There was a time in my life when I began avoiding social engagements. I didn’t like going out to any kids’ birthday parties, I avoided calls from friends who had children Viraaj’s age. In fact, whenever I would see a group of moms and dads engaged in a serious conversation I would walk off. They were stressing about “Which is the best preschool for my child?”
So what was happening to me? The very mention of the word ‘preschool’ would spark this kind of behavior in me. Was I losing my mind? Or was I becoming anti-social? Well, neither of the above. It was just the time in my life to send the apple of my eye to school. The conversations all around me have only focused on ‘Which is the best preschool or which preschool should I choose’, ‘Why this one and why not that one is the best preschool?’, ‘Which preschool has the best crowd?’ (yes! Believe me, I got to hear the last one a lot).
At one point the discussions on the prospective ‘best preschool’ for our little pods got so unnerving that I decided to home-school. Which wasn’t such a bad idea, just that I was also running a startup and handling two toddlers at the same time – Nah! Uh! Not to mention that there were parents who were stressing about “How to prepare your child for preschool?“
10 Things to Keep in Mind while Choosing the Best Preschool for your Child
Proximity from Home:
The distance from home to school should not be more than 10 minutes one way. That was my first condition. Remember the travel time from home to school and back is important because you don’t want to tire out your child and make her cranky. She is already going through a huge change. Life is changing for her. You can help by making it less difficult.
How is the School Infrastructure?
Remember this is preschool and it should be all about fun and play. Make sure that the school you select for your child has a lot of space for running freely. Swings are an important part of preschool. You wouldn’t want your little one to be cooped up in the classroom, would you?
What is the Student-Teacher Ratio?
One-on-one attention in the early years is absolutely essential. Going to school is not easy for all babies. Some take a few weeks while others even months before settling in. If the teacher is busy and distracted, there’s a chance your child will take longer to settle. Do ensure the student-teacher ratio in the school you choose for your child is about 1:10 or less.
How Safe is the School?
We, as parents, spend so much time baby proofing our homes. However, once the child steps out of the safe confines of our homes we can’t do much to protect them. Having said that safety is crucial to consider while choosing a school for your child. Where is the classroom located? If the child has to climb a staircase to reach his classroom, is there a railing to hold on to? Is the staircase inclined uniformly and not too steep? Is the railing high enough in the building? You do know how adventurous and experimental toddlers are. And lastly, is the school equipped with fire extinguishers in all classrooms and a fire and earthquake evacuation plan. I may sound like a paranoid mommy listing down these points but you just don’t know when disaster strikes!
What is the Vibe of the Classroom?
When you enter the classroom where your child will be spending the early years of her life, what vibe do you get? Do you feel positive? What’s the color scheme like? Is it pleasing to your senses? Does the classroom have enough windows and is well ventilated? Does it get ample sunlight? These factors go a long way in making the early years’ experiences of your child memorable.
Are the teachers well-trained and equipped?
When you go for a classroom recce, don’t forget to ask where the first aid kit is kept. Also, do find out if the teachers are trained not just in ABC but also CPR and first aid. Teachers should be certified so that they are confident and well equipped should they be faced with the need of providing high-quality CPR to one of their preschool students. Teachers should be encouraging and should not kill the creativity of a child.
Does the school foster book reading and storytelling?
The early years are extremely crucial for setting a strong foundation in your child. If your child is well stimulated and exposed to rich childhood experiences, there is a great chance for him to be a happy and intelligent individual when he grows up. Books play an important role in molding a child. Do check if your child’s school has a reading culture. Will the children be exposed to storytelling, music, and book-based activities? Will your child get ample time exploring books? Does the school have a good collection of illustrated picture books?
What is the Parental Engagement in School?
How often will you be visiting your child’s school? It takes an entire village to raise a child. Schools have to be in a partnership with parents while shaping their child’s future. It is absolutely essential for parents to be involved in the process. Apart from one-off visits just during PTMs, will the school be inviting you to orientations? Will, you also learn new concepts with your child so it’s easy to reinforce back at home? Yes, I am talking about being on the same page as the teacher so the child receives information in the same language from everywhere. A school that engages the parents well is definitely the one you should be choosing for your child.
Does the School focus on Life-skills and Values?
What is the culture of the school like? Is it focusing on instilling values in your child? Is your child going to get enough opportunities to practise skills like kindness, patience, and empathy? It’s hard to find out all this at the outset, however, it’s a good idea to have a chat about this with the school principal and I am sure you will have your answer
Is the School Inclusive?
Is the school infrastructure accessible? Is it welcoming for children with disabilities? It is absolutely essential to expose children to everyone. Children must learn how to treat friends with disabilities (mental or physical) and also lend a helping hand if the need arises. A ramp or an elevator will not just help a child on a wheelchair but everyone. Children should be sensitized right from the beginning about various disabilities and how they must not treat people with disabilities differently. An autistic child needs a friend as much as anyone else. If these differences are dissolved right from preschool years, imagine what a wonderful world our children will grow up in!
Finally, go with your gut. If you get a good feeling about a school just go for it. Remember not to indulge in too many discussions about the school you are choosing for your child. Once you have finalized it, you shouldn’t mull over it again. The more opinions you seek the more confused you will get. Remember all children are different, some things may seem perfect for your child while another child’s parent may not even consider them. Choosing a school for your child is your decision and yours alone. Do not fall prey to influencers, social norms, or popular choices. Make the right choice.