This year I have finally graduated to school aged mom after five straight years as a preschool mom. Between volunteering and working in two preschools, I feel like I am much more suited to selecting the “right” preschool program than I was six years ago when my own preschool journey began. I hope my insight and experience can help guide you to a program that would be great for your little one.
If you have a little one, then you know that their concept of personal space is limited. A classroom should be large enough to allow the children to move around freely, while offering enough space to provide for use of learning centers. Movement is key at this age so multiple learning spaces will provide the learners more success. Additionally, an indoor and outdoor play space is important. I loved that my youngest child’s preschool even took the kids out in the snow when everyone brought in their proper outerwear. Her school also had the same wooden rocking boat that I had almost forty years ago in my preschool.
A preschool classroom should intrigue and engage even the youngest learner. Is there a sensory table for your children to explore? Are there toys and durable yet interesting books the little ones can handle? Is the room decorated in bright colors and does it look inviting?
Preschool is messy and when you tour, you should see little ones exploring and making a mess. The wonderful thing about preschool is the teachers expect the little ones to clean up their own messes. Why not keep up that trend at home too?
I often call preschool “Crafts Academy.” I know as a parent it is hard to not feel the pressure of making sure your child is prepared for their next level of school. Why are they making all these crafts when they should be counting and learning letters? When researching early literacy skills, one of the most important areas that students need to develop is their fine motor skills. Cutting, gluing, tracing, coloring, playing with Play Doh are all integral and essential steps towards creating a successful reader and writer.
Why? As a parent you need to be able to drop off your child and feel that they are safe. Is there a locked door, a procedure for an emergency situation; are the teachers in control of their students so that everyone is safe?
I do not necessarily believe that a 3 year old preschool teacher needs an education degree, but I do believe that some experience in the field of education is helpful for that critical 4/5 Kindergarten readiness year. As parents, we often look to the teacher to let us know if our child is developing typically or would be in need of interventions. When the educator has a frame of reference for child development and how it builds, it is certainly helpful. The school should be sending their teachers and teaching assistants for training throughout the year. Education is an ever changing field and keeping up with trends will help the teachers and students.
The Right Exposure to Academic Skills:
This is the area where I get the most inquiries. My personal opinion of preschool is that it should be centered on play. I believe that this is a time in a child’s life where they don’t need to be pressured or forced to develop academic skills too early. You do not need to pay twice as much at an academic preschool where your child will leave reading. The teacher in me struggles with this and has for the past 5 years that my children have been in preschool. Ideally, you should see a balance of play and learning exposure. Center and circle time should review key concepts like calendar, counting, and letter sounds. Students should leave preschool knowing their letter sounds, counting to 20, recognizing numbers to 20 and writing their full names. Sometimes that work needs to be supplemented at home.
When I sent my oldest to full day Kindergarten he was writing his first name, could barely count to 20, and knew his letter sounds pretty well. (He had a very demanding little sister that was taking up much of my time)A month later he was reading and writing sentences. What I am trying to say is that a typically developing child will in their own time read and write when they are ready. In the meantime, let them have this precious time to attend a Crafts Academy!
Lindsey Johnston is writer of Crumbs in the Couch. She is mother of 2, and a reading specialist. Her blog is a mix of deals, parenting ideas and dilemmas and just about anything in between. Be sure to check her out on facebook and twitter too!!
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