What Questions Should I Ask Preschool?

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    Choosing the right preschool is an important decision. 

    When interviewing the staff at a potential preschool, write out your questions beforehand and bring a pen, paper, and your powers of observation to help you make the most of the visit. 

    And while a preschool interview is a chance for the staff to get to know your child, it's also an opportunity for you to get to know them.

    It's better if your child doesn't accompany you so that you can focus, but if you can't get a sitter or if the school encourages it, by all means, have your little one come. 

    Selecting a preschool that is a good fit for your child can be exciting as well as overwhelming. 

    As a parent, you want to be confident that you decide on the right program, but how do you make the best choice? 

    Here are some specific questions that parents should ask at any preschool.

    You may know the answers to many of these fundamental questions—or at least think you know—but still, it's a good idea to get the answers from someone in authority. They include:

    • How long have you been in business?
    • What are the school's accreditations?
    • What is the student capacity?
    • What are the operating hours?
    • What days/holidays is the school closed?

    You should also ask to see the school's license if it isn't displayed. 

    Licensing assures that a preschool program meets basic safety and quality standards, not the same as accreditation. 

    Accredited programs must meet higher criteria.

    Although a license does not guarantee that a preschool offers quality education, you should not consider a facility without a permit.

    Questions To Ask Preschool

    General questions are essential, but you also need to find out answers that are specific to your child, including:

    What Is The Educational Philosophy Of The Preschool?

    It's essential to look for a discovery-based program and not one that is primarily focused on drill and practice skills. 

    While the structure is essential, parents should look for a preschool that offers opportunities for children to make choices about their learning.

    In choosing a preschool program that is best for their child, parents should consider the level of openness between the school and the family. 

    It's essential that the family is welcomed into the program, encouraged to stop in at any time, and ensured that the centre gives the family feedback on the child's development and daily routine. 

    Open communication must be maintained through parent conferences and feedback regarding your child's daily routines and development.

    There is more than one way to teach a classroom full of preschoolers. There are dozens. When you meet with the teachers or staff, find out if they follow a particular philosophy.

    For example, Montessori schools are known for fostering independence, while Waldorf schools are known for their creativity. 

    The High/Scope method sets personal goals for kids, Bank Street focuses on child-centred education, and the Reggio Emilia approach follows a child's natural development.

    Remember that each school sets its tone and has its method. 

    Some schools don't function based on a particular school of thought, but it's likely they do have a mission of some sort. To find out what it is.

    What Is The Educational Background And Experience Of The Teachers And Staff?

    Of course, you want to be sure that your child's preschool teacher is experienced and qualified. 

    The teacher should have at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and possibly more. 

    Ask about her training and experience working with young children and with a developmentally appropriate curriculum. 

    A good preschool teacher understands how children grow and develop. The classroom teacher and staff should also be certified in CPR and first aid.

    Requirements for preschool teachers' training differs from state to state, but ask about the teacher's training. 

    Did they attend college? Did they study early childhood development? At the very least, the headteacher should be certified in early childhood education and have a B.A. or M.A. 

    Not all staff, like teachers assistants, need to have these formal credentials. Just make sure they are good with kids. 

    Also, ask how long the teachers have worked at the school. High turnover rates can be a red flag for unhappy teachers.

    We believe that each centre has its personality. It's not necessarily about the curriculum; it's all about the staff members and how committed, caring, and dedicated they are to the program.

    Is The School Accredited And Licensed?


    Unlike elementary, middle, and high schools, many preschools are privately run, which risks less oversight. 

    Many outstanding preschools don't go through the accreditation process. Still, suppose a preschool is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the most comprehensive and respected national preschool accreditation program. In that case, you can be assured it has met the highest standards of safety and education. 

    All private preschools must have a license — though depending on if it's home-based daycare or a larger institution, the licensing process can vary. 

    Licensing doesn't ensure quality, but it documents that the school has met the state's essential health and safety standards. 

    Ask the school to see it or contact your county or state's social service department to determine if the preschool's license is updated.

    Are There Active Play Opportunities To Develop Gross And Fine Motor Skills?

    Preschools should offer plenty of opportunities for active play. Physical activity is critical for developing a child's gross motor skills and promotes health and well-being. Table time is also a must. 

    Children must have daily exposure to fine motor activities, such as stringing beads, snipping paper strips, and pre-writing activities, such as scribbling in shaving cream. 

    Regular exposure to these tasks develops the hand skills children will need in kindergarten.

    Do The Children Nap Regularly?

    Growing tots need to rest at some point during a busy preschool day, so don't forget to ask the teacher when naptime takes place. 

    Ideally, naps should be scheduled simultaneously every day and should not last more than two hours (more than that may interfere with your little one getting a good night's sleep). 

    You'll need to know if the school supplies a nap mat, sheet, or pillow. If you're required to provide these items, ask if they will be washed at school or sent home each week. 

    Use a permanent marker to write your child's name on all supplies that you send to school.

    Are Meals And Snacks Provided?

    If the school provides meals and snacks, inquire about the food options. 

    Are nutritious, well-balanced meals served? Are the snacks healthy? Is there an expected pre-meal routine, such as going to the restroom and washing hands? 

    Will, your child, be required to use appropriate table manners, and will she have to eat everything on her plate? 

    Can the children interact while eating? Little ones should have the chance to socialise during meals and snacks.

    Is Potty Training Required?

    If your child isn't toileting independently, you'll need to ask if potty training is required. 

    Certain schools require a child to be fully potty trained; others are willing to assist with the process of training. 

    If the school does expect your child to be fully toilet trained, ask how they deal with the occasional accident. 

    You'll likely need to send a change of clothing to school with your little one, just in case.

    How Is Discipline Handled?

    First and foremost, the classroom rules should be clear so that your child knows what to expect. 

    Ask the teacher how she encourages positive behaviour daily. For example, is there a reward chart or treasure chest in the classroom?

    We would encourage parents to observe and see if they feel comfortable about how guidance is handled. 

    Parents should look for a positive philosophy that helps children understand what they can do instead of what they can't do.

    It's also important to know what discipline approach the teacher takes when conflicts occur or problem behaviours arise.

    Ideally, the positive redirection will be the first course of action, with strategies such as a cool-down time to follow when redirection isn't successful. 

    The overall tone between children and teachers should be one of respect. 

    Children's emotions should be acknowledged, and teachers should show empathy as children experience the ups and downs of a typical day."

    Will The School Provide References?

    Before visiting the preschool, parents should contact its licensing agency to inquire about possible complaints or violations. 

    When visiting the school, ask the teacher or director if they provide references. 

    Don't hesitate to ask, as most preschools are happy to share parent references upon request. 

    When you call the reference, have a list of questions ready to forget anything. 

    Consider asking what the parent likes the least and the most about the program, how communication is handled, and how their child likes the preschool. 

    There is much to learn from speaking to other parents at the school and getting the inside scoop.

    Does The School Meet Your Family's Needs?

    Even if the school is the most popular in your town or city, you may regret your decision if it doesn't meet your family's basic needs. 

    Do the preschool hours work for your work schedule? Is the location convenient for you? Can you afford it? Does the school operate year-round? (Summer camps for younger kids can be hard to find, yet many preschools close for the summer.) 

    Finally, does the school provide snacks and lunch? If they do provide food, make sure you're comfortable with the school's nutritional approach.

    Does The School Meet Your Child's Needs?

    Children entering preschool have a wide range of maturity. 

    Some are potty-trained; others are not. Some have trouble separating from their parents, while others are independent. Some still take daily naps, and some don't need one. 

    Find out how the school staff deals with these basic needs and then decide if the policies will work for your child. 

    Also, note the school's total number of students, average class size, and student-teacher ratio. Then, ask yourself if these elements fit with your child's needs.

    How Much Parental Involvement Do You Expect Or Want?

    Because many preschools are privately funded, they may expect parental fundraising and volunteering. 

    Find out precisely what will be asked of you in terms of financial support or donations. 

    If you are interested in spending time at the school, co-ops are a good choice since they require parents to volunteer in the classroom. 

    If it's not a co-op, find out if there is an open-door policy so that you can visit when you like.

    What's The Make-up Of The Classroom?

    Classroom size and the number of teachers will determine how much individual attention your preschooler will get. 

    Ask for the teacher-student ratio (or adult-to-student ratio as grown-ups in the classroom can include student teachers, teacher assistants, or if it's a co-op, other parents). 

    Also, ask if the school is divided by age (allowing teachers to teach children at generally the same stage developmentally) or mixed-age groups (so that young kids can learn from older ones and older kids can mentor and nurture younger ones). 

    Finally, if diversity is important to you, take a look at the mix of kids and ask if it's a priority for the school.

    How Much Free Play Time Do The Children Have?

    Some preschools are more academic or structured and have limited free time. Others are more play-based and allow children to choose their activities at will. Decide which best suits your child and your child-rearing philosophy.

    Other Things To Consider


    Learning And Activities

    This is the meat and potatoes part of the preschool interview. Make sure you have the chance to tour all aspects of the school. Your questions may include:

    • What is a typical day like?
    • Do you focus more on academics or social growth?
    • Will my child learn basic skills like letters and numbers? Colours and shapes?
    • What type of motor skill activities do the children engage in?
    • Are there separate spaces to learn art and music?
    • Do the children go outside? Weather permitting, how often and for how long?
    • What types of toys and games do you have? How often are new toys brought in?
    • Do you go on field trips?
    • Are outside groups (dance schools, librarians, etc.) brought in to speak?
    • Do you show movies or television programs? How often?
    • Do the children take naps? Where?
    • Discipline, Socialization, and Meals

    Part of preschool is teaching your child social skills that they will use later on in life. Therefore, it's essential to determine what methods the preschool will use and complement these methods at home. Questions can include:

    • How are children disciplined?
    • How do you handle bullying or teasing?
    • What do you do if a child needs to be comforted?
    • At what point do you notify the parents if there is a discipline or other type of issue?
    • Will my child eat here? What meals and who provides the food?
    • If I give the food, are there any items that aren't permitted?
    • How do you handle food allergies?

    Health, Safety, And Food

    While you don't want to imagine anything going wrong, it's essential to be prepared if something does—and make sure that the preschool is as well. Questions you may want to ask include:

    • What is your sick child policy?
    • Will you give my child medication during the day if I request it? Do I need a doctor's note?
    • Do you teach children to wash their hands? When and how often?
    • How often are the toys and games and equipment washed?
    • How old is the play equipment, and how often is it inspected?
    • How are visitors handled? Are the doors locked?
    • Do you have a sign-in sheet?
    • Who is allowed to pick my child up?
    • Do you have fire drills?
    • Do you have a disaster plan? What's the procedure in case of an emergency?

    Classroom And Staff

    Learning as much as you can about the teachers working with your child is of the utmost importance. Questions you may want to ask include:

    • How are the kids divided up?
    • How many children would be in my child's class? 
    • What is the teacher/child ratio?
    • What kind of education and safety training do your teachers have? How often do they go back for more classes?
    • Is everyone in the building trained in CPR and first aid?
    • How many full-time teachers do you have? Are there teacher assistants? Who will be teaching my child?
    • How are staff members screened before being hired?
    • Who else is in the building?

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests a student/teacher ratio of 1-to-8 to 1-to-10 for children in the 4- to 5-year-old age group.  

    Parental Involvement

    Some schools prefer not to have any parental involvement, while others, like co-ops, require it. Find out how often you will be expected to be in the classroom or if you are even permitted to visit. Questions include:

    • Is parental participation required?
    • Are parents allowed to see the classroom?
    • If so, how often and under what terms?
    • How do you communicate with parents regularly? (Message board, notes sent home, etc.)
    • Are there parent/teacher conferences? How often?


    For many parents, this is a dealbreaker. And it's important to note that there can be many facets to preschool costs, including supplies and fundraisers. 

    Try to get as many details ahead of time as you can by asking the following:

    • How much is tuition?
    • How often is it due?
    • What methods of payment do you accept?
    • Do you offer scholarships or discounts?
    • Is there a late fee?
    • Is there a discount if I pay for the year upfront?
    • Will we be responsible for buying school supplies?
    • Do you require parents to participate in fundraising efforts?
    • Are there any other costs that I should know about?

    Questions To Ask Yourself

    When your interview is over, it's a good idea to take a few minutes to think about your meeting and ask yourself some critical questions about what you just saw (that's where those powers of observation come in)! These can include:

    • If you visited during school hours, were the children happy?
    • Are the rooms decorated with children's art?
    • Do the teachers seem to like what they're doing?
    • Do the teachers engage directly with the children in a kind, happy, caring manner?
    • Is the preschool clean? What about the bathroom?
    • Does the school seem safe with the proper equipment (first aid kit, a fence around the playground, locked doors, etc.)?
    • What are your instincts saying? Will your child be happy at this school?
    To encourage a child to think about their learning and to develop their language skills, the following open ended questions can be asked:
    • Tell me about what you're doing?
    • Why do you think…?
    • How do you know…?
    • Why do you think this happened?
    • What will happen next?
    • How did this happen?
    • What can you do about it?
    Talk about what the child is doing, what the child is looking at, or what the child is interested in. Ask questions that relate to the child's experiences or interests. Add words or questions to what the child says or does and model new language. Give the child enough time to respond.
    Language, Art, and Math
    • Recognizes some shapes and colors.
    • Recites the alphabet and recognize some letters.
    • Expresses thoughts and needs verbally.
    • Recites his full name.
    • Counts to five.
    • Draws with crayons or pencils.
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