As an education director of a private preschool in Manhattan, I lead year-round tours for families. I’m often asked by parents as to what sets our school apart from the many others in our area — one of the essential pieces of information you should also obtain when choosing a preschool for your child.
There are likely many thriving and nurturing preschools in your area. In your research, you’ll find options ranging from small private schools, Head Start programs, and nonprofits to large schools, which offer programs for 2, 3, and 4 year olds. Each preschool has its own unique personality and philosophy to meet differing family needs.
I often advise parents to tour a handful of preschools when deciding what is important to their family unit. When browsing, consider where your child will be most likely to thrive and make social connections. Take note as to where you feel that instant sense of comfort, intimacy, and security.
Other considerations to make could revolve around faculty size, extracurricular activities, availability of extended hours, and program philosophies. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has additional tips for questions to ask and observations to make when touring at naeyc.org. It educates parents about the features of accredited schools, and even if you’re not considering one, the website contains invaluable information about the preschool selection process.
Considering a small preschool has its benefits. There is a sense of family among staff, parents, and the children that is undeniable. Feelings of true caring and loving relationships are fostered during school events, trips, and meetings. Getting to know each parent, grandparent, cousin, aunt, and uncle enables the school community to become part of an extended family. Staff members at small preschools have the ability to notice how even minor changes may affect a child or a family. They have the opportunity to collaborate with parents on important decisions and take caregivers’ feelings into account. Teachers can also learn about the individual child and cater to his particular learning style and interests.
Regardless of school size, it’s important for educators to honor each child as if he were their own to cherish. I am extremely grateful to personally be a part of a smaller preschool community where I walk into a room and each child knows me by my first name. Hearing “Ms. Jennifer” being called brings a warmth to my heart that wakes up my daily passion for early childhood education. I hope all parents find a “gem” during their search for a preschool and have the opportunity to obtain the happiness I’ve experienced when working with a wonderful school.