Cloth or disposable, to nurse or use formula, stay at home or daycare…seems like just yesterday you were embarking on those life decisions for your little one. But just because you’re past picking paint for the nursery doesn’t mean decisions regarding your preschooler are any less exciting! At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we believe choosing a quality preschool is not only an exciting decision, it’s just as important!
Did you know that by the time a child heads for kindergarten, 85% of who they are, their personality, social-skills, and intellect, have already been developed? These preschool years are critical for your child’s development.
It’s all about the brain! As your child immerses in experiences, particularly hands-on, self-initiated learning experiences, highways of neural synapses form. The more your child engages, the more synaptic connections are made, the more brain development occurs.
So how do you find this quality preschool that will provide synaptic connections for improved brain development, as well as assist your child to develop personality, social skills, and intellect? That’s a pretty tall order!
What to Look For When Searching for a Quality Preschool-
Not All Preschools are Created Equal-
There are currently no regulations on what defines a “preschool” in Utah, so there is a wide variety of schools with the preschool label.
Many schools tout having children “kindergarten ready.” But what does that mean exactly? Does that include social and personality development? Did the children learn ABCs and 123s in a way that fostered a love of learning?
As a parent, you need to decide what your preschool standards are. Here are some ideas of what you can look for:
1- Age-Appropriate Learning Environment-
A learning environment for you may look very different from what a learning environment looks like for a preschooler. Adults like a desk and quiet place to study. Preschoolers, however, are all about creating those synaptic connections. Their learning looks very much like play.
Preschoolers are also just beginning to learn how to hold their bodies still for short periods of time. Rug time and table times should be limited to 10-20 minutes, depending on the age and activity, and involve some small movement. And let’s be honest, a lot of adults are the same way. (Hence the the fidget spinner.)
2- Language Rich-
There is something to be said for Mother Goose. A quality preschool is immersed in language. You will see books and labels, hear story telling, singing, and rhyming. Children will have opportunities to practice writing their names, letters and numbers, as well as write during their play. They should also have an abundance of opportunities to express themselves verbally, (some more exuberantly than others), especially during dramatic play.
3- Multisensory Learning-
Quality preschools will abound in multisensory learning activities, or opportunities to learn with multiple senses at once. Children’s brains are going to expand and remember more effectively as their synapses are in rapid fire. Multiple learning styles are reached with these activities.
Plus, it’s just fun!
Multisensory learning also encourages children to discover as they feel, taste, smell, hear and see the world around them. This fosters a love of learning and a desire to pursue knowledge. Look for water tables, movement activities, play-doh, singing, art, cooking, and basically all things messy.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you could play for hours with toys and friends and your brain just imagined things? Too many of us have lost that ability! Part of the problem is our culture and schools telling children the “right” way do it.
Look for a preschool that encourages explorative, open-ended art. Art should be about the process more than the product. We all like to make choices, and children should feel confident in their choice of color and technique. Children should also have opportunities to express themselves through journaling and dramatic play.
5- Character Development-
Academics are of course important, but look for a quality preschool that also teaches social skills and character development. Preschools should encourage development of skills in constructive conflict resolution, cooperation, and respect. What does the school offer to teach your child confidence, problem solving, accountability, responsibility, gratitude and compassion? You want a school that will reach the “whole child,” and provide guidance in the development of life skills, as well as personality growth.
6- Integrated Learning-
You want to ask about a preschool’s curriculum. How are language, math and science taught? How does the school teach reasoning and problem solving? We recommend you look for integrated learning.
Integrated learning is making connections across multiple disciplines. You could look at it as the “spoonful of sugar” for learning. It looks like play, but inside the fun is a scrumptious morsel of delicious knowledge the children wouldn’t enjoy in the form of a worksheet. UDA Creative Arts Preschool does this through our learning themes. This article can give you more information on how it works.
Without a road map (or GPS in our day and age), how is one to get from point A to point B? Quality preschools will asses your child to determine point A in order to create a learning map to navigate them to point B. Quality teachers will keep parents informed of their child’s growth and development. No child is the same, so no learning map should be the same. A quality preschool will work with your child to reach his or her full potential. As you look at preschools, find out how teachers asses the children’s learning.
8- Safety & Love-
Above all, your child deserves to be in a safe and loving environment. Is the establishment clean and sanitary? How are bathroom trips and illness handled? And in today’s world, it’s important to find out if employees have background checks.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) lists some great ideas on standard things to look for, including the physical environment and management of a preschool. Check out this link to their article.
Make sure you observe teachers and staff and their interactions with the children, and most importantly, your child. You want your child to feel welcomed, comfortable, and loved.
What You Can Do to Find a Quality Preschool-
1- Do Your Homework-
Again, you set the standards, so do some reading. What is available? What is most important to you? Here are some articles to consider:
- What Does a High Quality Primary Classroom Look Like?– NAEYC
- 10 Signs of a Fantastic Preschool– Education.com
- Is This the Right Place for My Child?– childcareaware.org
- Utah’s Core Standards for Early Childhood Education– Utah.gov
- Questions to Ask When Choosing a Preschool – UDA Creative Arts Preschool
- The Importance of High Quality Preschool– UDA Creative Arts preschool
2- Take a Tour-
Once you have an idea of your standards, observe schools in action. Allow your child to interact with the teachers. Ask your questions.
3- Listen to Your Heart-
Weigh your pros and cons, but also listen to your parent’s intuition. As long as you’re not Rapunzel, Mother (and Father) knows best.
We welcome parents to come visit our Draper, Utah campus at UDA Creative Arts Preschool. As we open registration for the 2018-19 school year, we hold open houses and love to give tours. Give us a call to schedule yours at (801) 523-5930. We are confident you will love what you see!
Written By: Elsje Denison