Signs of a Good Preschool: 7-point checklist to choose the best school for your kid

Checklist GIF ClipartHow to find out a good preschool? What are the signs of a good preschool? Nowadays in India, the early childhood education sector is a booming and buzzing business and you will find them at each block and every turn of the lane. As a parent, this vast magnitude is often confusing. How do you select the best preschool for your child? Should you go for a reputed chain, or should you trust the local educator-entrepreneur who might know you and your kids way better than any preschool franchisee? There is no fit-for-all answer to such questions: the criteria for choosing the best preschool for your children, and the logic behind it, may be quite different from mine.


How to choose the best school for your child, then?


Nevertheless, experts in early childhood education would agree that in general, all good play schools show some common features discussed below in detail. Thus, in a reverse logic, you may consider a preschool good enough if it satisfies all or most of the criteria in this 7-point checklist. See how many you can tick off!


7 criteria of a good preschool you must check out


Here is a quick list of what we consider the 7 must have qualities of an ideal preschool. Scroll down to read in details about each point below!
  1. The management should allow you to visit the school in person and see the activities going on.
  2. The children should be busy playing or working and not sit idle.
  3. The teacher student ratio is good enough.
  4. The staff are capable, sincere, and happy.
  5. Look at the classroom environment, including equipment and decor.
  6. Do a quality-check of the food and drinks being served.
  7. Childhood is not confined to the four walls.

1. Do the school authorities allow a demo visit?


It is quite natural that as a guardian, you would like to see the school in person and judge its merit before enrolling your child there. While we presume most preschools would be happy to invite you to the premises and have a look at the activities and amenities, it is advisable to avoid the ones that do not. If you face lots of ifs and buts from the management to permit you visit the school in person, raise a red flag. There must be something fishy and hence they want to hush things up. Look somewhere else. Check out other reputed preschools in your area.

2. It is a play school. Are the kids playing?


If the preschool authorities allow you to visit the school during work hours (which is a must, nonetheless), see what the children are doing. Are they busy playing and working and doing things? Are the children sitting idle or just wandering aimlessly? You just won't believe, I have seen children are forced to sit idle even in a special school for differently-abled kids, so that the teachers can sit and gossip and compare their shopping experiences. Sad, but true.

3. What is the size of the class?


A class too large means divided attention. While it is very difficult to determine the ideal teacher student ratio for a preschool, it is generally accepted that anything between 1:5 and 1:12 is acceptable. There may be situations, however, when such equations may not work; but usually, those are exceptions. On the flip side, less students per teacher would mean the school management incurring higher costs to recruit more staff and run the show, and needless to say, these costs are to be borne by you. This may not be affordable by everyone, so this point can be ignored if need be, provided other criteria in this checklist are met.

4. Look at the teachers. Are they happy and adept in their job?


Before you enroll your child in a certain preschool, look at the teachers. Are the capable and skilled in their jobs? Look at how they are managing the students. Are all the teachers busy at one place, or are they in charge of small groups? Are the flexible enough to tweak and tailor their teaching techniques in tandem with the toddlers (ahem, this was no tongue-twister), or do they have rigid methods irrespective of the special needs of individual children? Are they sincere and attentive? Most importantly, are they happy with what they are doing and contributing meaningfully to a creative but joyous environment? Children love happy people, and your child would probably refuse to go to school quite often if the teachers are grumpy.


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5. How equipped and stimulating is the classroom environment?


Find out whether the preschool has sufficient equipment like cubes, art and craft supplies, toys, puzzles, fun learning instruments, sand or water play zone, audio-visual tools, and so on. The decor of the rooms is also important. The walls should have bright colours that express a lot of vigour and positive energy. Charts, displays, and the students' own works must be hung in the walls, and hung low enough for the kids to read. I am giving emphasis here on the students' own works. They can be anything like coloured scribbles on papers, imperfect drawings, early attempts at writing letters: whatever! Seeing their own works on display will boost their morale and confidence like nothing else.

6. Healthy habits must be started early.


Junk food is poison for children. If you can send your kid's lunch along, or if the school allows homemade food, there is nothing like it. If it is not allowed, or limited to a few days of the week, you must do a quality check of the food and drinks being served to the children. By quality check, I am referring to the overall balance in the diet and not just a mere look at the manufacturing and expiry dates of a sealed pack. How much sugar, salt, and solid fats the children are intaking will not just result in their physical built; it will also leave an impact on their cognitive development. I would love to say that globalised consumerism has been harmful to children; even two or three decades ago, we used to eat healthier meals (and snacks, too!) than today's kids. While I frankly admit by secret lust for potato chips (the classic, salted one) and have them at times, children are consuming those things way too much than they should.

7. Are there scope and time enough for outdoor activities?


One of the most important criteria of a good preschool is that it must have a campus large enough to allow the children play. Childhood is not meant to be confined within four walls. Playing outdoor will not just help your kid develop a better body, but also a stronger mind. In fact, when jungles of concrete are rapidly engulfing whatever natural playgrounds and greenery left in urban areas, this is one of the foremost reasons why your child would love to go to school: because he or she can play!


Few more points to consider while choosing the right preschool for your child


I would like add a few more points that are not exactly the criteria of a good preschool, but should be kept in mind while zeroing on the right choice for your child. First, think about the distance. Your child is too small to journey a great distance. A good school closer to home is a wiser choice than a better one miles away. Secondly, pouring a lot of money does not always guarantee quality schooling. Sometimes, the parents may suffer from a guilt, imposed by self or peers, of compromising with the child's future for monetary reasons. While we do not recommend being a miser, being frugal is advisable. Use the checklist above the judge the value your child would get from a certain preschool: is it worth the fees? If this was an investment decision (it indeed is!), would you be sure about growth potentials and go ahead and invest the money for better returns? Or would you be cautious? Or, would you feel it was like endowment insurance plans that everyone buys just because everyone else buys them? Think deeper, and you will find the answer yourself!

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