So, you think this fall is the right time to start preschool?
If your child is three and potty trained, you’re ready to catch a ride on the pre-kindergarten rollercoaster that will decide who your parental friends are, whether or not you should move, where your child will grow up, and who their lifelong friends will be. Yes, it sounds overwhelming, but it’s never too soon to start researching.
When I thought my first little one was ready, I didn’t have any “mommy friends” to consult. I panicked and started to Google, “What age do kids start preschool?” and was immediately overwhelmed by all the information I was gathering. After a few informal polls at the neighborhood park, I quickly realized every parent of a child my age was just as unprepared as I was. I had to find parents of children who were already in kindergarten to get the data I so badly needed. Through them, I developed a list of questions—all of which, for me at that time, could be answered with a “YES”:
- I have to go back to work. Will I need someone to watch my child all day?
- Is my child potty trained and able to ask to go to the bathroom when needed?
- Will my child be comfortable with other adults if I’m not there?
- Can my child listen, follow directions and handle a structured schedule?
- Does my child need to be socialized and learn how to play well with others?
Another Google search later and I had a list of preschools in my area, and hit the road to check them out. And this was the hardest part: How do you make one of the most important decisions of your child’s formative years and know that you will not regret your decision? Answer: You go with your gut.
Here is a list of basic questions to ask a preschool provider:
- What are your hours? Do I pay upfront, weekly, etc.?
- What if I’m late picking up my child? What is the extra fee?
- What is the ratio of kids to caregivers? What are the children’s ages in each group?
- Is breakfast served? Snacks? How are allergies handled?
- How long is nap time? Can we bring our own blanket, toy, etc.?
- What is the approach to socialization? Playtime? Inside? Outside?
- Will I be given updates on my child’s progress, how their day was, what they learned/achieved each day?
- Will I die without seeing every little milestone that will be accomplished when I’m not there? (Just kidding, but I know you were thinking this.)
(As for No. 8: Of course you will be OK, and you’ll look back later and wonder what you would have done without so-and-so provider to help you through this portion of your child’s life.)
Once you have determined who will have the pleasure of being around your child all day while you’re busy at work or wherever you need to be, you can ask for a “playdate” with the provider to let your child have some input. This will help your child to get acquainted with their new home-away-from-home and will help you to feel at ease and know that you are a great parent, and you will survive.
Nikki Arana is a mother of two boys, ages 7 and 9, who attend St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic school in West Town. She works at a law firm downtown and her free time is spent as a parent ambassador to help other families learn about their wonderful school.