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Choosing the School that's Right for You

What are the most important factors when choosing a childcare for your family? Here is what I believe to be the four key things to pay attention to.

As I talked about in the introduction article of my blog, choosing a childcare center or preschool can be a very difficult and confusing decision.  There are so many things to consider.  This article is going to give you a few of what I believe are to be the most important things to look for when touring a center or home-based school.

1. Hours of Operation. 

   What hours do you need your child to be at school? Is there a charge for early drop-off or late pick-up? Some schools advertise to be open during certain hours but charge a fee for what may be called "early drop-off" or "flex time."  Make sure to ask about this if the early/late hours of a program is what appeals to you.  Also, some schools require your child to be there before a certain cut-off time.  Be sure to inquire as to whether or not this is the case and consider if that works for you and your needs.  If the hours of a school aren't going to work with your family's schedule, then you probably need to look elsewhere.

2.  Cleanliness and Safety.  

   When you walk into a school, what is your first impression? Does the school seem to be clean and safe?  You can usually tell while walking through a program if the staff is taking proper care of the classrooms.  But don't get me wrong, it is perfectly normal to walk into a preschool classroom and see toys strewn about and paint on the tables and walls.  A classroom in the midst of active learning is often a bit untidy.  What I am referring to is general cleanliness.  Take a peak in the refrigerators, on the counters, in the sinks.  Look at the equipment and make sure it looks safe and sturdy. Look at the children, especially infants and toddlers, and make sure their faces are cleaned from meals and their hands aren't dirty from the playground (if inside.)  You can even call DCF and inquire as to whether or not a program has a history of reports.  In general, you will quickly get an idea if the children are safe and well cared for based on some of these factors.

3.  Teacher Qualifications.    

An early childhood teacher is not a babysitter, and their qualifications should reflect that.  Ask about what educational requirements teachers need to work as a head teacher and teacher assistant.  Ask about first aid and CPR training.  Also, ask about the turn-over rate.  All childcare centers will have a certain amount of turn-over do to the nature of the job and the low wages, but a quality center with good management will be discovered where there are several teachers who have been there for years.  Find a school where the majority of staff has a long history there and you will find a quality place to bring your child. 

 4. How does the school feel?   

Sometimes you can walk into a place and just immediately know whether you like it or not.  Trust your gut.  When taking a tour, ask your questions and make sure the answers are being given in a straight and sincere manner.  If it seems like something is being hidden, it probably is.  Make sure you are allowed to see all the classrooms and spend more then just a few seconds in each one.  This will allow you to really see the interactions between the staff and children.  If the staff is friendly and welcoming and the children seem happy and playful, then you probably have all your answers right there.  

 When picking a school, there are obviously a lot more factors then the ones I mentioned above, but I wanted to share what I believe to be the most telling characteristics.  I have been working at Little Explorers of Newtown for over 7 years (since the day we opened!) but I have also worked at and visited many other places.  Every school has its own unique personality as well as its strengths and weaknesses.  My advise is to visit all the schools in your area to make sure you have chosen the school that's right for you.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

hjhint June 24, 2012 at 01:12 PM
My daughter is in one of infant/toddler classrooms at Little Explorers and is loving it! The teachers are great! The kids are never bored and do so many activities! We looked at about 10 daycares before choosing Little Explorers. As soon as we walked in, we knew this was the right place for our daughter.
Karen Beers Roszman June 24, 2012 at 02:42 PM
My daughter attended Step-A-Way preschool in Monroe and my son is currently enrolled at the school. The staff has been there for years and they are WONDERFUL with children especially my little shy guy. They are patient and caring and have a genuine concern for their students. They offer one of the few two's programs in the area, the hours for the 3's program are from 9:00-12:00 and the hours for the 4's program are 9:00-1:00. The school is very clean and neat and everyone is all smiles when you walk through the door. Before having chlldren, I taught grades K-2 for 8 years and know how important it is for preschoolers to thoroughly explore and develop their social interactions with their peers through play. Step-A-Way provides amazing social experiences and a loving, safe environment which is fundamental for academic learning to be successful. I know some parents are impressed with all the "bells and whistles" that other preschools may appear to offer, but I encourage all parents to look a little deeper when finding the preschool that's the right fit for their child.
Jill June 25, 2012 at 03:44 PM
My son and daughter have been at Little Explores since they were little babies. They help raise them to be respectful, smart and very happy children and I can't say enough great things about the administration, the teachers and the pre-school program. We love, love, love this school.
Jacqui Kaplan June 25, 2012 at 06:21 PM
We really really love Little Explorers. And Miss Deb, especially! :) See my review for more information if you are looking for a childcare center in Newtown.
Lois Imbriano Barber June 30, 2012 at 11:49 AM
My daughter went to Wesley Learning Center at the Methodist Church and it was excellent!

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