A lot of moms get really excited when their child turns 3 and can finally go to preschool! I had a hard time initially, but after the first day, I realized that my son loved it AND I got a much needed break.
It was a total win win.
Now, I got super lucky with my son. When I first enrolled him in preschool in Arizona, we only had the one option for him because of his autism. And that option happened to be FANTASTIC.
Then we moved to Utah and our options expanded, but not necessarily in a good way.
And I quickly realized that not all preschools were created equal.
In fact, there are so many differences between programs that it can become overwhelming to pick the best one!
So I have created a list of 7 tips to help you find the BEST preschool program for your child!
1. Good teacher/student ratio
What defines a good teacher/student ratio actually depends on your child’s needs. If you have a son like mine, autistic or with sensory processing disorder, or really any extra needs, you will want a smaller ratio. Somewhere around 3-4:1. This means about 3 or 4 students to 1 qualified adult. This doesn’t have to be the teacher, but another qualified aid who is in the classroom.
If your child is very easy going, a ratio of 8:1 will be more than sufficient.
Try to avoid schools that have ratios like 15:1. Think about that. 15 3 year olds with one adult? That is a recipe for disaster, and your child is not going to get the attention they need.
2. Small class size
This is different from teacher/student ratio. Even if the ratio is 5:1, if there are 25 kids in one classroom with 5 adults, chances are, things will get chaotic. They are preschoolers after all.
For my son specifically, too many kids means too much noise and too much stimulation.
Even under the best circumstances, he would have a hard time focusing and that then leads to meltdowns.
And when one 3 year old starts crying, we all know where that would lead.
A class with 10 or less kids is fantastic, but not always possible. Try to avoid classrooms with more than 16 kids if you can.
3. Make it play based
While the preschools that spout rigorous academics may sound appealing, they are in fact a BAD idea for a 3-4 year old.
Kids this age don’t need to sit at tables and do worksheets, they need to PLAY!
And this isn’t just my opinion! Research shows that kids that focus on academics a little later and aren’t pushed too early to read or write, show a greater longterm love of reading and writing, instead of resentment.
Children learn by exploring, and doing hands on activities.
If you walk into a classroom that has lots of high quality toys, puzzles, books, and hands on activities, you know you’ll be in good hands.
My son’s preschool in Arizona always started the day doing things like painting or playing with kinetic sand and ended every day with being on the playground.
Children THRIVE in those environments. Preschool age is the time to learn to make friends and realize that learning is fun. So choose a preschool that teaches through play!
4. Choose a school that does not focus on early reading and writing
Now this is completely counterintuitive. I know that even just a year ago I thought that my son’s success in life was determined by if he could read and write early.
But guess what? IT DOESN’T!
Am I saying choose a preschool that doesn’t read books? HECK NO. Reading is VITAL for a child’s language development. But learning to read at age 3 is not.
Choose a preschool that reads lots of books about lots of subjects. Choose a teacher that really makes reading fun! A teacher that boosts your child’s imagination and helps them to understand what is being read.
If your child is interested in learning to read, then sure! Go with their interests. Otherwise, help them just to enjoy it.
Same with writing. And reading and writing do NOT go hand in hand. Children are actually able to start learning to read BEFORE they’re ready to start writing. Kids this age just don’t have the fine motor skills necessary to write well, and therefore they get frustrated. This turns getting them to write into NIGHTMARE.
While it is important to learn how to write their own names, other forms of writing aren’t necessary. Instead find a preschool that focuses on strengthening those muscles that help with writing. These activities include:
- painting at an easel
- playing with playdough
- using tweezers to transfer objects
- coloring for fun
- and tons of other activities too!
Preschool is notorious for being expensive. But just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Make sure to stay in a budget that you’re comfortable with, and don’t just choose the most or the least expensive. Choose based off the merits of the school.
6. Visit the school
Did you know that you can visit a preschool before signing up? I think this is really important because you get to see the teachers in action! And not only this, but you can see if your child would, in fact, be comfortable there.
Kids are extremely intuitive, and if they don’t like a place, it is often for a good reason. Follow your gut feeling as a mom. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
7. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
This is so tricky and so hard.
Remember when I said that in Arizona I had the best school, but in Utah, I’ve had a harder time?
Well, turns out I haven’t enrolled my son into any preschool here in Utah.
Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted to. But guess what? I haven’t found a school that works for him.
And because of that, I’ve chosen to just teach him at home!
Is it hard? Oh yeah.
But my son LOVES that “mom is his teacher.”
And there are some amazing resources that you can find on Pinterest to help you do that. Here are some of my faves:
The Super Teacher: she has TONS of preschool resources
Hands on as we Grow: Jamie provides AMAZING activities to do with your toddler and preschooler. Activities that kids will love and LEARN from!
Mommy is My Teacher: Another wonderful place to find preschool homeschool ideas
So don’t be afraid to do it on your own! Basic things like matching games, playing at a park, letting your child cook with you, and doing sensory bins are all wonderful ways to homeschool.
Picking a preschool is all dependent on what YOUR child needs. So follow these tips to help you find what is best for you and your child! And if you’re looking for fun learning activities for your child, be sure to download your FREE printable of 30 kid activities that take 10 minutes or less below!
30 Kid Activities that take 10 Minutes or Less!
Download your FREE list of 30 amazingly easy toddler and preschooler activity ideas!