Look & Listen – How to select the best school

How to find & pick the best school & child care

Choosing the right preschool, daycare, infant care, childcare, pre-kindergarten or school is easy when you know how to look and listen for the right things.  Print

Look for

Smiles A quality program is full of smiles. Look for smiles on the children’s faces. Smiles on the teachers’ faces. And greetings with smiles.
Comfort You should feel welcome & comfortable right away.
Happiness Look around you. Do the children seem happy? Are their needs being met?
Educated, Knowledgeable, Helpful & Interactive Teachers The best schools have teachers who teach the children & the parents. They help you become better parents with their knowledge, helpfulness & expertise. Look for educated-trained teachers who are eager to share their tips & tools & help you & your family. Look for teachers who interact with the children; dressing up, playing alongside, singing with…
Cleanliness Is the facility clean? Is it too clean? Remember a good program incorporates a lot of messy activities. A spotlessly clean facility usually means the activities are not hands-on. Look for signs of lots of fun balanced with cleanliness. A high quality center is cleaned throughout the day & nightly by a professional crew.
Children’s Projects Look for children’s projects displayed throughout the classroom. There should be a combination of academic work, crafts & open ended activities like finger painting, drawings, science projects, cooking projects…
Parent Information Every quality program should have parent information available in each classroom & online; website, social media, text & email reminders. You should look for calendars, lunch & snack menus, emergency procedures, curriculum, newsletters & more.
Parent Involvement Opportunities Can you drop in anytime? Read a story to the class? Nurse your infant? Have lunch with your child? Participate in planned field trips & events for holidays & hands-on learning with your children? A great program will let you be as involved as you would like. Look for a calendar of parent participation events.
Equipment, Toys & Manipulatives Look for an assortment of items that are age appropriate. Quality classrooms not only have toys, manipulatives & arts & crafts supplies, they also include real world items. Look for dress up clothes, real magazines, books, measuring cups, etc. Outside look for fun, safe, age appropriate equipment, shade, sun, trees, grass…
References & Reviews A quality preschool & infant care will have lots of online reviews & gladly distribute a list of currently enrolled families as references. If you don’t see them, ask for them.
Safety Look for high door knobs. Low ratios. Teachers trained in CPR & First Aid. Look for an open door policy for currently enrolled families, sign in & out procedures & I.D. requirements. Look for programs that practice, plan, & post emergency procedures.
Quality Curriculum A quality curriculum incorporates traditional academics with hands-on developmental activities. Look for a curriculum that includes regular field trips & on campus events. Look for a curriculum that allows children to learn at their own pace. One that accepts children of all races, ethnic backgrounds & religions. One that encourages children to think for themselves & explore their newly learned skills.
Photos & Videos Look for photos & videos on Facebook, G+, etc. A great program will post regularly so you can always see what’s going on.


Listen for

Greetings The best teachers will greet you & your child when you first visit & everyday after.
Laughter A quality classroom is full of laughter & giggles. You shouldn’t have to listen too closely to hear it.
Noise Yes, noise. If you are not a teacher, you will find a quality classroom noisy. You should hear children playing, laughing & learning the moment you walk in the door.
Caring Teachers Caring teachers don’t shout out demands. They sing songs, play games for transitions & ask children. Listen for phrases like this “Busy Bees please line up at the green door. It’s time to use the bathroom.”
Appropriate Praise & Recognition Listen for positive phrases. “I knew you could do it!” “I’m so proud of you.” “Did you do that yourself?” “I like the way you painted that red.” Preschoolers should be appropriately praised & recognized by loving teachers who use positive phrases to help children feel good about themselves & their accomplishments & repeat appropriate behaviors.
Music & Movement Is there music playing? Listen for classrooms with music available all day long. The best programs play not only children’s music, but all kinds of music. Are there games & activities planned around music? Does the curriculum specifically incorporate music appreciation?
Singing & Rhymes Listen for singing rhymes. Do the teachers sing to the children? Do the children sing? Singing & rhyming is an important part of early learning. Educated teachers know that singing encourages participation, self expression, language & vocabulary development  & makes everyone feel good. It’s fun and educational to sing & rhyme.
Reading A great program knows that children should be read to often throughout the day. Do you hear any reading going on?  Is reading scheduled throughout the day? Are parents encouraged to read at home too? Reading daily is one of the most important things educators & parents can team up together to do to help children learn.
Playing Children learn best through hands-on activities like playing. Listen for children playing & interacting with each other & their teachers. Quality schools incorporate a lot of playing. You should hear children pretending, rhyming, singing, running, jumping, knocking over their block towers, making music & sounds… You should hear teachers encouraging appropriate play & interacting & playing too.
TVs, ipads, iphones, videos… If you hear TVs, ipads, iphones, videos… head for the hills! Qualified educators, doctors & child care professionals know children do not need screens in preschool. Screen time should be nonexistent in preschool before age four & even then extremely limited.
Parents Comments If you happen to see another parent there, listen to what he or she has to say about the school. Would he or she recommend it? Ask the director for a list of references & search online for reviews. The best programs will have a lot of online reviews, a great social media presence & proudly hand out references.
To Yourself Most importantly listen to yourself. Do you feel comfortable with the school? Do you think your child will enjoy the program?

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Jenni Rice - Owner & Director
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