“Who is your child?” I thought Shikha didn’t recognise my son when she said this in the middle of our conversation.
Shikha is a homemaker who has changed three schools to choose the one she thinks suits her children just fine.
To an outsider, her decisions could come across as an outcome of an indecisive mind—the decisions of those parents who are just too choosy, hesitant, and finicky when it comes to choosing a school.
However, if you probe deeper, the reasons to choose ‘THE’ perfect preschool are important.
A playschool is not just the first step of your precious child outside home but it’s also the first platform for learning.
As per Shikha, parents should not miss asking themselves the following question and then be answering it honestly. Who is your child in terms of his/her personality? The answer to this question will lead you to the right school for your child.
10 Things To Consider That Will Help You Select The Perfect Preschool For Your Child
Well, this is the easiest one. You need to shortlist a list of preschools that fit into your budget before you start looking at other finer details.
What’s the point of liking everything about a school and then giving it up because of the cost? Therefore, get the list of affordable preschools ready and then move on to the other nine points.
2) Know your Child!
“I pulled him out just six months down the line,” says Dipika. Her younger son had started attending a certain Mumbai-based playschool that believes in extensive writing and learning.
Dipika’s son is a dreamer–creative and intuitive.
The school didn’t work for him and neither did the teachers show much appreciation for his growth.
“Moving to this school was the best decision we made. At three, my son is happy to go to school.
Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with him, he just needed a different approach,” says Dipika about the present school her child attends.
School vs child
The approach of a school is its perspective or method towards teaching and learning. You need to check whether that approach matches with your child’s needs as seen around 1-1.5 years of age, and not as per what you want your child’s personality to be.
Yes, children are too young to choose but still, the choice should not be based just on what you like or want.
Any expert views?
Thomas and Chess at Colorado University have come up with a detailed study on infant personalities leading up to 10 years of age.
Table 10.2 (on page 2) is something you can focus on—it compares details such as span of attention, moods, and reactions of children at different ages to help parents assess their child’s psychological temperament.
Keeping your child’s temperament in mind is important while choosing a play school.
Don’t forget this detail!
3) Know the approach
Logically, the next important step in understanding your child’s learning needs is the assessment of the approach of teaching that the preschool follows.
Be mindful that this approach is not that of the individual teachers but the overall belief system within the school. Curriculum form just a part of this.
The following are a few of the main methods of teaching followed in India. Most playschools use one or a combination of any of these methodologies.
The Montessori Method
According to Wikipedia, “Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.”
In simple terms, this method focuses on the individuality of each child and lets every child follow his/her own pace of learning. In this format, there is no comparison between children of the same ages.
The Reggio Emilia Approach
This approach is used in mostly all preschools. However, it is mixed with one or two other forms of instruction. The idea behind this approach is to teach children to discover themselves through symbolic ideas.
These ideas are developed through painting, sculpting, and dramatising. Basically, it is an approach based on exploration and ideation.
Such schools are deeply involved in observing, touching, free play, art and drama.
The HighScope Approach
Under this approach, teachers do not teach but only assist children in learning. In other words, teachers help children make their own plan for the day.
Sessions on what children would like to discuss or do during the day are conducted where the idea of every child is given its due. Basically, in this format, the kids are in-charge.
The Waldorf Approach
This approach is also called the Steiner approach based on Steiner’s views on stages of development.
Waldorf believes that merely reading and learning through rote is not the true way to develop–imagination and analytical thinking should be cultivated and encouraged in each child.
The concept of ‘circle time,’ where children sitting together in groups to chant rhymes and learning together is widely used in this approach.
Many playschools use one or the other tenets of this theory in their approach to teaching. So go ahead, choose your approach!
4) Emotional Guidance
“She made him understand her instructions in Tamil.” Pratibha is a financial planner with a leading bank and her parents help her bring up her two-year-old.
She is recounting an incident about her child who only speaks Tamil at home since his grandparents do not speak any other language with him.
“In the early days, guiding his behaviour in school was getting difficult because he would not respond. He was getting into a shell.
So the teacher tried explaining things in Tamil for a bit,” explains Pratibha. Language barriers aside, toddlers and preschoolers need an environment in school where their physical, as well as emotional needs, are met.
Preschools are as much about relationships as they are about learning the basics of ABC.
Meet every child’s emotional needs
In Pratibha’s case, her child’s needs were fulfilled by using the language he was comfortable with.
Flexibility of approach within a preschool is paramount. In fact, preschoolers approach their teachers as they would approach their mothers so the level of emotional and behavioural guidance within school should be high.
In the book, Behavior Guidance for Infants and Toddlers, the authors have mentioned a concept of pro-social play.
This is nothing but playtime directed at making the child more in touch with his/her soft skills–skills of group play, co-operation, calmness, and kindness.
5) All work and no nap!
“Nap time!” This is a playgroup teacher’s worried response at a recent kid’s carnival at my son’s preschool. The playgroup children (1.5 to 2 year olds), were seen crying incessantly.
The timings for the carnival were 4 PM onwards and upon asking why their kids were wailing, we were simply given the above two-worded response.
I asked the playgroup teacher and she said that changing the routine of the child is difficult for the child as well as for the parent.
So, one should stick to routine. Shouldn’t that make sense while choosing a playschool as well?
Time and schedule
The timings of a playschool matter the most, at least during the initial days of school.
Proper school timings set the routine for the entire day of your child. You are then able to comfortably plan his/her eating and napping schedules accordingly.
- Preschools, unlike primary and senior schools, should not start at the crack of dawn. Preschoolers need more time to get ready, eat, and leave the house.
- Preschools should also not start very late in the day as that sets a bad body clock for the coming years of school.
- The timings of the playschool should match with your work timings and your overall schedule.
In short, it’s a balancing act between your and your child’s schedules.
RELATED: 8 Reasons Why Kids Dislike Math
Imagine driving a couple of hours every day to ferry your child to and from the playschool. It’s not only stressful for you but also for your little one.
In fact, children start getting averse to the very idea of school if reaching it is tiring for them. Hence, the location makes a very important point to consider while choosing a preschool for your child.
7) Cleanliness matters!
“Usko potty nahi hota tha!” (He suffered from constipation!)
This is Sudha, two-and-a-half-year-old Veer’s nanny. I knew that Veer had recently shifted schools but wasn’t aware that a dirty washroom was the reason.
It is then I made a mental note to include the point of cleanliness and health in this list.
Children should be provided with a neat and clean environment in the playschool that you choose so that their health does not suffer.
Since it’s an understood point already, let’s just close with the adages that health is wealth and cleanliness is godliness!
PRO TIP: A great way to engage your child without the use of screens is an activity box like Flintobox! These activities are designed to teach children in a step-by-step information, where they learn and process information through play. It’s a steady approach and children are introduced to a variety of concepts over a period of time. For more information on Flintobox activities, visit this link >
Isn’t this an understood point again? Adding it here just as a reminder for all parents to have a ready checklist to refer to.
Safety within the school premises, and in the way kids are dispersed from the school forms a key point to consider while choosing a preschool.
Most schools share the measures they take for safety with parents during admission meetings. However, I suggest that you should not buy their word and do your own reference check.
The best thing is to talk to parents whose kids are already studying in the school and understand whether the school keeps its promised measures in place or not.
If you get positive responses, go ahead with the school!
9) May I come in?
Well, don’t get confused by the heading since I’m not talking about manners here. It’s about how open the school is in letting parents get involved with their processes. For preschoolers, it’s paramount that the school involves parents at every step of the way.
A preschool exposure is more about skills and personality development than about academics for your child. This is the reason why you should check whether the preschool that you are considering allows your voice and views or not.
Openness and interaction between parents and the school are very important at this nascent stage of your child’s development and therefore, do remember to tick this point off your list.
“Nahi, that’s ICSE and I want CBSE board.” I heard a group of moms discussing schools as I walked past them in the park the other day.
My eavesdropping informed me that they were discussing the board of education that each school in their vicinity follows.
Since a playschool is a stepping stone for their child’s higher education, parents must consider the board or institution that the school is accredited to.
In India, ICSE, CBSE, IGCSE, IB, and the individual state boards are most common among others. While considering a preschool, you might want to compare the respective board or institution that the school follows.
So, you’ve done your research, you’ve made a list, and you’ve even shortlisted a preschool but are still not sure.
Welcome to the world of schooling where till the time your child leaves school and steps into college, you’ll perpetually doubt your decisions.
Nothing is ever perfect enough for our perfect children, isn’t it?
So, what are the points for choosing the perfect preschool in your checklist? Share a few of them with us.
Image Credits: Cotaro70s