Questions to ask when visiting a preschool
You will need to determine what kind of preschool you are looking for.
Questions to ask yourself before visiting a school:
• What type of philosophy resonates with you most?
• What approach will work best for your child? Play based vs. Academic?
• How does your child learn?
• Location: do you want the school located near your work or home?
• What type of hours are you looking for? part time/full time/flexible?
• What prices are you able to afford?
Questions to ask when visiting a School:
• What is the philosophy of the school?
• Is it play based or academic?
• Do they offer extracurricular classes (dance, music, science, cooking, foreign language, computer)?
• Do they have a school garden? How are the children involved in it?
• Do they have an outside classroom (i.e. do the students learn outside? Do they have circle time outside? Do they do art projects outside?) and how often is it utilized?
• Do they go on field trips? If so, how often? What are the ratios? Are parents involved?
• How does the program and teachers individualize learning?
• Is curriculum based on children’s development and interest?
• How do they provide several opportunities for children to delve into different material/topics/toys of interest?
• How long do they spend on a general theme?
• School calendar (dates closed, special events etc.).
• Payment structure (how often is tuition paid, do they pro-rate? what are the additional fees?)
• Teacher/student ratio
• How many kids can be in each class (even though the teacher/student ratio may be decent, a large classroom with a capacity of over 15 can be chaotic)
• What are the requirements of the substitute teachers, assistant teachers, teachers and directors (required experience, required education, CPR & first aid certified etc.)?
• How long has their teachers and director worked for them
• What is their teacher turnover rate?
• What is their safety protocol for fire, earthquake, other natural disasters and active shooters on campus?
• How often do they practice safety drills?
• What do the teachers do when someone they do not recognize comes to pick up a child at the school (they should ID this stranger and cross-reference child’s file to determine the eligibility of a stranger)?
• What is the overall cleanliness of the school?
• How often does the school clean the materials/toys/play structure/carpet etc.?
• What is the parent involvement?
• How do they communicate with the parents (daily/weekly basis? Emails/hand-outs, school website etc.)?
• Are there parent/teacher conferences?
• Do they provide screenings for red flags/developmental domains?
• What is the school’s sick policy (when is a child sent home for being sick and when are they able to return?)
• How do they handle conflict/resolution (time-outs, no play, sitting in an office? They should be able to explain how a teacher specifically handles the child i.e. gets down on their level, explains, helps in communication etc.)
Take a tour of the school and observe the classroom. Does the classroom have several centers in the space to allow growth in several domains (art, language, math, fine motor, dramatic play, literacy, open-ended play materials)? Is it cluttered? What is the classroom climate? Does it feel overwhelming or chaotic to you? How do the children seem to function in the space? Is the classroom inviting? Is it age appropriate and physically comfortable for a small body (short tables, chairs, sinks, low mirror, pictures, and posters hung at child’s eye level etc.). Observing the class that your child would attend is one of the most important steps in looking for a school. If you do not get to see how students function in the class during your tour, ask to book an observation for about 20 minutes or so. Seeing the class in action will allow you to see how teachers interact with students. How students interact with one another. How the classroom functions and more importantly, how your child would function in the classroom. It’s more important to put the time in before you enroll your child in a school. Transitioning into a new school can be challenging, doing observations and asking questions will help with a smooth transition. In addition to observations, I would also ask if they allow a “trial period” or a “transition period,” where, before you sign your child up, you can bring your child a few times to several different activities in the school. For example, one day, bring them in for circle time, then snack time, then outdoor play etc. This is a great way to see how your child gets along in their new school. It also works as a great tool in prepping your child to start school.
Printable version of the list here.
Are there other questions you would ask a school? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you and how your preschool search is going!