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Finding the right preschool for your child is such an important step that some parents actually start searching for one when their child is born. This can be a great idea, especially if you have a large variety of preschools to choose from, though oftentimes there are long waiting lists to get into these. Whatever your situation, or the age of your preschool child, it’s a good idea to start the decision-making process early.

Play-Based or Academic
Different preschools follow different educational philosophies. What do you want your child to gain the most from his or her preschool experience? Do you want it to be a mostly academic or activity-focused experience? The majority of preschools are play-based in nature, but are these right for your child’s individual needs?

  • Play-Based preschools have their teachers encourage the children to play with the intention of helping them develop social skills. The classroom is arranged in different sections such as reading, block and puzzle, kitchen and home, science and basic math sections. As children play in these different sections, they develop critical thinking skills as well.
  • Academic-Based preschools are designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The teacher plans the activities for the day, and guides them through in a more regulated way. Children learn about different colors and shapes, telling the time, the sounds of different letters and very basic math skills.

Check Accreditation
The Child Care Aware hotline (1-800-424-2246) can direct you to local referral agencies and resources. These can then direct you to accredited schools in your area. One resource is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Another is the National Association of Family Child Care. These agencies both have websites and databases with preschools with their accreditation.

Pay A Visit
Paying a visit can tell you a lot about a preschool. Janice Logan, a teacher at an Irvine preschool, suggests that parents pay a visit to each and every preschool they consider, as this is the best way to get a feel for what the school is all about. Visiting also gives you a chance to meet the teachers and faculty and to see firsthand how classes are conducted.

No matter which preschool you choose, the teachers should stimulate the children’s curiosity to learn and guide them towards developing necessary social skills. If a preschool is not organized properly and does not truly enforce its rules and regulations, it’s a good idea to keep looking.