Anoo Padte, Art of Education, www.artofeducation.net
Vivacious, excited, curious and busy! Toddlers and preschoolers make us alive. As you watch your little one, do you beam? Does your heart fill with hope and excitement for all the possibilities that lie ahead? Is there also a nagging voice in your head that asks, “But what am I supposed to do? How do I choose between all the possibilities?”
Choosing the right preschool can be nerve-wracking. Seattle boasts a wide variety of choices – bilingual, outdoor preschools, nature-based, arts-based, play-based, academically inclined, high scope, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio and more. Mix in a healthy dose of all the research on the significance of early childhood and choosing the right preschool suddenly becomes anxiety provoking.
It does not have to be confusing or nerve wracking. The answers are clear and they lie with you and your child. Your child is your first guide, your intuition your next and your family values/needs are your benchmark. Here are three questions to help you uncover your family’s values and needs:
Play or Academic?
Instead of asking whether your child should play or learn academic skills in preschool, know that your child will play and that play is the most powerful medium for fostering learning. Know this and ask yourself these questions to know how much academic learning you want to see in your child’s preschool:
- If your child is 4 years old and shows no interest in reading, letters and numbers, will it keep you up at night?
- Do you like to spend time reading, teaching letters, numbers, conducting experiments, doing puzzles, solving problems with your little one? Or would you really like the preschool to take care of this?
- Is your child insatiably curious? Does she/he like to do puzzles, read, identify letters and numbers, be taught by a teacher? Some children are just wired that way and they seek out this learning.
- Is there a history of learning issues in the family? Do you feel a need to mitigate against any learning issues that may come up for your child?
Full day or Half day?
Preschool is about learning and it is also about care. Ask yourself these questions to determine how long and for how many days you want your child to go to preschool:
- Do you work full-time? Do you need full-time care?
- Do you enjoy spending daytime with your child? Toddlers and preschoolers are busy people. They need tremendous attention and energy. Not everyone has this energy. Don’t feel guilty if you think your child is better served by attention from a different set of caring adults.
- Are you ready to let go? Or do you really want some more time with your little one?
- Are there several activities you want your child to be involved in outside of preschool?
No preschool does it all. No child needs to do it all. Identify the few enrichments you deeply care about. Plan for your child to get a healthy dose of a few enrichments between home and preschool. Ask these questions to identify what those enrichments could be:
- What do you most naturally do as a family for leisure? What would you really like to do as a family? Run outside, throw the ball, ride a bike, sing and dance, play a musical instrument, grow a garden?
- Multiple languages do stimulate brain development but language is more than words. Why do you seek another language for your child? Do you speak one yourself? Do you have a culture or heritage you want your child to be connected with?
- Do you have space in your home for art, crafts, for getting messy with materials? Do you care to do that with your child?
- Does your child show a particular interest in an activity?
Consider these questions as you get your search going. Even as you review all the options out there, you can feel more confident knowing that you have paid close attention to your child, yourself and your family’s needs and interests.
About the Author
Anoo Padte, the founder of Art of Education, helps parents choose the right preschool/school, coaches on parenting for a fulfilling education and provides math and science enrichment. She is a certified teacher, coach, speaker and writer.