We are considering putting our 3 year old in a pre-school. We don't even know where to begin trying to find the best one for our son. Any suggestions?
A good place to start is to talk with friends and neighbors who have children currently in, or who recently attended pre-school. Often times, the name of one particular school keeps coming up, and that's usually a good starting place. You can also check with your child's doctor, or call the local health or welfare agency.
When you have your list narrowed down, it is wise to meet with the director of each pre-school. Some helpful questions would include: what are the hiring requirements of staff members, how many staff members are there per child, how large are the child groups, how long have the staff members been with the pre-school, does the pre-school have a valid license and current health certificate, does the pre-school require a minimum number of immunizations before entrance, is there a policy for sick children, what is the policy when a child becomes ill at school, how does the staff handle misbehavior, what does a typical day consist of (playtime, snacks and naps), can the parents visit the school at any time?
This should give you quite a bit of information. When you think you might be ready to decide on a pre-school, be sure and visit the school. Try to make your visit on a day that the pre-school is fully operational. This will give you a feel for how the school works.
Inspect the buildings and the playground. Are the grounds neat and clean,do the floors have a non-skid surface, are cleaning agents and tools out of reach, are electrical outlets properly plugged, is the play equipment in good repair and well anchored, is the sandbox clean and free of animal waste, are there smoke detectors, are fire extinguishers readily available, are there easy to reach hand washing facilities near the toilets, are the toys appropriate and educational?
When visiting a pre-school, the chemistry sometimes just seems right and you feel warm and comfortable about the place. This "gut feeling" is important and can only be experienced by you.
I'm sure that you agree, when it comes to your child's well being, you can't be overly cautious. Your child will be under the care of strangers for a good portion of the day. Choosing a pre-school is a very important decision. So ask lots of questions, and research the matter thoroughly until you are comfortable with your decision, and have no doubts in your mind.