Thursday, August 11, 2011

How to Choose a Child Care Center for your Preschooler (For Parents)

Do you need to know how to choose the right child care center for your preschooler? You want your child to be safe, have fun, and learn while you are at work. Not all early childhood education programs are created equal, however.  Besides cost and location, the quality of the program and the talent of the staff are also important to your child’s academic and social development.  If you need to find a preschool or child care center for your young child, follow these steps to help you make a sound decision.

Ask the director of the child care center if their facility is has NAEYC accreditation.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children has set criteria for sound educational practices for preschool children.  They check early childhood education programs who apply before granting them accreditation.  

Ask to look around the classrooms at the child care center so you can check out the environment.
Are there lots of words, numbers, and letters on the walls? Is there children's artwork displayed on the walls? Are there photographs of the preschool children hanging up? This is all evidence of quality early childhood education programs that show a commitment to literacy, number sense, and building children's self esteem.

Ask what is served for snack.
If the child care center director says "juice," ask what kind. At the preschool where I worked, "juice" was actually powdered drink mix. Choose early childhood education programs that promote health and nutrition for children.

Ask what time, and for how long nap time is.
Some early childhood education program facilities have a set time, and others are more flexible to the parent's wishes. Be aware of this if your current nap schedule is working well for your child, and decide if the child care center director changing it would help or create a problem.

Ask to meet your child's preschool teacher, and then ask her about her class.
Be general; don't grill the preschool teacher. Let her do the talking. This way you get to see how warm and enthusiastic (or not) she is when talking about her preschool class. For preschool children that's one of the most important qualities in a teacher that will make a difference, not, "What skills do your early childhood education programs emphasize for children aged 2.9?" Those are questions you can ask the director, who is the instructional leader of the child care center who sets the curriculum.

Ask to see the curriculum.
Some early childhood education programs have "themes." It can be fun for you to extend your child's learning at home. For example, if there is a "safari week," you might bring your child to the zoo the weekend before. The more experiences your child has early on during his or her preschool years, the more connections to future learning he or she can make!
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