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Choosing your child’s preschool or childcare center is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Regardless of the qualities you’re looking for, it’s wise to start researching early because space is often limited. Here are questions to ask, and things to look for to ensure that this school will be right for your child and you. Be sure to call in advance to arrange a tour. You may want to arrange an initial visit without your child and a follow-up visit with her to observe how she functions in the program. .

Before You Go: Ask yourself “What kind of childcare or school environment am I looking for?”

Are you looking for a particular educational philosophy? What kinds of specific needs does your young child have: toilet training, napping, socializing? Do you want a school located near your workplace or your home? If the preschool is private, are the fees within your budget? What kinds of needs do you have regarding your schedule?

When You Get There: Consider if this school is a good fit for your child — and you. Can you picture your child thriving here? Will this school engage his interests? How will he do socially in this environment?

Spend time observing. Schools will often conduct thorough tours. Watch silently in the classroom and observe the interactions. Ask yourself, “Is this the kind of environment I can see my young child thriving in?”

What is the educational philosophy? How does this school approach learning? Some philosophies are play-based, some introduce reading and math earlier than others, and many schools incorporate multiple philosophies.

How large are the classes? What is the teacher-child ratio? Class size ratios in childcare settings vary by state.

Do students seem happy? Do they look busy or bored? Are they having positive interactions with each other, the staff, and the teachers? Do the teachers seem like they enjoy teaching here? Would your child be happy here? Would you?

How do parents get involved in the school? Is there an active parent’s organization? Can parents volunteer in the classroom? If you do volunteer, what kinds of activities can parents help with? And will you get to work with your child?