If your child is between the ages of two to four years old, you are probably thinking-no stressing- about what pre-k program your child is going to attend. And everyone around you, including the child’s dad, probably thinks that you are absolutely nuts. After all, before you were a parent, you saw kindergarten and below was just a glorified daycare where children just play with friends and they don’t actually need to attend. But it wasn’t until you had a child that you realized how important learning and socializing is for toddlers and preschoolers. After all, children learn so much before the age of five.
In my city, public pre-k admissions for fall have just begun, and the online system already shut down! It’s not surprising at all. Preschool not only saves money for working parents. It also offers an educational and trustworthy environment for your preschooler that many home daycares and caretakers don’t provide. There is just something about children being around kids their age that gives parents a fuzzy feeling (and the fact that they don’t have to plan playdates anymore!) Here are a few things to keep in mind when applying to preschools:
Size definitely matters
If you have older children who are already in elementary school or above, a large public school is probably the best choice. After all, you don’t have to make an extra stop in your commute. And your preschooler probably has sibling priority and wanted to go to school just like their big siblings. If this is not the case, you might consider a smaller, more intimate environment such as a daycare or pre-k center, where there are only children who are around your child’s age. This will create a smoother transition for your child to enter a large public school with big kids in kindergarten. These options are also convenient for working parents who need childcare after school hours. If you want a more hands-on environment for your toddler, a cooperative daycare is more like a playgroup than an actual preschool and helps you to get to know teachers, students, and other parents better. At playgroups, parents volunteer to read to students, clean up, and even host events for students.
Cater to the needs of your child
To stand out from its competition, preschools have different specialties that appeal to parents. This ranges from nature-based, play-based, STEAM-based, arts-based, or any other niche that you can think of. You know your child’s interests better than anyone else does and this can help you navigate the ideal preschool for your child instead of an ordinary one. This process might be overwhelming, but focusing on what your child wants instead of what you want for your child or preschool rankings might narrow down a lot of choices. Attending preschool fairs in your city can help narrow down choices and help you find out about options that you might not have otherwise known about.
Ask the right questions
After creating a list of your top preschool choices, it is important to go on a preschool tour. This definitely matters because it will help you see if the schools that you are considering are as good in person as they look on paper. It is always helpful to attend the tours with your child so that they can get a feel of the environment as well. After all, they will be the ones who are staying there from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon (and longer if they need to attend after school.) Some questions that you can ask during the preschool tour are the following:
- What does a typical day look like?
- What is your educational philosophy? ( Montessori v.s. Reggio-Emilia, for example)
- Are your preschool teachers certified?
- What type of extracurricular activities does your school offer?
- What are the food options for kids?
Listen to reviews
You know that you cannot just rely on what the school says about itself. During the preschool fairs and school tours, you will only hear positive things about the school you have in mind since they are still advertising themselves to you. Luckily for some schools, you can read reviews online to find out what real parents have to say about their child’s preschool experience. Some websites include Google Reviews, Yelp, and preschool websites such as Niche.com and GreatSchools.com. If you cannot find any information online about the preschool of your choice, turn to people who you know to find out more about some of your prospective preschool choices.
Apply on time
One of the key components to getting your child into the perfect preschool is to apply on time! I cannot emphasize this enough! Unlike middle and high school admissions, there are very few merit-based ways to get your child into preschool. After all, they are still learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes! Therefore, for the most part, preschool admissions are unfortunately based on pure luck. If you apply by the deadline, you will definitely have a better chance than if you miss the deadline. Some preschools are rolling admission, which means the sooner that you apply, the more likely your child will get in! So make sure to organize all of the deadlines to make sure that your child gets into a top choice!
I hope that you found my preschool guide to be very informative. I wish you all the best with your preschool applications!
Talk to you soon!