As families across the country get ready for back-to-school season, many are also preparing to return to in-person work, which means finding the right program to support their children’s ongoing learning and development. According to “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects” report, choosing a quality preschool helps children start elementary school prepared for success.
Knowing what to look for when choosing the right childcare provider for your family can be stressful. However, these insights from KinderCare teachers with 40-plus years of classroom experience and Teacher of the Year honorees can help remove some of the mystery.
MAKE A LIST OF WHAT MATTERS MOST
Before beginning your search, take some time to think about specific wants and needs for your family and children, whether that’s kindergarten-readiness, social and emotional development or convenient location. Write down the things that matter most to your family and refer to that list when you’re speaking with potential providers and asking questions.
PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR CHILD’S SHOES
When you look around the classroom, be sure to look for child-sized furniture and age-appropriate books and toys within children’s reach. This can help inspire their natural curiosity, encourage independence, and build confidence. It’s also important to know how play is incorporated, how it’s facilitated and to see purposeful opportunities for play in each classroom.
“There should be areas set up with enhancements that incorporate toys, blocks, art materials and dramatic play,” said KinderCare Teacher of the Year Sara Fouriner. “Teachers should share how they’re fostering social and emotional skills, executive function, problem solving, language and regulation skills in children by offering clear examples and putting evidence of learning on full display.”
ENSURE SAFETY AND QUALITY ARE PRIORITIES
Health and safety took center stage in 2020 and remain top priorities for many families. Ask questions about each potential provider’s safety rules and practices in addition to their curriculum. It may also be beneficial to ask if their programs are accredited by a third-party agency, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Accreditation means the center’s program is held to high standards and exceeds basic requirements set by state licensing.
“As a mother, grandmother and teacher, I believe families should look for a center that is clean and accredited,” said Dorothy Ellison, an early childhood teacher of 40 years. “Families should also inquire about child-to-teacher ratios, staff training and hiring practices, supervision, emergency prep, illness policies, communication and the quality of caregivers in each program.”
LOOK FOR TEACHERS WHO LOVE WHAT THEY DO
Great teachers have a natural ability to connect with every child in their care. If children love their teachers and school is a safe, happy place for them, there are typically few limitations on what they can learn.
“High-quality education starts with open, caring teachers who understand the expectations of the age group they represent,” said Dana Davin, a KinderCare Teacher of the Year and center director. “A genuine welcome when children arrive, a clean and engaging classroom and a culture of inclusion all stem from great teachers who believe in what they do.”
For more tips on choosing the right childcare for your family, visit kindercare.com.