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What Should You Look for in a Preschool?

Every parent wants their child to be prepared and ready for school. However, some parents think that preschool is an unnecessary frill, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Preschool is about more than ABCs, numbers, and childcare. After almost two years of a global pandemic, preschoolers are in desperate need for interaction with other preschoolers. Thankfully, the Government of Alberta has recognized the importance of early childhood education and is offering subsidies on the same criteria as daycares.

All preschools are, and must be, licensed by the Province. Licensing inspection reports must be displayed at entry and must be available for you to read. This licence is extremely difficult to obtain, so you can be assured that the premises, the staff, and their program have been approved if the licence is displayed.

A comprehensive checklist for deciding on a preschool program for your child:

  • Your child’s interests and personality are the most important factors in deciding on a preschool. Does your child enjoy a busy environment with lots of children and toys to play with or does your child need a quieter environment with smaller numbers of children in a class?

  • Try to match the program that best fits with your child’s personality. Trust your instincts about your child. In most instances, you will know if that program will be a good fit for your child.

  • With Covid still a factor, open houses are or should be virtual for the next few months. Ask for a Zoom meeting with the teachers. Check their websites as most will have a visual tour of their classrooms, as well as reference letters from parents of children attending.

  • Preschools and daycares have a minimum Covid protocol requirement. Ask if there have been outbreaks. If there have been outbreaks, ask about date(s). Alberta Health Services will have inspected and cleared all programs that have had outbreaks for reopening.

  • If you find a program that is a great fit for your child, but the timing isn’t quite convenient, try your best to find solutions to piece together before/aftercare for that one, 10-month period. In the grand scheme of things, it may be stressful, but the sacrifices you make for a brief time may make all the difference in your child’s development and first experience in learning.

  • Look at the facility location. Is it in the basement of a church, community centre, etc.? Are you hauling ‘baby buckets’ up and down stairs? What is the ‘dismissal’ protocol?

  • If the length of the program is only two hours, outdoor activity isn’t critical as preschoolers need time to take off and put on winter clothing. If it’s taking 45 minutes out of the program to do all that just to get outside, and a further 15 to 20 minutes for arrival/home time dressing, how much early literacy, numeracy, art, etc. can be done with what’s left?

  • If a program is longer than four hours, outdoor play is essential, and will fall under the daycare category, which is licensed differently.

  • If your child has allergies, ask about policies and protocols to accommodate your child.

  • If your child has special needs, ask if the program can be modified. Sometimes, the answer is no as certain programs would not be beneficial for your child. For example, if your child is autistic and needs quiet, subdued environments or routines that can’t be accommodated, it is not beneficial for your child to be forced into a program that doesn’t fit them. A noisy-free play environment would not work in this case, and certainly would not be fun for your child.

You know your child best. There are an amazing number of different programs in Calgary. Each preschool has expert teachers who love and enjoy teaching little ones. Do your homework. Don’t choose a preschool based on convenience. The first educational experience your child has should be one of excitement and joy.

Maureen is the Director at The Think Sun Preschool Academy, a licensed private preschool offering an enriched and exciting program of instruction for your bright 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old. Proudly celebrating 32 years of an established, proven educational program. For more information and to take a virtual tour, visit thethinksunpreschool.com.

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