What you need to know when choosing a preschool nursery or playgroup
The time has come, and for whatever reason, you need to enroll your little in school or daycare. Maybe they are of age; perhaps you need some help, some alone time. Maybe your kiddo just needs social interaction. I get it. Trust me; I’ve lived in 5 different countries and over 10 different cities. I’ve had my fair share of searches and experiences. Whatever it is- I’ve been able to come up with a few things to consider when making your choice!
- Are you and your entire family made to feel welcome?
Pay close attention to how you are treated by all staff members during your first visit. (everyone from the principal/head teacher to the janitorial staff) Don’t ignore your gut.
- Are you introduced to all staff members?
During the tour, you’ll most likely run into all staff (especially if it is unannounced-which I especially recommend). It’s usually a good sign when your tour guide takes the time to introduce everyone and when everyone greets you (even the cleaning staff).
- Are you given an immediate tour?
Continuing with the same topic of tours, are you asked to make an appointment or come at another time? This is really huge. You def don’t want a staged viewing if you know what I mean.
- How does it look? Whether it’s an old room center or fancy building- what has the staff done with the space? Are the children’s artwork displayed? Decorative?
When you travel, you’ll find that each country operates differently and that some countries have more resources than others. But the most important thing is that the school has made the best of what they have.
- How proportioned is the size of the room for its occupants? Too crowded? Too empty?
Take a look at the ratio between staff and children. Does the amount of space they have seem sufficient enough for them?
- What’s the overall feel?
Again, paying attention to your gut…What’s your initial reaction of the place?
- Is the area well staffed? What is the child to adult ratio?
Ideally, anywhere between 5/10 children per 1 teacher are good.
- Is there an outdoor enclosed area where children can play?
Kids need physical exercise and fresh air, and if the school has some sort of outdoor area, it’s a plus
- Are there books?
Self-explanatory here, but again, different countries have different resources, and you want to be sure that your child has access to books (I’m thinking picture books for young kiddos) in any language.
- Interactive table for hands-on activities?
Almost every preschool I’ve seen schedules free play/free time for the children. What options do the kids have for this time?
- What activities are offered? Painting? Water play? Blocks? Puzzles? Dolls? Etc
Take a good look during your visit and see what the kids have.
- How do the children look? Excited? Engaged? Mellow? Withdrawn?
Certainly, don’t overlook this, but at the same time, don’t jump to conclusions. With that said, I’ve seen places where the kids were clearly not being treated well, and the staff didn’t care about them. If you notice negative emotions in the children, glance for possible causes. Was s/he being disobedient? Are they unwell? Etc.
- Does the place look well maintained? Is it clean? Repairs needed? Paint chipping?
If you notice paint chipping, cracks in steps etc, consider that it may be an accident waiting to happen.
- Are the staff giving the children full attention or are they chatting?
This is important. I’ve personally seen several instances where a daycare spent a load of time chatting and children injured themselves because of it. (No serious injuries thank goodness, but nevertheless, bumps and bruises that should have otherwise been avoided)
- Ask the staff for their take and procedure for discipline/ dealing with anxious children
It’s important to note that in today’s day and age, most schools do not use physical discipline with children; however, not all staff may be in agreement or have the experience in dealing with rambunctious kids. I remember a time overseas where a fellow wife had an issue with a staff member hitting her child. It was definitely shocking news, and I suppose an isolated case. I enrolled our little one in a different school in the same country and didn’t have any issues.
- Does the teacher speak English?
Even if the teacher will be teaching in the native country language, it’s important that s/he speak English or have a good basic foundation of the language. At the very least, you need someone to understand when your child is hungry, tired, cold or needs to use the toilet.
- Are English classes offered to other students?
This may not always be offered, but many private schools offer English as a second language, and this will be helpful as the other children will be eager to practice this with your child.
- Look for an atmosphere that’s blossoming. Buzzing with engaged and happy children. But never out of control.
You want to see that the teachers have everything organized. If there isn’t a schedule, it’s chaotic and not filled with intentional learning. Trust me, this is messy.
- How safe is your child?
Find/check all entry and exit points. Ask the staff what’s the procedure/timeline for when the doors will be locked. (Also, check this for yourself) Can anyone just walk through the doors or do they need to be buzzed in?
- Is transportation offered?
If so, what are pickup/drop off times? Basic procedures? Driver?
- Consider the country of residence and educate yourself on views between boys and girls
To put it bluntly, not every country treats or values each gender the same. Learn the countries beliefs and standards.