With Tully turning three early next year we have been thinking a lot about how to choose the right preschool and what type of preschool to send her to. She is currently in family daycare twice a week but I can see already that she needs more. More stimulation, more structure and more learning opportunities. Her daycare mum is the loveliest lady and she has been so loved and nurtured there but it's time for her to move into a more structured learning environment...
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But how do I know the best place for her? Preschools, and early learning in general, have changed so much since my other daughter started preschool eleven years ago. There is a higher expectation on children these days, and so much technology that is incorporated into their lives. So where do I start? I have a list of preschools to visit and I need to find the perfect place for her. She's very smart (I know- we all say that!) but she loves to learn and is very observant and inquisitive. On the flip side though, (in her words) "I don't like people!" She's very shy and clingy and takes a long time to warm up to people. She's no social butterfly so she needs somewhere where she won't be overlooked.
Who else is choosing a preschool at the moment? I've been chatting to the expert and I've put together this list of the five top things to look for when you are visiting a preschool...
1. Observe the relationships between the teachers and children
Take a moment to watch body language carefully. When a visitor enters a learning space it normally takes about 5 minutes to be able to see past the ‘airs and graces’ and for everyday behaviour to resume. Pause in the learning space just long enough to see what the real relationships are like. Are the children looking and sounding relaxed, engaged and interacting with staff and peers confidently? After all this is one of the most important parts of learning at preschool.
2. What activities are being offered?
Are they the same kind of activities you remember doing at preschool? A lot has changed since we were preschoolers and so the learning space should reflect this. Some things will be the same, for sure. But there are many things which should have been retired long ago. Look at the open-ended nature of the tasks; are children exploring deeply? Or is that same worn out puzzle there again for third day in a row?
3. How are the teachers responding to the children's questions?
Listen to the types of questions being asked by the children and what sort of responses their teachers are offering in return. This will give you some indication as to the type of thinking being explored at the preschool. Thinking should be creative, explorative and puzzling. Getting the brain into gear is critical to great preschool teachers.
4. Are the teachers inspired and passionate about learning?
Ask the teachers what has inspired them recently and how has this change what they do with children. Great teachers will be able to answer this question within moments of it being asked. If the teachers aren’t life long learners then there is likely to be an issue around change and adapting new learning tools and techniques into their professional practice and that will have a direct impact on your child’s learning.
5. Talk to the Director
When you are speaking with the Director ask lots of curious questions around inspiring learning opportunities and make sure you get examples. Ask the Director what their vision is for the preschool as a whole, for the staff and the children. This is important because without a vision we end up going around in circles and preschool is place for new adventures not rehashing last year's program.
Selecting the right preschool is so important because it is the place where children can begin a lifelong love of learning. They are two years which we don’t want to waste or mess with because they matter. I can still remember my preschool and how much I loved it! I just want to make sure Tully has the same experience...
Have we missed anything? What tips would you give mums looking for the right preschool?
Thinkers.inq is an early years school for 3-5 years in Terrey Hills. They offer a dynamic and flexible preschool program combining creative and critical thinking with purpose-filled play to develop active and confident problem solvers. Thinkers.inq is open from6:45am to 6:30pm, 50 weeks of the year to offer flexibility for families who need that little extra support. Visit www.thinkersinq.com or call 1300 697 737 to make an appointment to find out more about their program.