Choosing the right preschool for your child is a very important decision, as it is the beginning of their education for many years to come. It is also a time when children will begin to explore the world and socialize with others on their own. A positive preschool experience will prepare your child for success in Kindergarten and beyond!
Helpful Tricks in Picking a Preschool
• Stay within your budget
It is important to know how much you can afford to pay for preschool. Once you decide how much you can pay, it makes it easier to choose or eliminate some of the options that are out there. There are many low-income programs available, and don’t forget you can also file for childcare credits on your tax forms that will bring you some money back.
• Start early
Many preschools fill up quickly and have long waiting lists, especially if the school is popular. It’s never too early to start looking, asking questions and visiting centers. Many preschools start at two years of age, so you want to start looking around your child’s first birthday.
• Make a list and visit
Always visit more than one preschool! Try to have four or five schools on your list. Make sure you make an appointment, go on a school tour or attend an open house at the schools on your list, so you can meet the teachers and staff, see the classrooms and playground and find out if the school is the right fit for you and your child. You might find that a big classroom is more important than a lot of outdoor space, or you might just know that a certain teacher would be wonderful for your child. It’s important to compare.
• Ask questions and take notes
Don’t rely on what your friends say—sometimes you and your friend might have different ideas of what is best for your children. It is good to visit a school and ask questions. When do they teach the alphabet? How much time do the kids get to play? Is there naptime? Arts and crafts? Is lunch and snack provided?
• Trust your instincts
You know your child and your child’s needs best. Do you feel like the school is a good fit for who your child is? If your child is very active, make sure there is time and space for outdoor play. If your child likes to read, make sure you see books or ask if there is a reading time during the day.
• Look around the school
Do you think the equipment is safe and sturdy? Are the classrooms and bathrooms clean? Do the teachers seem kind and attentive? Are the teachers experienced working with children? Make sure the teachers are energetic and knowledgeable. Look out for age-appropriate activities, and that the teachers respond to each child differently—each child has individual needs, skills and interests.
• Teacher turnover
Ask how long the teachers have been at the school. When teachers come and go, it affects the classroom dynamic and children can have a harder time adjusting to school.
• Class size
What is the student-to-teacher ratio at this preschool? NAEYC has set guidelines of 1:6 for 2-year-olds (with a maximum class size of 12 children), and 1:10 for 3-5-year-olds (with a maximum class size of 20).
• A day in the life
Children love structure, and it is important to know what your child’s day will be like at school. What is the schedule for the day? By what time does your child need to be at school in the morning—and if they are late, are they missing valuable lessons? Make sure the day is balanced, and that there is enough time for exploration, free play and spending time with their preschool friends.
• Find out how the school handles conflicts
—and if it resonates with your own disciplinary values.
FINDING A PRESCHOOL
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Founded in 1926, NAEYC is the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children. This website will help you find a NAEYC-accredited preschool in your area. Type in your zip code and how far you want to travel (ex. 2 miles) under “radius.”
Great Schools has invaluable school information—including classroom size, teacher education and test scores—from preschool to high school. Under “Search for Schools” on the right-hand side of the page, choose “Preschools” after “Show Me,” and then decide how many miles from your zip code you want to commute.
Los Angeles Head Start
Head Start focuses on helping economically disadvantaged preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school with no-cost educational and social services. Head Start has FREE preschool programs for children ages 3 and 4. There is also Early Head Start, which serves children from birth to age 3 and their families.
To find a Head Start school: go to:
Type in your address and zip code and the nearest Head Start program will
First 5 California
First 5 California develops and implements integrated programs and resources designed to benefit three target audiences: the Child, the Teacher, and the Parent in the focus areas of Nutrition, Early Literacy and Language Development, and Smoking Cessation. This website has good information under “How we help California’s children” to explain why preschool and school readiness is so beneficial for our children.
Pathways is a community-based nonprofit agency dedicated to ensuring that all families, regardless of income or special needs, have access to high quality early childhood education and child care. Pathways has a free referral service to help you find child care options and providers. They can also help you obtain partial to full subsidization of preschool tuition for low-income families. Pathways also has two early childhood intervention centers in Eagle Rock and West Hollywood that offer assessments, services and interventions for children ages 18-36 months who have developmental disabilities.
CalWORKS has a Child Care Program for parents who are receiving CalWORKs cash aid. To find out if you are eligible, visit the website or ask at your local welfare office.
Crystal Stairs is one of the largest private, nonprofit child care and child development agencies in California. Founded in 1980, their mission is to improve the lives of families through child care services, research and advocacy. Crystal Stairs helps families find licensed child care and, for those who qualify, they can also pay for child care. The organization also provides training, resources and technical assistance to child care providers to enhance the quality of their care and their skills to grow and sustain their businesses. They also provide a number of programs and services that support healthy living, childcare advocacy, parent training and empowerment, and family economic