When Choosing a Preschool or Childcare Center

  • Are children working all together or individually? Is everyone doing the same project or activity at the same time? Are individual interests being accommodated? Will your child’s earning style be suited well to this school’s approach? How do children decide what to do, when they want to do it, and with whom?
  • Assess the staff and teachers. Do they seem happy and excited — or bored? Ask, “What is staff turnover rate?” and “How long have teachers been with the program?” Also, inquire about how they were trained and training requirements.
  • How much do the children play? Both boys and girls need room to run around and time to do it. And both need plenty of opportunity for active and imaginative play.

“When you visit a preschool, look carefully at what kinds of play are allowed and encouraged,” says Jane Katch. “Children need to be able to explore their interests through play — in a dramatic play area, in a block area, and using materials like sand and water. They also need time to complete an activity before they are directed into another experience.”

  • How do parents get involved in the school? Is there an active parent’s organization? Can parents volunteer in the classroom? If you do volunteer, what kinds of activities can parents help l you get to work with your child?
  • How is information communicated to parents? How do teachers and the administration keep parents informed? Is there a good newsletter? Do you get e-mail updates? Can you e-mail the teachers with questions? How often do you meet with your child’s teacher?
  • How does the school address social-emotional issues? How does the staff help children resolve conflicts? How are issues like hitting, throwing, and biting addressed? Does it have class meetings? Does it have a specific approach for teaching social-emotional skills?
  • What are the discipline policies? Many schools have specific disciplinary rules involving everything from time outs, to meeting with the teacher or principal, to expulsion. What happens during a time out? Does a child sit alone or with a teacher? Are children punished for inappropriate behaviors — and how are they discussed? Do parents and teachers work together to deal with issues as they come up? Ask for specifics and consider if they will be right for your child and for you.
  • Is this school accredited? Public schools need to meet state and district requirements. Private schools and daycare centers are required to be licensed by the NH Bureau of Child Care. Additionally, NH has two quality levels beyond licensed: Licensed Plus, and accreditation by outside organizations such as National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Independent Schools. Be aware that accreditation standards vary from state to state, and that some centers may meet standards without being accredited by outside organizations. Ask the school how it addresses this issue.
  • Request a copy of the class schedule. How is the day structured? Is this the right fit for your child’s intellectual, emotional and physical needs? Is the day broken up into many different classes or does one activity flow into the next?
  • What are the illness policies? How does the school handle illnesses? Can kids come to school with a cold but not a fever? How long do they need to be fever-free before coming back to school?
  • Is the space safe? Is it up to code. What evacuation plans are in place?
  • Can you get names of other parents whose children go to the school? If you haven’t been personally recommended (and even if you have), ask for some numbers of other parents who might answer more specific questions. Talking to other parents is a great way to find out more.