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The ABCs of Preschool

Finding the preschool that works best for you and your child requires some research. The best place to start is by asking questions.

Calgary offers a wide variety of preschool programs and locations. While it’s wonderful to have so many options, it can make choosing a program a little overwhelming. Look for a preschool that’s a good match in terms of your parenting philosophy and your child’s personality and temperament. If possible, attend the preschool’s open house, or arrange for a visit. Find out everything you can about the school. Don’t forget to take into consideration things such as convenience, class times, fees, location, recommendations from other parents, types of toys and equipment available, etc.

Here are some questions to get you started when interviewing a prospective preschool:

1. What type of Preschool Program? (i.e. Play-based, Learning-based, Montessori, Co-op, Religious, etc.).

2. What are the qualifications of the staff? Teachers and staff in any preschool program should have some level of training in Early Childhood Education and Development.

3. What is your maximum class size? Group size can be important when determining the best placement for your child. A small class size (less than 20) can be a benefit to some children, while other children may thrive in a class of 28.

4. Do you require parent volunteers? Some programs operate with one hired teacher and a variety of parent volunteers, who follow a schedule. This is wonderful for those parents who can commit the time, thus affording them an important place in their child’s early education. Other schools have both hired teachers and teacher’s aides, thereby offering the children consistency of care and the benefit of experienced staff. Most schools have the need for volunteers for field trips or special activities.

5. What is the discipline policy? A written copy of the school’s discipline policy should be posted clearly for parents to read. Choose a school whose discipline policy reflects your own beliefs.

6. What is the school snack policy? With the increasing percentages of children with food allergies, you need to be assured that your child is safe from possible harmful food and that the staff is aware of their allergies. Many schools have adopted a ‘No Nuts’ policy, which protects children with severe allergies to nuts.

Other questions to consider include:

1. Are there field trips or other extra-curricular activities?

2. What is the teacher/aide: child ratio?

3. Does the school have an open door policy (can parents drop in and observe?).

4. What does the curriculum include? (circle time, music, art, large motor skill play, etc.?).

With a positive start in preschool, children may look forward to elementary school with confidence and excitement.      

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