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Take your time choosing a preschool

By Michelle Lloyd
Correspondent

With more than 100 preschools in the greater Charlotte area, parents often feel overwhelmed when it comes time to search for the right one.

Most families begin researching preschools when their child nears age 2, since that is when most children begin to learn how socialize with their peers. Open houses are usually in the fall and enrollment begins in early February. If possible, schedule your preschool tour before the holidays so you are ready when enrollment begins.

Looking for a preschool that is convenient to your home or work is often the best place to start. Local preschool director Charlotte Shackleford, of the Mouzon Weekday Preschool, shared some tips on what to consider when you begin your search.

• Parents should always bring their child(ren) when visiting preschools and watch for their reaction. Do they want to play, or do they seem stressed? Every child is different, and it’s important to find a preschool that makes the whole family comfortable.

• Make sure you read and understand the curriculum. All preschools look at curriculum differently. Some are solely play-based, while others integrate academics into daily activities. Each environment has its advantages, and parents must decide the best fit for their child. Several preschools also offer extracurricular activities, such as music, gymnastics, art and science.

• It’s important to learn more about the staff within the preschool. When you tour the facility, watch how the teachers interact with the children. Be sure to ask about the teacher’s credentials – years of experience, education, etc.

• Most preschools have established developmental milestones that outline where they expect children to be by the end of each school year. Always ask to see their developmental checklists so you fully understand the expectations for your child.

• Make sure the program hours fit your needs. Most preschools are open Monday-Friday, but arrival and dismissal times differ from school to school.

• Ask about class sizes and what will be offered the time your child attends. Some schools offer smaller class sizes (4-6 students with one teacher), while other schools offer larger classes (12-15 students with two teachers). There are benefits to both, and it’s up to the parent to determine what best meets the needs of their child.

• Parents should always inquire about the safety of the preschool. Are background checks performed on teachers? What plan is in place in case of a fire drill or lockdown? It’s important to know that measures have been taken to ensure the safety of all children.

• Open communication between parents and staff is key to a successful program. Parents need to know when and how information will be communicated.

Michelle is a contributing writer for MomsCharlotte.com.
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