We’re not gonna lie: Finding the right preschool is a daunting task, involving lots of research and hand-wringing.  If you’re not even sure where to begin, check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s advice. Start your search early enough so you have time to consider all your options. Depending on where you live, this search might be best started not long after your little one is born! But typically, start this process at least a year before you plan on enrolling. Here’s the flow of the process:

Do your research.

Talk to neighbors, friends, colleagues, and other moms at the playground. Scour the Internet, local parenting magazines, and blogs. Many communities offer preschool fairs in the spring, but frankly word of mouth is probably the number one way most families find a school.

Decide what you want out of a preschool.  Are you looking for a creative outlet for your budding Picasso, or do you want the focus to be on outdoor activities? If you’re not familiar, read up on different educational philosophies–is the Montessori method right for your child, or would you prefer a play-based curriculum? (link to types of preschools post) Are you only considering schools that have an accreditation? Obviously you’re looking for a nurturing environment, but be sure to consider the school’s founding philosophies and beliefs, too.

What communication tools does the school use? Do they primarily send paper notices home in lunchboxes? Or have they joined the modern world, making use of email, social media, and all the great communication tools for preschools that exist? Brightwheel is a free and easy-to-use mobile app that helps schools stay better connected with families.Teachers use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom. As a parent, you’ll get private, real-time updates on your child delivered to your mobile device throughout the day. Brightwheel also allows for digital check-in/check-out, and a paperless billing system.

Consider logistics.

Carefully consider a school’s location. You probably want the school to either be close to home or close to the office. We recommend choosing a spot close to the office–that way if your little one is running a fever you can easily zip over to pick him up. It also allows you a little more precious time together–even though it’s during your commute, it’s still time for you to connect, talk about your days, be together.

Does the school offer before and after school care? Can you drop in on these services if you have a late meeting? What about spring break and summer vacation–does the school offer daycare services on days the teachers are off? Does the school offer enrichment activities like Spanish or yoga? Figure out what’s important to you here as you consider your options.

Narrow it down.

Now that you have a short list of possibilities, it’s time for school tours. Typically you’ll meet with the director, have a chance to ask questions, (link to preschool interview questions post) and then get a tour of the facility. Request a classroom observation so you can check out the teachers in action. Don’t be seduced by shiny new toys–if the teachers and staff aren’t top quality, it doesn’t matter that they have a beautiful facility. (link to preschool tour questions post)

Visit at least once more, this time with your child. You want to give him a chance to look around and see how he fits into the mix. How does he react to the environment and the teachers?

Don’t be shy–talk to any parents you may run into when you visit. Hang around at drop-off or pickup time. Try to get a feel for the parent community, as this can also be a huge part of the preschool experience.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, apply to several schools, so that you have some options if you don’t secure a spot at your top choice. When the time comes to finalize your choice, go with your gut. The most highly regarded preschool may not necessarily be the best fit for you. In the end, your choice has to feel right for your family. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Go with your gut!

Brightwheel is a free, easy-to-use app for preschools, daycares, and families. Download it today and get started!
June 7, 2015

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These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to ask neighbors for recommendations when looking for a preschool. My family just moved to a new area, so I need to find a good preschool for my daughter. One of my neighbors has a girl about her age, so I’ll definitely ask her for suggestions. Thanks for the great post!

I like what this article mentions about doing research about potential schools. I think that by asking neighbors or friends about their experience, I could really get an idea about how my kid would like it. I’ll have to remember to do this soon to make sure my kid has the best preschool experience.

I really like what you’ve encouraged people to consider under the logistics heading of your article here. Not a lot of people would really see the benefits of choosing a preschool closer to their office than their home, but you’ve brought up some amazing points. It can already be tough to spend time with your kids if you work a lot, so having that extra time in the car during the commute really is worth quite a lot to developing the bond between parent and child.

Touring different preschools seems like a great way to narrow down my choices. I have a pretty long list of potential schools for my son to go to that are fairly close to home. Checking out their facilities and asking the teachers questions would help me know where I would be more comfortable with taking care of my son every day. Thanks for the tips!

It really is important to take into consideration what kind of learning system you want from your child when picking out a preschool to send them to. The article makes some great points in putting some of its focus on that aspect and providing plenty of examples for what parents should keep their eyes open for. It helps to try and identify what kind of learning your child works with best ahead of time, so that you don’t choose the wrong preschool for their learning style.

I enjoyed reading this article! Your tip about figuring out what you want out of a preschool really stood out to me. My kids really enjoy being outside and active so finding something that encourages that would be great. It seems like this method would take more research but would come with so many more benefits. I will have to look into different types, thanks.

Finding a preschool or a child care center is what I would need to start doing. My wife and I have been thinking about enrolling our son to a child care center. The reason is because of how he’s going to be turning five years old next year and we think it would be best to put him with kids his age.

You make a really good point about considering the logistics of the preschool. Sometimes, people get wrapped up in things like the school’s reputation and reviews, and while those are important, they shouldn’t be the only thing that you consider. After all, you need to make sure the place works well for both you and your child. Like you said, you need to be sure that the location is convenient, and that it has all the amenities that you need!

I like your tip on finding out if a preschool has after and before school care. I would imagine that this would be important if you have to drop off your kid early or have them stay late due to a changing schedule. My husband and I both started new jobs recently so our schedules are not set in stone yet so when we find a preschool for our daughter we’ll have to find one with flexible child care hours.

Considering a school’s location in relation to your home or office when choosing a preschool seems like really sensible advice. I always assumed having a preschool close to home would be ideal, but your comment about having more time with your child with a preschool closer to work shifted my mindset on that topic. I imagine It would be handy if ever you needed to pick your child up early (for sickness or vacation, etc.) since you would be close enough to get to them very quickly.

My view of preschool is that it is a way to prepare your child for kindergarten. Some people think of it as more of a daycare service which is fine, but not my opinion. That’s why I like how you mention that you should decide what you want out of preschool for your child so you can choose one based on their curriculum. Thanks for sharing these tips!

Thanks for the tip to talk to other moms at the playground and ask which preschool they take their children to. You also said that it’s good to decide what you want out of a preschool. I think it’s important to choose a preschool that teaches in a way that you would teach your children, and disciplines as you would do.

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