The Preschool Experience

One of the key steps along the learning pathway is the preschool experience.

Why should I send my child to preschool?
Children who attend a quality preschool, nursery, childcare center or family childcare before starting kindergarten, enter school with a head start. Preschool offers children practice in becoming a group member, getting along with others and learning through planned activities that are age appropriate and fun.

When should I apply?
You can begin looking at programs in the fall but most programs start enrollment (for their September programs) in January. In most schools children must be 3 years old by December 31 to be eligible for the program. All children must be potty trained prior to the start of school to comply with state health regulations.

Important Details to Consider

  • Preschool programs housed in places of worship are usually nondenominational and welcome all faiths.
  • Some preschools have a sliding fee scale, offer scholarships, financial aid, or accept the Care 4 Kids state subsidy. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Choosing a Quality Early Care Program

Choosing a quality early childcare program can make a big difference in the future of your child, your community and even the world. Choosing quality early childhood care is important as it can help build a child’s confidence, curiosity and language skills. Quality childcare can nurture a child’s ability to share and develop a love of learning.

When choosing a childcare provider, there are several items to consider— location, convenience, referrals from friends, family and community. There are many websites and resources available to help you choose quality childcare. Here are a few tips as you begin your selection process:

  • Start early! Quality programs often have limited availability.
  • Create a list of questions (see below). It will allow the selection process to be a little smoother.
  • Visit several childcare providers or centers.
  • As you observe a childcare provider, look at the whole facility—inside and out. See every room your child will use, and try to meet all the staff who will care for your child.
  • Visit a provider or center at different times of the day, and observe children during free time and organized activities.
Questions to Ask the Childcare or Preschool Provider:
  • What are the age ranges?
  • How are children of different ages, needs and abilities grouped?
  • What is the student to teacher ratio?
  • Is the program licensed?
  • Does the provider have first aid or CPR training?
  • How are discipline issues handled?

Signs of a Quality Early Childhood Program

If your child is between the ages of 3 and 6 and attends a childcare center, preschool or kindergarten program, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests you look for the following signs of a quality early childhood program:

  • Children participate in various activities throughout the day such as sorting building blocks and other construction materials, playing with props for pretend, reading picture books, painting and using other art materials and working with table toys such as matching games, pegboards and puzzles.
  • Throughout the day, teachers vary the way they work with children in small and large groups as well as individually.
  • The classroom is decorated with children’s original artwork, their own writing and invented spelling and stories dictated by children to teachers.
  • Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance or serving snacks provide the basis for learning activities.
  • Children work on hands-on projects and have long periods of time to play and explore.
  • Children have an opportunity to play outside every day.
  • Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day.
  • Understanding that children learn in different ways, teachers modify and adjust the curriculum to meet the differentiated needs of each child.
  • Children are happy to attend school and parents feel secure about sending their child to the program.