or two, run with them. Also, kids thrive in consistent environments. High teacher turnover means that they have to adjust to new faces way more frequently than they might want.