How to Choose a Preschool – 80 Questions to Ask

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When it came time to research and interview for a preschool for Ella Grace, even though I had a degree in Child & Family Development and have taught, worked, and trained teachers in preschools, I was completely overwhelmed and had no clue where to start or what to ask as a mama!

Thankfully, a friend shared this ridiculously comprehensive and amazing checklist of questions. It helped tremendously in framing my thoughts and understanding the kind of preschool I was looking for – and I hope it will help you too.

If I only had to share three things about the best way to choose a preschool – or a school – for your child, they would be:

  1. Use this list only as a guideline. You won’t have to ask all these questions but it will help you to decide the kind of school that you want for your child based on the answers you are hoping to hear from the teachers.
  2. Definitely visit the school and observe, observe, observe! Listen to what the teachers are saying to the children and each other in the background, how does the admin treat the staff and other parents walking in the door, do the educational materials look played with, does the center look clean, is there soap in the dispensers, do the children look well cared for and excited to be there? Observe how a teacher handles a disagreement, is that how you would normally handle it? The truth is, you can ask a billion questions and get all the “right” answers but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. So ask, visit, listen, observe, observe, observe!
  3. Most importantly, listen to your mama gut. Remember that only you know your child best, what they will respond to, the kind of school they will thrive in and the type of learning and nurturing that would work best for your family. Yes, this may be the top-rated school or an unknown teeny tiny new start up school with no record, but what does your gut tell you? Do you feel good in here? Does their approach align with your parenting method? What is your goal for school? Do you see it happening here? Keep an open mind when touring other schools, whether they are your favorite or not really being considered, it might surprise you what you may find or learn you like.
In the end, the preschool we went with wasn’t the fanciest nor was it even the philosophy and approach I was looking for. But as soon as I talked to the teachers and went to the school, I knew that this was Ella’s school. It just felt right and on her first day of school, when she didn’t want to leave because she felt so at home, I knew it felt right to her too.

80 Questions to Help You Choose a Preschool

APPROACH

What approach or philosophy does your school use? (academic or play-based, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf or a mix etc.?)
Where did you learn about this approach?
Why do you think this approach is good?
Where were you trained?
How long have you been implementing this approach?
What are you doing to make sure that this approach is implemented fully and correctly in your school?

TEACHERS

How many children do you have currently in your school?
How many classrooms do you have?
What is the maximum ratio of teacher to student in each classroom/age group?
Does this include assistants and helpers?
What are your guidelines/qualifications for choosing your assistants and helpers?
What kind and how often does the staff receive professional development training?

POLICIES

What happens when a teacher is on leave?
What happens when a teacher is on emergency leave?
Are all your staff First Aid trained and certified?
How often are your fire drills?
What happens when child is hurt?
What happens when the child needs to go to the hospital? Who goes with them? Who stays?
What is your policy on immunisations?
What is your policy on sick children (diarrhea, fever, runny nose, etc)?
What happens when a child gets sick at school?
What do you do when there is an outbreak of a contagious disease like HFMD?
How often are the rooms cleaned and sanitized?
How often are the toys cleaned and sanitized?
How often is the outdoor equipment cleaned and sanitised?
What kind of sanitiser do you use?
How often do the children wash their hands?
Do you have a routine that incorporates sun protection and mosquito repellent before going outside?
How often is the school fogged for mosquitoes?

SECURITY

What is your policy if someone else other than the child’s parents is picking up that day?
What happens if there was no prior approval, the child recognizes them but but the parents cannot be contacted?
Do you have CCTV in the school?
Where are the cameras located?
Do we have access to it?
Is it password protected?
How often do you have tours of the school and when are these usually scheduled?
What is your policy on visitors?
What is your policy on pictures of the children and school?
On school trips, what is your adult to child ratio?

ENVIRONMENT

How big are your classrooms?
How often do the children go outside?
How often do the children have sensory play?
What kind of play centers do you have in the classroom?
Do you switch them out or are they permanent?
How do you teach numbers and alphabets?
Do you have a pool?
Is it chlorine or salt-water based?
What kind of certification does the swim coach have?
What kind of teaching techniques does he/she use? (ISR, water confidence through play, skills and techniques etc.)
How do you keep the pool safe when the children are in and out of the water?

LEARNING

How do you keep track of the child’s progress?
What is the communication flow between teacher and parent?
How do you keep the children engaged? If the child is uninterested or doesn’t want to join the activity, what would you do?
How do you handle misbehavior?
How do you deal with bullies?
What do you do with children that are prone to biting/hitting?
How do you settle a new child?

FOOD & ALLERGIES

What do you feed the children for breakfast/lunch/snack?
How often do you rotate your menu?
Is the cook trained in choking hazards for small children?
What is your policy on bringing high allergy food (nuts/dairy/egg)?
How does your team (teachers/assistants/helpers/cooks/cleaners) keep track medical condition/allergies?
How do you celebrate birthdays at the school?
What kind of treats do the parents bring in?
What happens if a child doesn’t want to eat what is served?

DIAPER CARE & POTTY TRAINING

Who does diaper changes?
How do you keep track of allergies, diaper cream, lotions?
How do you sanitize between changes?
How often are the children changed?
Do you wash or use wipes?
How do you approach potty training?
Does the adult wipe for the children?
Do you wash the children?
Do you have an open-door policy for bathrooms?

FEES

How much are your registration fees?
Does it include materials and uniforms?
Is it one-time only or is it every year?
How often do you raise fees?
How many terms do you have in a year?
When are your school holidays?
What is your replacement policy?
**All photos but the cutie on a pink beanbag courtesy of Garden International School’s Early Years Centre.
**Special thanks to Jazz Lih Beutel and Clare Wong for their kindness and wisdom in helping mama compile this list!
Racheal, aka Kacaumama, is a child & family development specialist by trade but her favorite part is being a mama to the most curious, fiercely independent, joyful little two-year-old foodie – who she hones most of parenting techniques and workshops with. Follow their adventures on FB (Racheal Kwacz Workshops) and instagram (@rachealkwacz)!

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