10 Things to Know When Selecting a Preschool
It is not easy being a parent these days, and making choices involving your little one can be an overwhelming process. Amongst the many decisions that you will have to make, one of the most daunting ones would involve deciding a preschool for your child. After all, this is where your child will spend most of your child’s formative years, so if there’s any time to be picky, this is it!
With so many preschools out there, there is bound to be one that is suited for your child. All it takes is sufficient research and first hand experience on your part. It is important to personally visit childcare centres to observe the environment for yourself. The process should not be rushed, and we highly recommended that you schedule an appointment with the centre in advance so there will be time for your questions to be adequately answered (and there will be plenty!).
If you don’t already have a narrowed list of preschools to visit, start by identifying what is important to you and the kind of qualities that you would like to instill in your child. Some parents might lean towards a more holistic learning approach with plenty of outdoor play and experiential learning, while some might be more comfortable with a structured curriculum that prepares children for formal schooling. Establishing this at the start will make this process easier for you and your spouse.
That said, there are plenty of curriculum options available today. Some of the popular ones include Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Play-Based curriculum, Theory of Multiple Intelligence, and Waldorf Steiner. Each applying a different pedagogy and is unique in its key principals and philosophies. Discover the merits in each curriculum by researching and don’t be afraid to ask the centre staff questions pertaining to their approach to learning.
Now that you have a selected list of preschools to visit, asking the team of educators the right questions can help make your decision making process so much easier. While the list below is not exhaustive, they are good starting points to get the conversation going.
They say that teachers are a student’s second parents. So it’s important that you know who will be dealing with your child. Request about their qualifications and past experience, and observe if they are passionate about their job through their interaction with children. A preschool can only be as good as its teachers.
2. Teacher to Child Ratio
All preschools in Singapore are required to adhere to ECDA’s teacher to child ratio requirement found here. Of course, some preschools operate at a lower teacher to child ratio to provide for more individualized attention. Find a ratio that you are comfortable with.
3. Operating Hours
As a rule of thumb, the normal hours of operation required by ECDA are:
Mondays - Fridays: no later than 7.00 am and close no earlier than 7.00 pm.
Saturdays: no later than 7.00 am and close no earlier than 2.00 pm
If both parents are working, find out about their drop off schedule and their penalties for late pick up. Although we say do your best to pick your children up on time, that’s only fair to the staff!
Also learn about programme arrangements that suit your preference- some options usually available are Half Day, Extended Day, Full Day, Flexible Care, and Student Care Programme.
What is a day like at school and what kind of activities are the children exposed to? How much playtime is allocated relative to time in the classroom? What about field trips and holiday programmes? Ask for the class and term schedule where possible and evaluate if the programme line up is appealing to you.
Preschools in Singapore range from anything at $300 to more than $2,000 a month and there is one to suit every budget. If both parents are working and your child is a Singapore Citizen, you will be eligible for childcare subsidy from the government for childcare centres licensed by ECDA. You may learn more about child care subsidies here
6. Operating Procedures
Enquire about their Standard Operating Procedures to understand how the preschool handles an emergency. Accidents are bound to happen amongst young children- anything from a fall to allergic reaction to a HFMD outbreak. Learn about how they have handled the situation in the past, and how frequent centre closures have been due to such instances.
7. Safety and Security
The preschool environment should be a safe haven for children. The centre should ideally be childproof, with minimal potential hazards around. Other points to look out for would be their stringency towards temperature checks, hand sanitization, and security around the premises.
Is the food nutritious and prepared daily? What if my child has a food allergy? You should be able to request for the menu where possible, and if your child has special dietary requirements, understand what kind of arrangement can be made.
9. School Bus Service
With so many options available, finding a preschool near your work place or your home should not be a difficult task. But if you do happen to really like a preschool that is slightly out of the way, check if they do provide school bus services.
If there is anything to take note of, notice and observe the children at the preschool. A good childcare centre should produce children who are happy, healthy and self-assured. You will come to realize that each centre can be vastly different even across the different branches. So know that it is okay to shop around, and start early.
Lastly, always take your child’s natural inclination into consideration and know what suits your child best. Access your child and see if he or she is well assimilated into the curriculum and environment. After all, you cant force a square peg in a round hole.