7 Steps to Choosing the Right Preschool


By Katie Bugbee

Choosing the right preschool can be pretty overwhelming—for adults. Especially if you have no idea where to start. However, a few key factors will narrow down your list in a jiffy: teaching philosophy (academic or play-based), schedule, cost and location. After you have a list of the schools that practice what you preach, it’s time to start making appointments for a tour.

I have two kids currently enrolled in preschool. But it wasn’t our first placement. I mistakenly placed my two-year old son in very chaotic school. We were new to town and it was the only local place that would take a two-year old. He had just left a daycare setting, and I felt he needed to keep up his socialization skill-building, since we were now going the nanny-route.

But during the first school concert, I could tell the director had lost her patience, especially with the rowdy boys. That’s when I started to explore other options.

Here are seven things to consider when touring a preschool.

1) Meet with the director.

Every director is different. Some are focused on the office-management whereas others know each child and family. But you still want to find out what his or her goals are for the school, the activities and special events she’s planning each year, and the Kindergarten prep seen throughout each grade (considering some preschools start at age two). Also, how does she scope out the kids who aren’t ready for Kindergarten, and what is the school’s plan for kids who need an extra year? If your child has a birthday close to the Kindergarten cut-off, you might want to look for schools with a Transition Year, so your child can experience a new classroom, even if they stay in preschool.

2) Talk to the teachers.

Spending a few minutes chatting with the teachers can give you valuable insight into their child-rearing philosophies. After all, they will have the most direct connection with your child, and his development.

3) Learn their policies.

You’ll want to know about school cancelations, how long the school year goes, pick-up and drop-off policies, as well as safety around strangers and allergies. You’ll want a school that will allow a last-minute change in who is picking a child up, but also one that focuses on safety.

4) Ask open-ended questions.

Communication is key. Between you and the school, your child, the nurse, etc. Ask questions like:

  • What values do you try to teach the children?
  • What goals do you have for the school in the future?
  • How do you handle a conflict between children?
  • How does your punishment and reward system work?
  • What makes this school different from other preschools?
  • How will I know what happens on a daily basis?
  • How does your curriculum help my child prepare for Kindergarten?
  • How do you work with a child’s individual challenges?

5) Check the calendar.

The school calendar and your work calendar may not line up exactly. Make sure to check major holidays and common vacation days to ensure there are no surprises. If this preschool isn’t a full-day or doesn’t go year-round, make sure you have a nanny and back-up care in place.

6) Stay local.

Choosing a school inside your local school district will create the best transition to Kindergarten. Make sure to ask the percentage of students who go to the school your child plans on attending after preschool. Your child will feel more confident walking into Kindergarten if they have their group of buddies from preschool.

7) Get real feedback.

Talk to other parents who use the preschool. Look for message boards and online reviews. Or, ask the director for some phone numbers of currently enrolled parents. They will be able to give you a more accurate take on the whole experience. They might even have a few expert tips to help you in your search. Keep in mind though, what works for one family might not work for another, so don’t be pressured into making the wrong decision.

What other factors have gone into your preschool decisions?

KatieBugbee100x151Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.

25 thoughts on “7 Steps to Choosing the Right Preschool

  1. All of these tips are right on the money. One suggestion I would add: Spend a morning observing a classroom. It’s a couple of hours out of your work day, but totally worth it. You’ll get a real sense of how things run at the school, how the kids are involved, just a “vibe” you won’t necessarily pick up by touring or going after hours. These types of observations are actually required for a lot of Montessori programs, which is how I found out how helpful they are as a parent.

  2. Kyle Wayne says:

    My wife and I are looking to find a great school to help our daughter get used to education systems. The point that you shared about learning the policies of a potential preschool makes a lot of sense to me. I imagine that knowing the policies will help to determine if a particular preschool will be a good fit.

  3. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to find a local preschool so your child’s classmates move to Kindergarten with them. My husband and I just moved into a new area, and our daughter is turning four soon, so we want to get her in a preschool. I’ll definitely ask around to see if there’s a good one nearby so she can make friends that will move on to the same Kindergarten she does. Thanks for the great post!

  4. I just moved to a new town, which means that I definitely need to find my daughter a preschool to go to as soon as possible. Getting real feedback and finding out parents’ honest opinions of a school is really important to me, which is definitely why I want to ask for the phone numbers of other parents so that I can ask them questions. However, what specific questions do you think that I should be asking those parents?

  5. This will be helpful as my wife and I start looking for a good preschool. I like the idea of asking open-ended questions. Do you think we should ask those questions at multiple schools before making the decision?

  6. I really like your advice to speak with the teachers. I think that a lot of people don’t recognize the difference that speaking to those that will spending the most time with the children makes. You want to be sure that you are doing what you can to make sure that your kid has the best help around them. Do you have any other advice about finding a good preschool?

  7. My son is one of the smartest 2 year olds I have ever met. I may be biased, but I do want to make sure I find him the best preschool for next year that will challenge him and develop his brain. I like your tip about talking to the teachers of the preschool because they can give you valuable insight into their child rearing philosophies.

  8. I agree that you would want to talk to teachers before you find a preschool. I would imagine that getting a feel for the quality of the teacher would be ideal. I’m looking for a preschool so I’ll be sure to check with a teacher before I choose one.

  9. Your point about learning a preschools policies before choosing them for your child is a really great idea. I think knowing what is expected of you and your child will give your child a much better experience. Plus, you’ll be on the same page as the teacher which makes the whole process smoother and less stressful.

  10. My 2-year-old has been nagging me about going to school because she sees kids getting on the bus every morning. It was handy to know that choosing a school inside your local school district will create the best transition to Kindergarten. She is my first kid, so I will be sure to get in contact with an expert to see when she can start!

  11. I like how you mentioned talking to the teachers before choosing a preschool. My son is getting to be preschool age, so my wife and I want to pick one out so we’re ready when the time comes. I imagine that talking with the teachers would provide valuable insight about what the school is like, so we’ll make sure to do that before we make a choice.

  12. In the article you wrote that you should learn the preschool’s policies, especially regarding safety and health. I’ve been looking for a preschool I could take my daughter to, as I want her to get a great start to her education. Since my daughter has some allergy issues, I’ll be sure to ask the preschool what they do in case there is ever an issue regarding that.

  13. I like what you say about talking to the teacher. Finding a preschool and teacher that understand your needs and can accommodate them is so important. My son is just about preschool age so we’ll make sure to set up some interviews before we decide on where to take him.

  14. It’s great that I came across your article about choosing the right preschool. I like your tip about how you can spend a few minutes talking to teachers to get valuable insight into their child-rearing philosophies. My son is about to enter school next school year. It’s important to me that his future teachers have the right philosophies when teaching little kids. I also want to make sure that my son will be comfortable in his new learning place. I will go ahead and consider your tips about choosing the right preschool.

  15. It’s a great tip to meet the school’s director upon choosing a kindergarten, I agree that some of the directors focus more on the office-management and it will be nice if we will choose a facility with a director that focuses on both the office-management as well as the kids or the school activities and events that promotes pupil’s improvement. It will help us decide when we have an overview of what the school focuses on, or what plans do they have or offer their students. My wife and I are planning to enroll our twins this coming school year since we think that they are ready for it and it’s better to start early to familiarized them and shape them while they’re young.

  16. That sounds like a good idea to learn about how the preschools deal with things like allergies, safety, and pick-up and drop-off times. My husband and I have one child, and she’s almost old enough to start school. We want to make sure she goes somewhere excellent where she’ll have a good time and learn new things. Your tips should really help us find a good preschool.

  17. I like that you talked about how you can talk to the teacher of the preschool that you’re interested in to get an overview of their teaching philosophies which can affect the learning development of your child. I’m looking to enroll my son in preschool by next school year, and it’s important for me to find a school that has compassionate teachers that can make my child’s learning fun and great. It’s equally important to me that the teacher and I both have the same principles when it comes to learning. All your tips are useful, so I’ll make sure to remember all of those.

  18. The best part of your article for me is when you talked about how you can spend few minutes to talk with the teachers of the preschool that you’re interested in to get an overview of their child-rearing philosophies which can directly affect the development of your child. My husband decided to enroll our son in a preschool next year, and it’s important for us to make sure that the preschool we will choose for him has the philosophies that we also believe in. I will make sure to consider all your tips for choosing a preschool.

  19. I like that you talked about how you can consider checking the reviews of the preschool that you’re interested in online to make sure that you’ll get a more accurate feedback of other people about the school. My husband and I decided to enroll our child in preschool by next school year, and it’s important for us to choose a school that has a record of satisfied clients and excellent teaching program for my son. I believe that checking online reviews is a great way to finding out more about a certain company. I will make sure to consider all your tips.

  20. I like that you talked about how you can consider asking other parents who use the preschool for honest reviews about the preschool. My husband and I are looking to find a preschool where we can enroll our daughter. Since it’s important for us to ensure the welfare and learning development of our child, it’s essential for us to know what other people have to say about the preschool that we’re considering. I will make sure to consider all your tips for finding the best preschool.

  21. I really liked your tip to talk to the teachers at a preschool to get acquainted with them. I am looking for a preschool for my daughter. I will be sure to personally have a talk with each one of the teachers so that I can be comfortable with leaving my daughter with them.

  22. I found it helpful when you said that you can talk to other parents who are using the preschool that you’re interested in to get more accurate reviews. My husband and I are interested in finding a preschool facility for our son. We want him to have fun while learning, so we only want to choose a preschool that can deliver quality preschool programs and fun environment for children.

  23. I like that you suggested talking to the teachers of a preschool so you can have an idea of their philosophies that can affect the development of your child. This is something that I will make sure to remember because I’m looking for a preschool for my son. What I want is to make sure that I will find a preschool where my son can learn and enjoy at the same time. Since I’m looking for a preschool that prioritizes the enjoyment of the children, I’ll consider all your tips.

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