Education researchers are finding more evidence that children who attend preschool increase their chances of success later in school. But it isn’t enough that parents are putting their kids in just any preschool program, parents need to do their homework and know what to look for when they choose a preschool.
“I always tell parents to go with your gut,” said Suzi Colman owner of Harvard Park Children’s Learning Center. “If you get to a place and you don’t get a good feeling, then it’s not the right fit for you or your child. If the parents aren’t comfortable the children won’t be comfortable.”
Plan to visit the school when students are present and watch the teacher interact with the students.
“I tell parents to look for what the teachers are doing with the children,” Colman said. “You should never ever hear a teacher’s voice above a child’s voice. Are the children engaged with the teacher? Also look to see how the children are responding to the teacher. Are they comfortable with each other are they happy with that teacher? How are they engaged? Is the teacher standing over them and talking at them or is the teacher down with them and engaged with them? The best learning happens when the teachers are engaged with the children.”
When you visit, make sure you note how clean the facility is kept.
“I don’t mean tidy, a children’s classroom is never tidy, but it does need to be clean,” Colman said. “And make sure the program fits your needs, does it fit within your family’s budget and does it meet your schedule requirements as well.”
Choosing the right school is important because of its implications on a student’s success in later years.
“Preschool is typically a child’s first experience away from mom and dad,” said Colman. “Getting ready for school includes a lot of different things; social and emotional readiness, as well as getting academically ready for school, learning how to take instruction from someone other than mom and dad is very important for children to get ready for school. So preschool provides that first step. They also learn how to engage with other children, how to problem solve and do things for themselves--simple tasks like putting on their coat or putting away their dishes or putting away their materials. They seem like simple steps but doing those things consistently in a classroom setting is very important for them to establish a routine and following a routine is important for getting ready for school.”
When should families start looking for a preschool?
“At Harvard Park our preschool program starts at two and a half and potty trained, so really as soon as a child’s ready,” Colman said. “Any time between two and a half and three years old is the perfect time to start a preschool program. Whether you need a full day program because you work, or just a couple of days a week to introduce them into preschool is perfect. They start to develop those social emotional skills and those independence skills and the sooner they start that the sooner that independence comes, so then they are ready to start Kindergarten they’ll feel confident and ready to go.”
“At our school we don’t see a difference between preschool and child care,” Colman said. “Our preschool program runs all day long because if children need to be away from mom and dad and in school they should be learning the entire time that they’re there.”
Click here to learn more about Harvard Park Children's Learning Center.