Getting An Early Start

Choosing your child's childcare centre or first school is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Here are the questions to ask, and things to look for to ensure that this school will be right for you and your child.

Choosing your child’s childcare centre or first school is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Here are the questions to ask and things to look for to ensure that this school will be right for you and your child.

Before You Go
Ask yourself: “What kind of childcare or school environment am I looking for?” Do you picture your child in a busy, active place with lots of other children, or are you looking for a small, nurturing environment with just a few kids? Are you looking for a particular educational philosophy? What kinds of specific needs does your young child have: toilet training, napping, socialising? Do you want a school located near your workplace or your home? If the pre-school is private, are the fees within your budget? What kinds of needs do you have regarding your schedule?

When You Get There
Consider if this school is a good fit for your child — and you. Can you picture your child thriving here? Will this school engage their interests? Nobody knows your child the way you do. You have to be able to picture your child in this setting and make sure your child will be comfortable, so you will be too. Spend time observing schools thorough conducted tours. Watch silently in the classroom and observe the interactions. Bear this in mind: “Is this the kind of environment I can see my young child thriving in?”

A Close Look At Classes
What is the educational philosophy? How does this school approach learning? Some philosophies are play-based, some introduce reading and math earlier than others, and some are a mix of both. Some pre-schools follow specific educational models such as the Montessori Method, the Waldorf approach, the Reggio Emilia system and more.

Reading, in particular, is an important skill to learn early. If this is a pre-school, ask if it focuses on teaching early literacy skills and at what age. Does this approach seem right for your child? The range of readiness for reading activities among young children is enormous.

A good pre-school programme should make all of these children feel successful. Remember that if children are pushed too soon, they can get turned off to reading — and this attitude could stay with them for years.

How large are the classes and what is the teacher-child ratio? Class size ratios in childcare settings vary. Ask your school what the mandate is. Most childcare centres range from 1:3 or 1:4 adults to children or infants, and then vary by age as the child gets older. The important thing to consider is how your child’s needs and your own will be met by this equation.

All in all, the main thing is how you feel about the pre-school you are about to send your kid. If there are a number of prospective centres and you really can't separate them on paper, follow your gut feeling!


Tags: Features, Preschool
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