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How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: A Quality Indicator Checklist

Finding the right preschool for your child is a major challenge. Parents are up against a nationwide preschool shortage, especially if you live in a “child care desert“. Then there’s the matter of trying to identify high-quality preschools. This is even harder. In fact, some studies have found that only 8-10% of preschools nationwide are rated high in quality.

But the importance of making sure your child has a quality preschool experience cannot be stressed enough. Children who get high-quality early education are less likely to fail future grades, more likely to graduate high school and go to college, and less likely to end up in the justice system.

There are excellent preschool options out there – but how can parents “hack” the preschool search to find them? What are the things to look out for?

We’ve created the Preschool Quality Indicator Checklist, a list of ten quality indicators parents should look for during their search:

1. License check

Only consider options that are licensed by the state regulatory agency for all center-based programs and family child care homes.

2. The basics

Ask about hours, educational philosophy and curriculum, teacher credentials, teacher turnover rates, and guidance strategies.

3. Visitor policy

View the school calendar, and learn about family activities, volunteer opportunities, and their visitor policy. The program should have an open visitor policy for parents.

4. Daily schedule

The program should follow the individual schedule of each baby, so that they eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, and aren’t trapped in a bouncy seat the entire day. For toddlers and preschoolers, a more structured day with a predictable schedule and routine is best.

5. Outdoor time

How often do they take the children outside? Ideally, they go outside daily – even multiple times per day.

6. Quality check

Ask about any quality assessments or ratings completed by the program. This can easily help indicate a high-quality environment.

7. Teacher ratios

What are the teacher/student ratios? Compare to your state regulations. Lower ratios are another indicator of a high-quality program.

8. No yelling

Are teachers engaged with the kids? Do they kneel down to their level versus talking down to them? Can you hear the sound of happy, busy children or do you hear yelling? Look for context behind any noise and activity.

9. Mommy gut check

Mia Pritts, Wonderschool’s Head of Early Care and Education, says, “As a mom who also works in the early childhood education industry, I recommend parents go with their gut. Check how you feel when you’ve stepped into the building.”

10. Televisions

A preschool with a TV is a big no-no – minus a few exceptions. This signals a lack of engagement and activities for children.

Print out and use these tips as you are searching for a great preschool in your area. Don’t forget to check out preschools in the Wonderschool network. We keep classroom ratios low, help teachers with licensing and accreditation, help parents easily monitor teacher’s credentials and quality assessments, and make it simple for parents to visit and get answers to their most important questions. This helps teachers focus on what they know how to do best — creating an excellent quality environment for your kids.

Start your preschool search through Wonderschool here.

Mia Pritts

Mia is the Head of Early Care & Education at Wonderschool. She started her career as a preschool teacher 20 years ago and has since taken on major leadership positions in the field of Early Care and Education. In addition to deep knowledge and expertise in all operational aspects of childcare programming, she has also helped launch several shared business services initiatives specific to the field of ECE.