Sneak peek: Parents often ask what to look for in a preschool. This post can be your guide for what questions to ask on a preschool tour. Learn why play in preschool is really brain-building.
Another group of students is building with blocks on the floor. They are working together to build a tall tower. Another teacher is asking probing questions like, “how many blocks do you have stacked so far?” and “what will happen if we stack another block?”
As a naive bystander, you wonder if the kids here are really learning anything? I mean, aren’t they just playing? What about all the preschool learning activities they are supposed to be doing? What are the teachers doing just playing with them? You start to wonder if preschool is really worth the money you are paying for it.
As a parent, you may have had an encounter similar to this one. Maybe you were touring schools wondering what to look for in a preschool or what questions to ask on a preschool visit. Perhaps you saw this as you watched your child at preschool prior to pick-up time.
What Makes a High-Quality Preschool Program?
As adults, we often have preconceived notions about what “schooling” should look like and include. Doesn’t preschool mean a teacher in front of a group of kids instructing them in the ways of ABC’s and 123’s? What is often missed is the subtlety of how children learn and the beauty of children’s development. Research and real-life experience tell us that all people learn best when they are actively engaged in preschool learning activities. This is especially the case for young children.
And what engaged kids more than anything else? Play! Although kids can learn through worksheets and flashcards, the lessons that benefit them the most and that they will keep in their little brains for years to come are those learned through hands-on engagement, which usually happens through play.
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Questions to Ask on a Preschool Visit
It takes real skill to pack lots of research into a book and it does not sound like a textbook. However, Suzanne Bouffard does it! She uses a wonderful storytelling style and incorporates the top research in the field in such a way that it’s enjoyable to read. You feel like you are just following along with a few families as they visit preschools. After reading this, you will know what to look for in a preschool. Crucial topics to consider include:
- the orientation of the program toward play or academics
- teachers’ demeanor and attitude toward the students
- teacher turnover rates
- the physical organization of the classroom (e.g., space for students to move around, etc.)
The Role of Play-Based Learning
For me, this was one of the big highlights of the book–a detailed explanation (with examples!) of play-based learning and WHY it is the preferred method for teaching young children. As a parent, this is what you want to know–how is my kid learning through play and what does it look like in real life. This book delivers on this point. She shows wonderful real-life examples of preschool learning activities that are engaging and playful. Just reading these examples will help you understand what to look for in a preschool and give you ideas for what questions to ask on a preschool visit for your child.
How Education Policy Affects the Schools
I think many parents struggle with understanding how national education policy and funding affect their local schools. This book explains in real-life examples how national policies towards early education and K-12 education impact preschools in our country. If you want insight into how schools in lower SES neighborhoods struggle or why staffing in preschools is so difficult, this opens the door to all those issues.
The Value of Play-Based Preschool Learning Activities (at School or Home)
Hopefully, you will find this aspect of the book helpful as well and gain confidence in your ability to parent your child in such a way that incorporates a bit of playful preschool learning activities.
Are you searching for a preschool or pre-K program for your child soon? Are you planning a preschool visit but unsure what to ask?
Preschool checklist for parents
Download this Preschool Checklist for Parents. All your preschool visit questions ready to go!
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