Assessing Your Child Care Facility
When choosing a preschool program for your child, it’s important to consider characteristics of your child, the program, the preschool staff and the program’s physical environment. Here are a few guidelines from NAEYC.
Characteristics of the Child
Some children are more comfortable in large groups than others, and will do well in large programs. On the other hand, if your child takes a long time to warm up in a crowd, you may want to look for a small-scale preschool program. If your child seems especially fond of vigorous physical activities and outdoor play, you may want to ensure that the preschool provides good outdoor space and equipment.
Characteristics of the Program
It is always a good idea to make preliminary visits to as many preschool programs as possible before making a choice. If the climate in a program is good, this is usually indicated by friendliness among the staff and children. Children in a good program are not usually distracted by visitors, but continue to be absorbed in their work and play. Give yourself adequate time to get a feeling of the general atmosphere of the classroom and the extent to which children appear comfortable and involved.
Some questions you can ask about components of the program include:
- Does the program have a clear written statement of its goals and philosophy?
- Do the goals address ALL areas of children’s development, including social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development?
- Does the program offer a balance of individual, small group, and large group activities?
- Does it offer a balance of spontaneous play and teacher-guided activities?
- Are children provided regular opportunities for outdoor play?
- Do the provided activities encourage self-expression; allow for the development of various fine and large motor skills; and expose the children to literature, language experiences, music, art, science and nature?
- Does the content and materials of the program reflect cultural diversity and nonsexist attitudes?
Characteristics of the Staff
Questions to ask about the program staff include:
- Are the teachers trained in early childhood education?
- Does the director have experience as a teacher?
- Has the staff been stable over the past few years?
- Does the staff welcome parents as visitors and participants, and respect parents’ preferences and ideas?
- In their interactions with children, do the teachers express warmth, interest, and respect for each child?
- Are the teachers engaged with the children most of the time?
Characteristics of the Physical Environment
Questions to ask about the physical setting include:
- Is there an attractive spacious outdoor area for safe and vigorous outdoor play and activity?
- Is there a sufficient supply of equipment for the size of the group?
- Are the children always supervised when outdoors?
- Are the snacks and meals of sufficient nutritional quality?
- Do the classrooms contain different kinds of spaces so that children can find small quiet places when they need to?