But what should you look for? Here is a how to choose preschool checklist that can help you in choosing right playschool.
You can get started by asking people you know. Friends and relatives who live in the vicinity of your house, or parents you meet in the local park or playground are good sources of information. You can look online too, for information about schools, and do pay particular attention to reviews by parents of children still studying there, and of children who have graduated.
Once you have a shortlist of schools, it is essential to visit each place individually, observe it during working hours, and talk to the staff, and the people who run the school.
But what should you look for? Here's a checklist to give you an idea!
1. Playschool philosophy – What kind of playschool are you looking for? There are several kinds – for example, the Montessori, Waldorf, Steiner schools of thoughts. There are kindergarten schools too, and then there are places who mix different philosophies and bring out their own curriculum. Make sure you have done enough research on all these kinds of preschool education systems, so that you know what you want for your child.
2. What age do you want your child to start school? Montessori schools, for example, don't accept children very young, whereas some others accept children as young as a year old.
3. Distance from home. When a child is very young, it is better not to subject the child to too-long commutes. But of course, it depends on your personal situation! It might be more convenient for you to send your child to a school close to your workplace, and then the commute might not matter much. If you plan to send the child to school using school transport, ensure that they have a good safety record!
4. Safety – Probably the most important thing that a school must have – it has to be safe in all respects.
• How does the school manage stairs and steps?
• Are the banisters of higher floors and balconies tall enough?
• Are the windows barred?
• Are there good fire escape routes?
• If the playschool is situated on the main road, is the main gate closed and inaccessible to small kids?
• Is there tight security, and are visitors screened before entry?
• Are there water tanks or tubs that a child could fall into?
5. Hygiene – The school must be clean and neat. Though it is really hard to maintain cleanliness with a bunch of messy little tots running around, there are some key aspects that cannot be ignored.
• Are the toilets washed and disinfected several times a day?
• Are the hand-towels changed every day?
• If food is served at school, is the food preparation area hygienic, and are the utensils clean?
• Are the rooms cleaned every day, the shelves dusted?
Different people have different expectations of cleanliness and hygiene, so make sure that the school conforms to yours.
6. Staff and help – If possible, interact with the staff and the help.
• Is the staff qualified?
• Is the help trained well?
• Are they loving, attentive, and patient?
• Do children seem comfortable with them?
• Talk to the director. Does their world-view correspond with what you have in mind for your children?
7. Observe the children –
• Do the children seem happy?
• Do they look forward to come to school?
• Do they look clean and well-attended to?
• How is a crying or morose child treated by the staff?
• How do they handle children with challenging behaviour?
8. Infrastructure –
• Are the benches and chairs kid-friendly?
• Are the toilets and sinks suitable for little children?
• Is the learning material up-to-date and in good shape?
• Are there enough toys and learning things for all the children to use?
9. The premises – Are the premises bright, cheery and airy? It need not be a gleaming new place – it just needs to be a welcoming, homey place. Trust your instinct on this – sometimes you just like a place!
10. Cost – Something you cannot disregard in this age of rising prices. The facilities must be commensurate with the fees!
Do check out at least 3-4 places before you finalize one, and ask as many questions as you think is necessary. If the playschool isn't open and welcoming, doesn't encourage questions, or doesn't approve of your observing them during working hours, you could take it as a warning sign! Do keep your eyes and ears open, and do trust your instinct!