3 Tips for choosing a preschool

Having started in the Early Childhood industry more than 20 years ago, I have worked with many educators and numerous parents too. Often, during school visits and tours, parents would ask “how do I choose the best preschool for my child?” 

The definition of “best preschool” would differ from parent to parent. Some parents would choose location while others would favour student: teacher ratio. From an educator’s perspective, I would recommend parents to consider the following three areas. 

Drawing by Divya Bidani

Drawing by Divya Bidani

1)     The Environment 

Children are often more sensitive about how a place looks and feels, what we adults would call “the vibe of a place”, than we realise. In a preschool setting, I believe that environment plays a big part in engaging your child: 

-       Is the preschool inviting? 

-       Does it have spaces which encourage children to explore? After all, they will spend between half to a full day there, away from home. 

-       The natural instinct for children is to explore and imagine: does the preschool provide access to play space / playground?

-       Is there time for a variety of activities for social, emotional and cognitive learning? Children thrive on routine, so these activities should be incorporated in the school’s timetable

-       Importantly, the environment should be soothing and, for safety reasons, be free from clutter. 

2)     Early Educators

The saying “it takes a village to raise and child” is a spot-on statement. When my son was younger, I recall visiting various schools not just to look at the environment but also to observe the interactions between the teachers and the children. 

Besides the academic requirements, the teachers should be patient and warm, and must relate well to your child. They are the main caregivers for your child during the day and should have a positive relationship with your child, a relationship where there’s mutual respect too. These will contribute to your child’s learning experience as they look forward to attending preschool where they feel safe, secure, respected and engaged. 

As the early years are also the key years for language immersion, the school should have a bilingual immersion programme with both the English and Mandarin educators in the class with your children, exposing them to the sound and the use of the language in a fun way, from a young age. 

3)     Pedagogy  and Approach

I have spent over 10 years directly involved with the childcare programmes and have seen first-hand how educators can influence a child’s love for reading and also how the play-based approach supports physical, emotional, psychological and intellectual growth from a baby to a toddler to a kindergartener and so on. 

 An effective way for a preschool to support children in literacy is where children are exposed to reading and stories from an early age (what we call “Drop Everything and Read” time). Being able to imagine and “act it out” would also aid the child in not only language acquisition but also confidence.

Importantly, from an educator’s perspective, I believe in a play-based pedagogy, where children are engaged in a wide range of child-initiated activities that promote relationships, creative expressions, cognition and self-regulation.

To summarise, I recommend that you pay attention to the environment, the interaction and mutual respect between teachers and children, and the pedagogy followed by the preschool.

This article is contributed by Rupal Arora, Director, MapleBear West Coast.