- Age---how old do you want your child to be upon entrance of preschool? Many preschools operate for children from 3 to 5 years old. Some operate for those as young as 2, but in my opinion this seems more like daycare. Some preschools break each age group out...so all the 3 year olds are together, all the 4 year olds are together, etc., while some preschools lump them all in one. Some are even more specific than that; they break them in to every 6 months so all the 3 year olds are together, all the 3 1/2 year olds are together, etc. I knew I wanted my son to have exposure to kids his same age (socialization was the main reason we opted to send him to preschool at 3 anyway) so either breaking it out by year or every 6 months was our top choice.
- Cost---how much can you afford to pay? This may narrow down your search simply based on how much is too much. Keep in mind that some preschools will offer a discount if you pay for the year in advance (another great reason to start thinking about preschool early...you can save!). Some preschools offer a multiple sibling discount, and others decrease the cost based on the number of days your child attends. Keep in mind too to look in to Flex Spending through the workplace! Or, write it off at tax time.
- Potty Training---Most preschools require your child is potty trained. However, the level of potty training and assistance varies. At the time we sent my son he was fully potty trained during the day. However, he needed help "cleaning up" if he needed to poo. To this day though, he chooses not to go at preschool.
- Parental Involvement---Some preschools require parents to spend a certain number of hours each month volunteering in the classroom. Others don't allow parent participation at all. And others still are actually groups of parents, called a co-op, that take turns teaching their kids a curriculum they agree on beforehand. So where do you fall? Fortunately, some don't require, but encourage parental involvement.
- Hours of Operation---what hours are you looking for? Do you work and you're trying to get specific hours covered? Are you trying to find something that runs all day, or does a half day better suite your needs? Does your child fare better in the afternoon or morning (some offer cheaper rates for afternoon but this doesn't work for everyone, especially if an afternoon rest or quiet time is still involved)? The question of what the hours of operation are is especially important if you have a child with a life threatening food allergy. Are you trying to aviod most meal times for allergy purposes? I knew I didn't want to have a place that served breakfast and lunch even though the hours would have been nice. I just didn't want to deal with that kind of exposure for my son. One of the places I toured even served peanut butter as a bi-weekly staple...and who knows what kind of cross-contamination their knives or even their jelly jars have from being double dipped!
- Location---How far are you willing to travel to bring your child to preschool? This was especially important to us as parents since we could receive the call "your son is having an allergic reaction." We wanted to be able to get there before an ambulance did if, heaven forbid, there was an emergency so we knew we didn't want a preschool across town.
© Transparencies of Motherhood 2011