At this point the evidence is conclusive; preschool provides greater opportunity for long term success. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Children in high quality preschools display stronger language, cognitive, and social skills.”
A new study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, lead researcher Dr. Dana Charles McCoy, advocates ”there is increasing evidence that social-emotional skills may play a role, as they support children’s ability to continuously engage in learning environments, manage their own behaviors, and get along well with others.”
In addition to mastering social skills—how to compromise, be respectful, and problem-solve—preschool provides a place where your child explores, plays, and builds confidence. Children in preschool discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves, from small tasks like putting on their jackets to tackling bigger issues like negotiating with their friends how to complete a project or how they want to spend their free time.
Young children who attend a quality early education program will have mastered the skills necessary to have a smooth and transition into Kindergarten, which is one of the ultimate goals of any early childhood program.
So we’re convinced preschool is important. It is already time to start planning your child’s future.
How do you know which is the right school for your child and for your family? Visiting sites, talking to teachers, to the Director, and to parents is critical.
- What is the look and feel of the school? Does it feel warm and inviting? Is it clean and organized? What kind of work is up on the walls? Do you see original art? Is it alive with children’s work? Does every classroom look the same with heavy structure or are the classrooms different with various curricula?
- Is there a transition or separation policy in place? Young children need time to separate gradually. Does the school ask you to drop and run? Do they have a philosophy about saying goodbye to your child?
- What are the safety procedures for picking up and dropping off children?
- What percentage of the staff holds degrees in early childhood?
- What professional development does the school offer its teachers?
- What is the teaching philosophy?
- What is the sick policy for children?
- How large are the classes and what is the teacher-child ratio?
- What does a typical day look like?
- Is there a food policy?
- How much do the children play? Running around, active and imaginative play all is essential.
- How do parents get involved? Is there an active parent organization? Can parents visit and volunteer in classrooms?
You want to look for an environment that represents the children. How is the classroom structured? A structured environment can young children navigate social equations and play well with others. This does not mean there are lots of rules or adults constantly direct children’s activities. Rather, the structure of a high-quality preschool classroom is largely invisible. Classroom space is organized to encourage interaction and imaginative play. The space is designed to represent the children, surrounding them with their art, work and accomplishments, as well as their interests.
Of course, the question about discipline and social-emotional growth is paramount. How does the staff help children resolve conflicts? We all want to raise good human beings. A major part of child development is testing boundaries. The way the school handles social and emotional issues should complement your approach at home. Remember, consistency for preschool age children is essential.
LISA MONETTE has worked with children for over 22 years, she is the Director of the Sheila and Eric Samson Family Early Childhood Center at the Merage JCC. Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.