How to Choose an Early Education Center

How to Choose the Right Early Education Center

Choosing an early education and care center can be a daunting task as you contemplate entrusting your child to the care of someone else for the first time, regardless of the age of your child. There are many things to think about when making this choice. To help you in your quest to find the best option for your family, here are the top 6 helpful hints for simplifying the process of choosing the right early education center.

1) START YOUR SEARCH EARLY

Start early! Begin your research 12+ months before you need care. Popular centers and preschools may have a wait list. Call prospective centers and ask them what their enrollment numbers look like, when enrollment deadlines are, and when they have an upcoming open house.

2) RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS

Research different types of centers: franchises, independent, and home-based, for-profit, non-profit and cooperative. Each will have a different feel and philosophy. Some may require you to volunteer a specific number of hours per year, and others may have some or no opportunity for you to be involved.

3) CONSIDER THE LOCATION

If you have a long commute to work, do you want your child closer to home or closer to work? Closer to home makes it easier to have your child attend if you have a day off from work or are sick. Closer to work makes it easier to pick up your child if he/she becomes sick while at school.

4) VISIT AND OBSERVE

Visiting and observing a list of prospective centers is important as you'll get a realistic picture of what it would be like if your child attended. Pay attention to the following things:

  • Are you rushed through a tour, or are you allowed to sit and observe?
  • What do the materials in the classroom look like? Are they worn down and damaged?
  • Are the classrooms and children neat and clean?
  • Are the children engaged and happy?
  • What does the outside play space look like?

5) ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS

Ask questions and then ask some more questions of the director, What is your staff-to-child ratio? What is the average tenure of your teachers? Who issues your license to operate? How do you handle discipline? What is your pick-up policy? How do you communicate with parents, and how often? Do you provide food or do parents? What is your policy for parents visiting during the day? What is the application/enrollment process? Does the school follow a specific educational philosophy? What’s the curriculum like? What’s the schedule for a typical day? When is the center closed? There are a million more questions you can ask, but you get the idea!

Trust your instincts! In this day of online reviews there can be a plethora of information that may not always be helpful. Certainly a majority of poor reviews should be cause for concern but keep in mind that different families have different needs and just because a center was not the best fit for a particular family doesn’t mean it can’t be great for yours!

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