“Play is the highest form of research”- Albert Einstein
Pre-schools – The first encounter outside of a home, a social setting with interactions other than with family, the new boundary, building, ambience, a whole new world for the child as well as the parents is an important part of modern urban life. Life as we know and understand is about taking forward steps, moving in new directions towards becoming a productive and fulfilled person. Preschools are an integral part of this journey as they start the process of allowing a child to bloom into a young adult. It is the beginning of going into someone else’s care, to start opening up their wings of the fly, to learn to share and care, to grow independent, to respect one another and start becoming societal and social being.
Pre-schooling plays an essential role in a child’s life. Foundations are pivotal, so is their future. These early years shape the personality of a child as they are at their fastest learning phase. We, as parents, want to establish it adequately for them.
Before we start looking out for the most suitable institutions, the following “five” first-hand preparations we require as parents:
- KYC – Your ‘Knowingness about Your Child’. Parents are the first caregivers, they know their child the best, their needs, gifts, and special requirements and hence can make the best available choice for them.
- Becoming a child’s experiential learning models– Children watch and learn. Give them as many experiences and learnings as possible.
- Budget Allocation– preparing a list of affordable options without making a huge dent on the pocket or household financials.
- Sometimes coping up with separation anxiety is more with the parents than the child. For some parents, it could be their first-time experience. For working parents, take 7- 15 working days off during the child’s settling down period.
- The whole process could be an overwhelming experience– From preschool search, conveyance comfort, timings, meal planning, settling time etc.- to getting prepared sufficiently, both mentally and physically.
However, DON’T WORRY. We were in the same boat last year but pretty much figured out the things to be considered for a preschool search in a Metro (we belong to the National Capital Region, India). Here is a list of ten criteria that we think will resonate with most parents. Our comment is in ‘Italics’.
- Security and Safety: With all the mishaps/horror incidents we get to hear these days in metro cities, it is essential to ensure the following:
A. The preschool has web-linked cameras for a 24X7 live view of school through the Internet.
B. RFID (Reference Identification Number) enabled ID Cards for auto-updates of arrival and dispersal through SMS.
C. Guidelines for the pickup and drop off in place is strictly adhered.
D. Security guards are experienced and attentive on duty (it can be observed during school visits).
E. If the child gets lost or is missing (little children tend to wander) – immediate locate action mechanism is in place.
F. Staff are adequately trained on first aid, fire drill and evacuation processes. First-aid kit is fully stocked or not.
G. The toys are not choking hazardous.
You might also notice if the campus is well protected with boundary walls to stop all unwanted outside access, as well as unwarranted exit from the school premises.
Our preschool met most of these requirements.
- Teaching Methodology/Faculty Training: This factor is crucial in preparing the child for formal education as per the vision and goals of parents/family. Below are some educational philosophies followed by preschools in the NCR:
A. The Montessori method
B. The Reggio Emilia approach
C. The Waldorf Approach
D. The Bank Street approach
E. The High/Scope approach
F. The Play-way method
Try to know and understand each philosophy, and ask which of the above methodologies the preschool uses. It is also important to find out whether classroom teachers have adequate training and there are ongoing developmental programs for them especially as they work with young children.
The preschool that we finalized has a teaching methodology which is a decent mix of Indian values + the Montessori Method + project-based learning. They have the “Edudrama programme” (this program helps in the enhancement of a child’s linguistic skills, voice modulation, facial expression and imaginative powers). Special assemblies for stage exposure and personality development; excursions/educational trips also keep happening. Our son learnt his basic verbal communication here, credits to their programmes and teaching practises.
- Teacher-Student ratio: For us, this was our third most important factor. Kids at this age are highly energetic and enthusiastic. So, they need extra supervision and help for their basic needs, almost for everything sometimes. Thus, the ratio of teachers & caretakers per child is important.
We feel it is an essential deciding factor for parents to consider while selecting the preschool for their kids at this age group (2+ years and 3+ years until 5 years). It might vary from toddlers to kindergarten years.
Teacher-Student ratio at our preschool is 1:12or14.
- Cleanliness: Preschools happen to be messy as they are the playroom for young children. We all know a young child is more susceptible to infections and impurities than elders. It is essential to take a tour of the premises to see if the staff are attentive towards maintaining the hygiene and general cleanliness of the place.
You may also take a walk through the kitchen and bathrooms of the school, sometimes an unplanned visit also helps.
We checked this, during our first visit and were happy. As a mother, I am very particular about cleanliness.
TOILET TRAINING: You know your child the best. If your child is not trained at 2+ age, you may ask about this requirement, as some schools allow the kids in diapers and some schools do not.
We wanted this training for our son. We were asked to supply necessary items such as wet wipes, an extra pair of clothes, diapers etc. This was taken care of as per our requirements. The toilets were child-friendly and the training happened effectively.
MEALS: Most schools put the menu and meal-serving times on their website. This would aid in making your child’s morning meal, pack their tiffin/snack before they leave for the day. Some schools have meals prepared under the supervision of an in-house dietician. If your child is a fussy eater, you may want to discuss the same with the teacher in charge, or if your child is allergic to specific food items, share the same.
Thank God! Our son is not very fussy or a choosy eater. The pre-school sufficiently caters to this need.
PLAY AREA: For a child’s overall motor skills development regular physical activity is essential. So preschools with spaces for indoor and outdoor active play areas are suitable.
DOCTOR’S VISIT: Kids at this age are prone to infections. Preschools having empanelled paediatricians, physicians and dentists who make regular visits to the school are necessary to look at. Learn how schools respond to medical conditions and how quick is the response time and if parents are regularly updated on the physical well-being of the child.
NAP TIME: This may be vital to you. Kids are used to a pattern of naps before joining a preschool so please share the nap time and hours with the to-be teacher-in-charge. In special cases, if a child has to stay more than regular school hours, then nap time becomes an essential consideration. So, find out the provision for kid’s nap.
For us, it was important to discuss this as our son was to stay longer hours after school on several occasions.
CLASSROOMS: While visiting the school, take a look at different age groups classes, indoor learning areas, ventilation and lighting of rooms, the colour of the walls, state of the furniture, orientation, arrangement etc.
- Parents-Teacher interaction: The following may be of importance to you:
A. Seminars/sessions on parenting and parenting issues – existing? Their frequency. This also provides a great opportunity for parents to interact with each other and get to know families of other children.
B. How the parents get to know about their ward’s performance- digital platforms, almanac etc.
C. Frequency of parent-teacher meetings
All the above are essential to building the relationship and bonding between parent-teacher-children. This also updates the parents about a child’s response to unfamiliar and formal environments.
It’s been one year, we are getting regular circulars on parenting and attending parenting sessions that are held during Parent-Teachers meets.
- Staff Turnover rate: Preschools or child care centres with a high turnover rate subject the child to a lot of newness to deal with. This may not be a happy or pleasant situation from a child’s perspective. It will take a long time for the child to settle down or in the worst scenario the child may not settle down at all. If possible casually chat with few teachers and observe the classes and class areas. Sometimes the vibes that you get is a pointer towards it.
We found a high staff turnover ratio in my son’s school. It became a real concern and that’s when I took up the matter with school authorities. It actually became better after a couple of months.
- Location and hours: Location is also essential to consider while selecting the preschool for your little one. In case of an emergency, family members can quickly access the school. So, deciding whether it would be near your home or your workplace is a vital point to be considered. Also, young kids cannot afford too much travel time as this can make them tired, or hungry or cranky.
- Fee-Structure: One cannot miss out on this factor! Some schools prefer annual fees in advance while others prefer term wise payments. Also, learn about the refund policy of the preschool in case you would wish to cancel the admission if you have a transferable job or due to any other reason. Transportation can also consume a part of financial bandwidth. Academic fees and transportation is not the only cost. There are additional recurring costs like field trips, tours, excursions, CDs/DVDs, meals, school functions, materials to be taken from home, summer-winter uniforms etc.
We opted for a budget-friendly school that suited our pockets.
- Admission to primary schools– Admission to primary schools is an uphill battle for parents. The following are important points to consider.
a) the preschool is an integral part of a formal K-12 structure.
b) the standalone preschool has tie-ups with other primary or K-12 schools.
This will ensure a smooth and seamless transition to the formal school years with the same set of friends and a familiar environment.
Download this handy checklist for your future perusal: “10 things for parents to consider while choosing the preschool for their child”
Some important Facts:
- The minimum preschool-age requirement for most of the schools is between 1.8 years to 2.5 years.
- The admission calendar for each academic year can be accessed from Directorate of Education (DoE) website at http://www.edudel.nic.in/mis/misadmin/DoeNewPublicCircular.htm
Finally, follow your heart. Go with your child and see if he/she is happily adapting to the preschool ambience or not. Their body language gives you enough hints – happiness/carefree responses to the environment, people etc. on their prospective new abode. This is a great indicator of things to come.
Our son gave happy and carefree gestures whenever we visited “Brats n Cuties” (Dwarka Sector-11, West Delhi). That’s where he was from April 2018 through March 2020.
A word of caution: Initial visits to the same school can happen many times before finalizing. You might not like the school for something(s) and would want to change in the mid-way. Be patient! If most of the criteria from the 10 above were met, you are in a Good Place. Happy times.
Most of the tips were taken from parenting platforms/websites which helped us in finding the most suitable preschool last academic session (April 2018-2019):
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog is to provide helpful information. It is entirely based on my (Pallavi Prakash Kumar) experiences for my child, Pratham. The information contained is to help parents; you may consider the one mentioned above as per your significance.
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