How Good are Your Child’s Preschool Facilities?

Research has shown a connection between high-quality preschool education and long-term outcomes like higher future earnings, better health, better focus, and less criminal activity. So how can you determine the quality of the preschool in your area to make the best, most informed choice for your child? One of the important factors in ensuring the quality of your child’s education is the quality of the facility as a whole. Preschool is not just about learning ABCs and 123s. During this pivotal time in a child’s life, they’re learning to explore, explore their curiosity, their personality, and the world around them. Their preschool must give them the best space to do this. 

Some factors to consider: 

  • Safety and Space
  • Communication and Conflict Resolution
  • Accreditation and Licensing
  • Programs and Resources

Safety and Space: Room to Grow, Safe to Be

As a parent, the space and cleanliness of a preschool is the easiest factor to check off the list with a visit or tour of the school. As with any preschool, it is non-negotiable that the facilities be clean and safe for the children and that there is plenty of space for them to run and play. Pre-k age children experience taking a very hands-on approach with all of their senses and curiosities, touching and tasting everything, climbing and crawling on everything. Here are some things you should look at: 

The Playground

Ample space for outdoor play is crucial to prevent run-ins between children and injury as much as possible. A rubber surface on the playground will also help to avoid serious injury, breaking the falls of children on their climbing, recess escapades. Rubber pellet and wood chip surfaces present a choking risk. Wood is especially dangerous as children could get splinters. 

The Furniture

Child-sized bodies require child-sized furniture. Make sure the furniture in the classroom is fitting to their size and is of strong, safe material and structure. 

Cleanliness

With all the touching and tasting, regular cleaning with non-toxic supplies is imperative to prevent the spread of germs that is especially common in pre-k.  

Security

Dropping your child off at preschool is a new experience for them and you. You want to be able to feel as much ease as possible in this situation, so ensure the preschool you choose has taken proper precautionary safety measures, from safety drills to check in and check out system to cameras and locks. 

Communication and Conflict Resolution: Why It Matters

Parents’ involvement in their child’s education is vital, making communication between the school and the parents incredibly critical. It is ideal if the preschool has no past history of formal regulatory actions by parents or regulatory bodies citing issues with the facility. Even if they don’t, before sending your child to the facility, confirm that past problems have been successfully resolved. It is critically important that the school is open and honest with parents about issues and operational topics that affect them or their children in some way. With that, child-specific conversations should be had between teacher and parents frequently as they are working together in the efforts of the child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The Reggio Emilia-Inspired philosophy provides a good rule of thumb for this parent-teacher communication dynamic. 

Accreditation and Licensing: Standards Beyond the State

Every preschool institution should be licensed to operate, first and foremost. In addition, a good quality preschool should also be accredited by a state or regional organization. Accreditation is a voluntary process that a quality school will undergo to prove their quality. Preschool accreditation guarantees that students are offered a high level of care and that the school meets certain academic, social, health, and safety standards. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the largest preschool accrediting organization, evaluates based off ten standards

  1. Relationships
  2. Curriculum
  3. Teaching
  4. Assessment of Child Progress
  5. Health 
  6. Teachers
  7. Families
  8. Community Relationships 
  9. Physical Environment
  10.  Leadership and Management. 

Nationwide, only around 10% of preschools and early childhood education centers have received accreditation from the NAEYC. Accreditation goes beyond the simple state regulations of licensing. School visits, interviews with teachers and administrators, and student observations determine whether or not the pre-K exceed those regulations. 

After School Program: Learning After Hours

Not only do after school programs provide a safe, structured place for children of working parents, they also demonstrate many potential benefits. Improved academic performance, reduced risky behavior, and better physical health are among the benefits of an effective after school care program. Research by Harvard Graduate School of Education points to three critical factors of a successful program. 

  1. Access and Frequent Participation
  2. Quality Staff and Program 
  3. Strong Partnerships

Access and Frequent Participation

Children benefit more if they attend programs more frequently. It is especially beneficial if the program is tailored to their needs, interests, and schedules while presenting new challenges and ideas.

Quality Staff and Program 

Intentional programs with specific goals and outcomes achieved through organized and engaging activities are vital for success. The other key ingredient to this is a role model staff with strong leadership skills and proper training. 

Strong Partnerships

Partnerships with stakeholders, like families, schools, and communities are important. 

Onsite library: Open Book, Open Imagination

Books have a way of activating a child’s imagination and encourages them to ask questions. Introducing reading to a child at an early age can create a very good habit while expanding their knowledge and vocabulary. Stories and pictures are a fun and intriguing way for a pre-k child to practice everything from their ABCs and 123s to their shapes, colors, and animal sounds. An onsite library or library resources at a preschool is a good sign of quality and learning potential. 

Choosing a preschool for your child is one of the most meaningful decisions you will ever make for them. This age of exploration and discovery is incredibly impactful for a child’s present and future development. It is the foundation for social and academic learning. Suzanne Bouffard, an education researcher and author, calls pre-K the most important year for children and because of this, “quality really matters.” Make sure your child will be attending a high-quality preschool by evaluating all the factors mentioned before your child takes the giant leap with their little legs. 

Is Your Child Getting the Attention They Need at Their Preschool?

Preschool sets the stage for kindergarten and the years beyond. During this time, as preschoolers are first introduced to the school system, the attention they receive will significantly affect the attention they give. This will not only impact their transition from grade to grade but will also influence their futures. So how do you know if your child is receiving the attention they need at their preschool?

Questions to ask when assessing your preschool’s level of child-focused attention:

  • Is the school child-centered? 
  • How much recess time is allotted?
  • Are children allowed the freedom to express themselves in the classroom? 
  • What style of discipline and attention is your child receiving? 
  • Does the school provide onsite counseling services?  

Children: The Center of the Room 

All key decisions should be made with the preschoolers at the center. But what does that look like? In contrast to a lot of traditional preschools, child-centered schools focus their planning on the children’s interests. This may involve play-based activities, emphasis placed on developing social, emotional, and cognitive skills, and teachers acting as facilitators of learning as opposed to dictators of lessons. A former teacher, Jessica Smock, comments on preschool education, saying, “we can’t rush our kids’ brains to learn more, learn faster or learn in the style of miniaturized grown-ups.” This is not to degrade more traditional school systems, as every child is different and, for that reason, learns differently. Laura Lewis Brown makes the point that any quality preschool, whether it is considered child-centered or more traditional, can prepare a preschooler for kindergarten. The quality comes from a teaching system that evokes intellectual curiosity in whatever setting works best for your child.

Recess: Room to Run and Play

Recess has more of an effect on a child’s development than people realize, which is why it is essential for a preschool to offer ample playtime amidst their students’ studies. According to research done by George Washington University in 2007, 20% of schools had reduced recess time, likely due, in part, to U.S. educational policy. According to this report, 62% of school districts had increased time spent on core subjects, like English and math. At the same time, 44% of districts decreased time allocated for lunch, science, art, music, social studies, physical education, and, of course, recess. With this decline in recess, the American Academy of Pediatrics argued that it is actually “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” Several benefits come from some breaks away from the classroom, all of which play a huge role in a preschooler’s major developmental period. 

What are the benefits of recess?

  • Academic and Cognitive
  • Social and Emotional
  • Physical 

Academic and Cognitive Benefits

Studies have shown that recall and learning are improved when the material isn’t presented all at once. When children are given a break from their academic activities, they are more attentive and productive upon their return to the classroom. There is a scientific reason for this. No matter your age, for your brain to function optimally, it needs time to recycle the chemicals required for long-term memory to form. Two experimental studies found that 

  1. When children’s recess is delayed, they become inattentive. 
  2. When they are given recess time, they are less fidgety and more likely to stay on task. 

Social and Emotional Benefits 

During recess, preschoolers are given a daily social outlet. They are free to run and create freely, playing made up games and socializing with their peers on their own accord. This is pivotal for preschool-age children as they develop communication skills, like negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving, along with coping skills, including perseverance and self-control. Not only does is allow them a space to source their creativity, but it also provides a means to manage stress as they adapt and adjust to a new and complex education environment. Peter Grey, a psychologist, hypothesizing that generational increases in conditions like depression and anxiety can be primarily attributed to “the decline, over that same period, in opportunities for free play and the increased time and weight given to schooling.”

Physical Benefits

It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Recess is a time for preschoolers to get that time in. Even if all students don’t participate as fully in the active part of recess, this is still a chance of out the classroom to counterbalance sedentary time and provide valuable practice of motor skills and movement. Nearly 200 different studies have suggested that physical activity supports learning. Additionally, plenty of research has shown a positive relationship between regular exercise and cognitive ability, especially memory and thinking skills. 

Positivity: Room for Possibility 

Gone are the days of time outs. Dr. Jane Nelson crafted the concept of positive discipline that can be used by parents and teachers alike. This kind of discipline takes the focus off of punishment and moves it towards teaching. What does this look like in practice?

Don’t point fingers.

Instead of just pointing out the wrong, demonstrate how the preschooler can set things right. 

Show kindness with firmness.

Stay calm. Display empathy and respect while still being firm in your belief that what the child did was the wrong thing to do. 

Give choices. 

When possible, give the preschooler choices to fix their mistake. For example, offer them the option to apologize or sit to calm down first. This empowers them and teaches them how to make good choices for themselves. 

These are just some of the practices to look for in your preschool teachers. Another thing to look for is what kind of attention your child is receiving. Is it positive? Preschool teachers should be warm and nurturing, embodying positive attention. That doesn’t just mean giving a thumbs up and saying ‘good job!’ This involves 

  • Showing interest in the preschooler’s interests and engaging with them
  • Providing specific feedback that encourages good behavior 
  • Making eye contact and smiling

Room to Express 

Preschool is less about learning the ABCs and more about learning to express yourself. At this age, children are learning to be their own person and express their ideas and feelings. The classroom should be a place where they are free to do this. Teachers should be flexible, allowing time for students to test their ideas, not only at recess but during class time as well. The classroom should be a place for them to harbor their creativity and vivid imagination. Preschoolers should feel like they are being heard when they express their ideas, no matter how crazy they are, and trust me, they will be crazy. 

Onsite Counseling: More Room to Express

There are many different issues, even at a young age, that children can be exposed to. Whether they are experiencing family problems at home or social pressure at school, they may not yet be able to understand what they feel if they have not quite fully developed that skill. This, then, may cause them to act out. A counselor is the best person to help them express what they are feeling, find the source of the issue, and help them respond and cope in the best way. 

Preschool is one of the most influential times in your child’s life. As they will spend the majority of their time at school from now on, make sure your child is receiving the best education they can be, not just based on their pre-K curriculum. Sure, math and vocabulary are important for them to learn, but they also need to learn to love learning. The kind of time and attention they are given is one of the main contributors to reaching that goal.  

Does Your Child’s Pre-K Curriculum Measure Up?

Choosing a preschool for your child is no small decision. As a parent, you want the absolute best for your child, and the best preschools have more than outstanding faculty and a great facility.   Preschool is a time where children develop socially and emotionally, build self-confidence, and are taught skills that serve as the foundation of future academic knowledge. Because of this, it’s also important to consider the curriculum used and if it meets your child’s developmental needs at this point in their life.

But how can you tell if your child’s pre-k curriculum is up to par? Here are some of the top factors to consider:

  • Is it designed to help the child succeed in Kindergarten?
  • Is it recognized, accredited, or authorized by a Third Party?
  • Is it following the prescribed curriculum?
  • Is there communication between the teacher and parents?
  • Is there an opportunity to learn a second language?
  • Are there special classes in the arts?
  • Are there extracurricular activities for early learners?

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

1. Is It Designed to Help the Child Succeed in Kindergarten?

There are many types of curricula that a school can implement, but no matter which they use, it’s important that it’s designed to help the child succeed in kindergarten and beyond. 

The curriculum should be focused on child-friendly ways to learn and develop socially, emotionally, linguistically, and cognitively. 

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards, the curriculum shouldn’t just focus on one specific area of development; instead, it should address all aspects of child development. There should be ample opportunity to learn through play and exploration, and teachers should be able to work with children on the individual or small group level. Activities should be designed to improve a child’s reasoning, problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, and language use. Academic wise, preschool is a time where pre-literacy and pre-math skills are introduced. Games and activities should aim at teaching the basics like numbers and the alphabet. 

2. Is It Recognized, Accredited, or Authorized by a Third Party?

Just like other levels of schooling, preschools can be recognized and accredited by an unbiased third party. In this voluntary process, the school will be assessed on a number of different factors ranging from the physical environment to leadership and management.

With most accreditation organizations, the preschool’s curriculum is also evaluated. If the organization doesn’t feel that the curriculum is up to par, they will make recommendations of what needs to change in order to be certified. Because of this, accreditation lets parents know that the quality of education meets a specified standard.

Even if the preschool isn’t accredited, it can still utilize a recognized curriculum. There are a number of organizations that have preschool lesson plans designed by early childhood education experts and meet the standards of third parties, such as state governments. Don’t hesitate to inquire about the accreditation or certification of the plan used to teach your child.

3. Is It Following the Prescribed Curriculum?

Having a planned curriculum in place is important, but a plan doesn’t do students any good if it isn’t utilized in class. It can be hard to tell if your pre-k is following the prescribed curriculum since you’re not in the classroom with your child, but there are a few things to be on the lookout for.

One of the best ways to ensure this is through the mastery of goals set at the beginning of the school year. You can track your child’s progress by recognizing skills as they learn them throughout the year. Children are typically eager and excited to share what they discover, and parents should ask questions about their child’s day and topics they are learning about.

Another crucial component of this is effective parent-teacher communication, which we will discuss next.

4. Is There Communication Between the Teacher and Parents?

Whatever curriculum that the school implements, it’s extremely important that it is communicated clearly to the parents. Clear communication between parents and teachers benefits everyone involved. Parental involvement allows the teacher to focus more on teaching and student’s individual needs. And when a teacher lets parents know what is going on in the classroom, the skills can be reinforced at home, leading to mastery for the child. 

There are many ways for parent-teacher communication to take place, and more than one method will often be utilized. It might take the form of:

  • In-person parent/teacher conferences: These typically occur on a quarter or semester basis, or whenever deemed necessary by either party. 
  • Weekly take-home folders or packets: Teachers might send home the work that the child has completed that week with notes and an opportunity for parents to comment.
  • Phone calls or emails: Even brief messages can be beneficial in updating parents on progress or potential problems.
  • Curriculum nights/ open houses: Events like this give parents a chance to learn about the day-to-day activities and routine that their children go through.
  • Parent-teacher organizations or school councils: Groups allow parents and teachers to come together collectively to voice and address concerns.

Your preschool may use methods different than these. The important thing is that the communication is clear, effective, and efficient.

5. Is There An Opportunity to Learn a Second Language?

You’ve probably heard someone say at one point or another, “I wish I was taught another language when I was younger.” While it’s never too late to learn a new skill, there’s no time quite like early childhood to learn a new language. In fact, according to Cornell University research, the sooner a child begins learning a second language, the more likely the child is to achieve native-like proficiency. 

Learning a second language does more than just expand your child’s ability to communicate with others— studies show that critical thinking skills, creativity, and mental flexibility increase when another language is acquired at a young age. For some parents, the opportunity for their child to learn another language is extremely important, leading them to enroll their kids in programs like Spanish immersion schools.

6. Are There Special Classes in the Arts?

The arts play a crucial role in a child’s ability to develop ideas and express emotion. Participating in the arts does more than just stimulate your child’s creative side; it benefits their physical, social, and cognitive abilities as well. 

Physically, the processes and motions of creating things with tools like paintbrushes, glue, clay, and musical instruments strengthens fine motor skills. Socially and emotionally, art is a time where a child can relax, focus, and build self-confidence. It’s also a place where they can express their feelings in a healthy manner. Sounds from music, colors and shapes from drawing and painting, and movement from dance increase neural connections and stimulate the brain. Process-focused art also gives young children a chance to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to problems on their own.  

A preschool that recognizes the importance of creativity and offers specialized classes or designated time for the arts is one that is setting up your child for success. 

7. Is There An Extracurricular Program for Early Learners?

Preparation for kindergarten and beyond doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. Preschoolers learn valuable lessons from extracurricular programs like sports, dance lessons, musical instrument lessons, scouting groups, and special art classes. Your little one will start discovering and understanding important life skills like goal setting, teamwork, and time management. Preschools that offer these types of programs give kids a chance to explore other interests and are taking that extra step to shape a well-rounded student.

Nice facilities and qualified teachers are only part of the equation of what makes a great pre-k experience. When choosing a school for your kiddo, consider the curriculum used and how it will benefit their emotional, social, and cognitive development. A great pre-k curriculum will allow your child to explore the world around them and prepare them for a bright and happy future!

Does your Pre-K have Quality Teachers in the Classroom?

Preschool is the first stepping stone of a child’s education apart from home. They’ve learned to walk and babble, but now it’s time for numbers and the alphabet. These may seem like simple subjects to teach since every adult knows their colors and shapes; however, knowledge of a topic doesn’t necessarily determine one’s ability to explain it and make it resonate. Furthermore, preschool is not just ABCs and 123s. It is a foundational time in a child’s life in which they learn to explore and experience the world around them. They learn to socialize and their curiosity begins to spark questions. For this reason, it is essential to look at a variety of factors in evaluating the quality of a preschool teacher who will be giving those answers.

Let’s dive into the following factors: 

  • Education level
  • Tenure level
  • Amount of experience in education
  • Personality qualities
  • Disciplinary style

1. Education Level: How a College Degree Impacts Teaching

Just because someone without a degree knows their ABCs doesn’t mean they have the proper qualities and qualifications to teach it well. A teacher’s education level is one of the most vital elements in evaluating the success of a school since what they’ve learned can determine both what and how they teach. For a preschool to be considered of high quality, at least 20% to 50% of teachers should have attained a bachelor’s degree in education or another related field. There has been debate on whether preschool teachers should be required to have a college degree, as there are many factors involved in evaluating a person’s teaching capabilities. Despite the varying opinions, many studies have shown a positive and statistically significant correlation between a teacher’s education, the quality of care, and the student’s outcome

2. Strong Tenure

A study of Texas Public Schools showed that teachers who exited those participating schools were less effective on average than those who remained. In this regard, the time a teacher has spent working at a specific school could give a valid indication of the quality of the school and that of the teacher. Having at least 20% to 50% of teachers with two or more years of tenure at the preschool can be a helpful gauge of excellence along with a low turnover rate between 15% and 25% a year if not less. A prominent cause of teachers abandoning their classroom is attributed to overall dissatisfaction with the career; therefore, a low turnover rate in a school could suggest that 1) it is a beneficial place to work and 2) the teachers love their job, care about their students, and have seen positive results in their years of teaching efforts. This then leads us to the next determinant of excellence, experience.

3. Experience in Education

They say practice makes perfect, so it’d be correct to assume that the more experience in the classroom, the more equipped a teacher would be to teach young children at such a developmental stage in their lives. A reliable base measurement for adequate experience would be at least five years in early childhood education. A school of good quality should have around 30% to 50% employed with this amount of experience or more. The right balance ensures that there are teachers that can use their expertise to help their students and to advise other teachers who are newer to the field. 

4. More Than a Degree: Personality Qualities of Quality Teachers

A degree and experience in early childhood development provides the practical skills necessary to pave the way for a preschooler’s learning, but that’s only one part of the puzzle. Personality also plays a crucial role in the matter. At the base level, warm and caring personalities are best fitted to the educational career path, but many other qualities help to form an outstanding preschool teacher. 

Passion and Compassion

Passion, a “strong and barely controllable emotion” by definition, is not something that can be taught, yet it is something found in the fabric of every good teacher. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a prominent statesman in India, said, “Great teachers emanate out of knowledge, passion, and compassion.” With a passion for teaching also comes compassion for students. The passion of a teacher inspires students, which is especially essential during a child’s early stages of life as they are newly being introduced to learning in a formal school setting. Maybe with these qualities, a teacher is not even a teacher at all, but an “awakener” as the poet, Robert Frost calls it. With passion and compassion, any teacher has a high chance of awakening a passion and desire for learning in their students, inspiring more so than they’re teaching. Passion allows them to gain the trust of their students while compassion will enable them to help their students, reaching out especially to those who struggle. With these two as the base, many other qualities follow. 

Patience

Every person works at their own pace. This is especially true at the preschool stage, where most everything is new to the child. Some will learn things more slowly than others. Questions will be asked over and over again. There will be boogers and plenty of distractions, some tears and talking outside of recess, so patience is critical. 

Energetic and Interesting 

A teacher’s energy is what will engage students the most. They are the ones that set the tone for the whole classroom, so teachers should foster an atmosphere that encourages active participation and discussion among the kiddos. They can do this with an engaging and energetic teaching style. 

Knowledgeable and Adaptable 

It is understood that knowledge and complete understanding of the subjects one teaches is of the utmost importance in this field. With preschoolers, however, knowledge and understanding of how they learn and work best could be considered even more pertinent. As Jackson 5 sings, ABC may be as simple as 123, but maybe not to a young child. A knowledgeable preschool teacher knows the information and how to relay it to three and four-year-olds who’ve never heard of the Jackson 5. They must also know how to adapt when a child doesn’t pick up on it the same way the others do. 

5. Proper Disciplinary Actions

At the Pre-K age, children are finding their footing, testing the waters, trying out different behaviors to see what goes and what doesn’t. With all these going on, discipline is pertinent, but disciplining a child, specifically when they are not your own can be a daunting task. Stephanie Byrne-Biancardi, an early education teacher, gives six disciplinary acts that should be practiced in the classroom and at home. 

To Discipline is To Teach 

It is thought that to discipline means to punish, but, instead, it means to teach. Receptivity to lessons is based on a relationship with the child. A teacher should build trust with their students, actively getting to know each one and how they act through daily routine and constant communication. A healthy and meaningful relationship will help the child to see discipline as a lesson rather than a punishment. 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement should be an active part of every Pre-K teacher’s classroom regime. Stickers and smiles are ways to acknowledge what a child is doing well and encourages them to continue that behavior. 

Model Behavior

Preschoolers tend to have a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. A good leader and teacher leads by example, modeling good behavior in hopes of the children following their lead. 

Direct, Explanatory Guidance

The burning question on the mouth of every young one is “why?” Teachers should express their reasoning to students rather than offering just a “because I said so” response. 

Preventative Measures

In spending a lot of time with a child in the classroom and in building a meaningful relationship, a teacher should take note of triggers to take preventive measures that avoid unwanted behaviors. 

Preschool teachers provide the foundation to be built upon from every grade going forward, so it is essential not to take preschool education lightly. In choosing a preschool and evaluating its teachers, inspect the many factors that would affect the quality of their teaching. Their education, experience, work ethic, personality, and actions are all valuable measures of evaluation to ensure your child is getting the best education at their most developmental age and stage of learning. 

Disclaimer: Percentage ranges discussed in this article are based on PrekAdvisor’s own evaluative criteria and guidelines developed over more than a decade of experience in the education space.