Every child-care center and nursery school is different, and parents have to search carefully to find a good place for their child.
Schools might claim (as Montessori, Waldorf, co-op, traditional, and religious schools do) that their programs are based on familiar philosophies, but parents have to see how the philosophies are actually implemented. The personalities of staff members, the physical layout, and the day-to-day schedules are what determine a school or center’s quality. The only way for parents to make an informed choice is to observe a number of programs.
There’s no need to look for a preschool program that claims to prepare a child for kindergarten. The preschool years and the elementary years are different developmental stages, and if teachers and parents expect too much of a preschooler, in areas of reading, math, and writing, feelings of “I can’t” and inferiority will be fostered. Learning happens gradually, and a curriculum for preschool children should not mimic what will be taught in kindergarten or first grade.
The best way to “prepare” children for the elementary years is to remember that, when they initiate play and activities, they learn to believe in themselves and learn to feel capable. This foundation is essential during the preschool years, especially because learning during the elementary years requires confidence that comes from years of initiating activities, play, exploration, and building imagination.
Parents who want a program that meets three to five mornings a week, and parents searching for a day care center open twelve hours a day will be looking for the same qualities. All parents want caring teachers and staff members, a pleasant facility, and a flexible program that will meet their child’s needs for the one to four years she will attend.
The difference for parents looking at full-time day care is that their child will spend most of her waking hours at the center they choose. The selection of a quality day care program is essential.
As you look for child-care facilities, narrow your choices to centers that are easy to get to. If you’re considering nursery schools, you’ll probably want one close to home, while you might find a day care center more convenient if it’s close to your work. Narrow your choices further by asking friends, neighbors, and co-workers for recommendations. Then visit at least two or three programs before making a decision.