Preschool education is arguably the most important for children since it lays the foundation for future learning. It develops a child's cognitive abilities, language, social-emotional skills, and equips them to become responsible adults.
Since there are many preschool options available, a preschool tour is crucial to ensure you make an informed decision.
During a preschool tour, not only are you meeting the staff and observing the facility, but you should also use this time as an opportunity to ask relevant questions about the specific program and their policies and procedures.
Knowing what questions to ask during a preschool tour and what to look for can be a bit challenging, especially when it’s your first time. We’ve put together the below list of questions and things to consider during your preschool tour.
Best practices for finding the right preschool for your child
Finding the right preschool for your child is no small feat. You’re looking for a safe, nurturing environment that will meet your child's social, emotional, developmental, and academic needs. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be if you’re well prepared.
Hopefully, you’ve done your research and have come up with a short list of potential preschools. Next, plan to tour each preschool at least once without your child so you’ll have time to ask all your questions without distractions.
Give your full attention to carefully observing and soaking in the preschool environment. If you like the school, go back again with your child in tow, but for your first visit, it’ll be easier if you go child-free.
Typically you’ll start your tour with a meeting with the director or owner, who will give you an overview of the school and give you an opportunity to ask questions.
You'll most likely receive a handbook or brochure outlining the basic features like school hours, before and after school options, tuition costs, holiday/days closed schedule, the application process, and curriculum details, among other things.
But you’ll need much more information to make a sound decision. Here are the top 20 questions to ask on a preschool tour:
1. What is your educational philosophy?
This question might seem obvious, but you’ll want to probe deeper than a standard answer such as “We offer a play-based curriculum.” How does the preschool’s philosophy apply throughout the day?
Ask directors if all activities are tied back to the philosophy. How does the educational philosophy address the needs of all types of learners? Ask the teachers these same questions to check for consistency.
2. What are your staff’s qualifications and turnover rates?
What are the backgrounds, degrees, and certifications of the staff? Do staff participate in ongoing professional development? How long have staff members worked at the center? A cohesive, highly-qualified team that receives ongoing training is a sign of a great preschool.
An American Educational Research Journal study posits high-quality child care depends on a teacher’s education level. Therefore, highly-trained and qualified teachers will provide the best learning outcomes for your child.
Qualified preschool teachers should at least have formal post-high school training in child development, early childhood education, or other preschool-relevant training.
3. How will you prepare my child for kindergarten?
You’ll want to know the level of academic rigor—how much focus does the program place on language and math concepts?
For example, suppose you’re considering a Waldorf preschool but intend to send your child to a public kindergarten. In that case, you’ll want to know how the program typically prepares children for the transition to kindergarten.
4. How do you handle family communication?
Is there an email newsletter or does the program rely on paper notes sent home in children’s lunchboxes? Technology has been slow to creep into the early education world, but plenty of preschools are opting for modern ways of connecting with families.
Look for a school that uses technology to stay in touch. For example, brightwheel is an easy-to-use mobile app that helps schools stay better connected with families. Teachers use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom.
As a parent at a center that uses brightwheel, you’ll get private, real-time updates on your child delivered to your mobile device throughout the day. Brightwheel also allows for digital check-in/check-out and a paperless billing system.
5. Can I speak to some family references?
Connect with some current or former families to get their perspective on the school. Ask about their child’s development in school and find out what kind of family community there is, if any.
Some schools don’t have a cohesive family community, which may work fine for you, but if you’re looking for a more close-knit group of families, keep this in mind as you tour.
6. How do you handle challenging behavior in the classroom?
Experienced educators will have behavior management strategies in place to ensure the classroom is a positive and effective learning environment for all children. Ask to see their behavior guidelines and their approach to managing challenging behaviors in the classroom. The right preschool should have a plan and approach you’re comfortable with.
7. Is screen time limited?
Digital technology is an excellent way to keep children entertained and occupied throughout the day, but should be used in moderation. Some preschools allow children to watch TV and others don’t allow any screen time. Be sure to ask the center’s philosophy on screen time so you know what to expect.
8. How long do kids spend outdoors?
Playtime is crucial for a child's development and spending time outdoors is just as essential as classroom learning. Playing outside allows children to explore their environment and is beneficial to their overall physical health and development. If possible, try to prioritize a center that encourages outdoor activities.
9. What child safety or security measures are in place?
Child safety and security are critical, so you should ensure the preschool you choose has the proper safety and security measures in place. In addition, you should ask for information about the center’s child pick up policy and their emergency preparedness plan. This way, you’ll be at ease knowing that your child is in good hands.
10. Are you licensed to operate a preschool facility?
Licensed preschool facilities abide by strict regulations, making them the best choice for parents looking for preschools for their children. They also operate under stringent policies to ensure children are safe and protected from harm.
11. Must my child be potty-trained?
Children need proper care and attention since they cannot handle personal hygiene alone. Some preschools are open to potty training children, while others aren’t. The latter expects children to be potty trained before admitting them into a preschool program. The center’s policy on this is important to clarify as you choose the right program for you and your family’s needs.
12. What curriculum do you follow?
There are many educational curricula like Montessori or Reggio Emilia. They all have pros and cons, so parents should do their due diligence to learn which would suit their children best. While you can research this information online, get first-hand information by asking the school management more about their specific curriculum.
13. Do you provide meals?
Preschoolers need enough food to fuel their active days. Some preschools offer a food program, while others do not. If a center does provide food, it’s a good idea to ask for a sample of their weekly menu. For those that don’t have a food program in place, families are expected to provide packed food and snacks for their child every day. You can opt for either option depending on what works for you and your child.
14. Are there any enrichment activities available?
It’s an added bonus if a preschool offers additional enrichment activities outside the traditional classroom for children to acquire different skills and education. In addition to the base curriculum, some preschools might offer additional programs like swimming, Spanish classes, or music lessons. You should inquire if the center offers a program like this and the associated fees.
15. What are your operating hours and rates?
You’ll want to confirm the center’s normal operating hours to make sure their schedule aligns with your family’s schedule or if you need to make any adjustments.
Also, preschools charge different rates depending on the services offered. Make sure to confirm these rates as you compare different programs.
16. Do you have any vaccination policies?
Some preschools have strict vaccination policies parents should follow. Some require children to be fully vaccinated before admission. The policy will usually be clearly communicated to prospective families, but be sure to ask this question on your tour if you are unsure of the requirements.
17. Do you admit children with special needs?
Some children need specialized attention and care, but unfortunately, not all preschools are equipped to support children with special needs. Depending on the needs of your child, it may be important to know what experience the staff have in teaching children with special needs.
18. Do you teach cultural diversity?
A high-quality preschool program will be respectful of all families and their unique cultural backgrounds and values. Don’t be afraid to ask the center if they explicitly teach cultural diversity.
19. Do you accommodate children with allergies or dietary restrictions?
Preschools providing meals save families a lot of time they’d spend preparing and packing meals, but some children may have food allergies or dietary restrictions that need to be taken into account. It’s important to understand if your prospective preschool can accommodate those instances and if so, any policies they have in place around food allergies.
20. Do you have birthday policies?
Some preschools have birthday policies to regulate how they celebrate birthdays. For example, some policies determine whether parents can bring treats for the class and who is allowed to be present. You want to know about this beforehand to help with planning.
What to look out for in a preschool tour
Asking the right questions isn't enough. You should also observe the school environment to determine if it’s a good fit for your child. Below is a quick rundown of other things to look out for on your tour:
- Happy and excited children
- Actively involved and caring teachers
- A clean environment
- Colorful classroom artwork
- Enough toys and learning materials
- Security measures
- Safe playgrounds
- An up-to-date operating license
Be prepared with your preschool tour questions
If you are satisfied with the answers you get from these 20 questions, you’re on the right track! But if you’re not, cross this preschool off your list and move on. Doing your due diligence will help you find the right fit for your child and family.