Choosing the right preschool or playschool for your child can be a daunting task for any parent. However, teachers and experts agree that if you ask the right questions, you can make this undertaking considerably less unnerving for yourself.
Here are some tips on what questions to ask before picking the right playschool for your child:
Personal preference and circumstances
Before you start scouting for schools, decide which factors are most important to you.
Are you sending your little one to preschool because you think it is important for their development? Do you need to return to work? These, and other considerations, will determine what’s essential at the ideal school for your child:
- Is the school close to your home or office?
- What are the school hours?
- Are there aftercare and holiday facilities?
- Does the school provide a transport service?
- What are the school fees?
- Are there any extra fees or items you have to budget for?
- Does the school provide extramural activities and what are the costs of these?
Values and philosophy
As a parent you want your child to spend the hours they are separated from you with people who largely have the same outlook on life as your family. That is why it is important that you pick a school where the values, principles and philosophy are valued by or at least acceptable to you.
Consider these questions:
- What is the school’s philosophy on discipline?
- Are there clear rules at the school?
- Will you as the parent of a student at the school have any influence on important decisions?
All about the school
Of course there are also some fundamental requirements the school has to meet. These include but are not always limited to:
- Is the school registered?
- Is the school clean?
- Are staff members adequately supervised – either by camera or management?
- Is the school organised?
- Are age groups appropriately separated?
- Does the school follow formal class plans or have a registered class plan for grade R?
Certain issues like safety and security and the necessary stimulation of your child should be non-negotiable. However, there are also other practical issues you should find out before applying to a school:
- Are all facilities – like a pool and jungle gym – safe for children?
- Is the school secure in terms of the play area and the dropping and collecting procedure?
- Are staff members trained in CPR?
- Does the school provide children with healthy snacks and/or meals?
- Does the school provide potty training or are you expected to train your child at home?
- Do children take naps or have adequate time to rest if they spend a full day there?
- Are there enough facilities for the development of gross and fine motor skills?
The people who look after your child
A school’s success is still determined by the people who care for your child. Don’t be shy to ask these crucial questions about staff members:
- How many staff members work at the school and what is the staff to child ratio? Obviously, the more teachers and assistants are available for children, the better. However, most teachers agree that this number will vary for different age groups. One adult should look after no more than six babies, 12 young toddlers, 16 children between the ages of three and four, or 25 children between the ages of four and six.
- What qualifications and early childhood development training do staff members have?
- How high is the staff turnover? If it is fairly low, it might indicate that staff members are happy at the school which implies they will be happy to teach your child.
Trust your gut
When all is said and done, no answer to the above questions can or should override your gut feel. Visit the schools on your shortlist and ask your child’s opinion if they are old enough to comment. Chat to other parents about their experience with the school and ask for references if you need more information. But always trust your instinct!
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.