Enrolling your child in a nursery school program is an exciting new chapter for you and your family. At the same time, there is a lot to think about!
From church or synagogue programs to free-standing nursery programs and daycares, there are lots of programs to choose from, and many parents spend a lot of time evaluating the nursery programs available to their children. Every parent wants to choose the program that is the best fit for their child and their family. But compiling a shortlist of nursery programs is relatively easy so long as you ask the right questions; narrowing that list down to a final selection is much more challenging.
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To make the process of choosing a nursery program for your child easier, we’ve pulled together this list of six questions that you should ask when directly comparing your nursery program and preschool options.
1. How does the nursery program encourage play and creativity, while also helping the children develop academically?
Play is an important part of the learning process for young children. In addition to teaching social skills, play helps young children develop their motor skills and reinforces positive behavior. As such, it’s important that the nursery programs you consider build play and creativity into their day-to-day activities.
2. As I look at this nursery program, how is it different from other programs I’ve looked at?
Because there are so many nursery programs, there can also be significant differences between them. Some offer a full range of “specials” like science, gym, art, and even introduction to foreign language. Others are largely limited to one classroom and more basic programs. It is important that the program you choose matches your expectations and the goals that you have for your child.
3. How does the nursery program differentiate based on the needs of different children?
Some children are more physically active while others are more academically inclined; some are social butterflies while others are shy; some are natural-born readers while others gravitate more towards numbers or art. Siblings—twins, even—can have very different temperaments and interests.
Whatever the case may be, it is important that the nursery program you ultimately settle on understands this and meets its students' needs.
4. What role can I play in my child’s education?
It’s only natural that, as a parent, you want to play a role in your child’s education. When you visit, ask how each nursery program invites and involves parents.
In addition to ensuring that the nursery program’s educational philosophies align with your own, asking this question also helps you to understand the type of teamwork that you can expect between yourself and the school as it applies to your child’s education. The right nursery program for your family is likely the one that reinforces your own values and ideals.
5. Does the school have a “funnel” from nursery/preschool to higher grades?
At first blush, this might seem like an odd question to ask. But it is an important one to consider, because it speaks to your longer term educational plans and goals and the investment the school is choosing to make in your child.
In addition to the more traditional grades of kindergarten through high school, many private and independent schools run nursery or preschool programs. If you have a certain independent school in mind for your child's future academic career, and they run a nursery program, it might be prudent for you to consider enrolling your child in that nursery program. Why?
Though this certainly is not true across the board, many of these schools have official (and unofficial) policies in place that lead them to prefer children who are already a part of the school’s community and system. This means that if your child is already in the school’s system as a part of the nursery program, they may be more likely to be admitted to higher grades at the school in the future.
The reasons behind this vary from the mundane (your child is already in the administrative system) to the academic (the school knows the kind of preparatory education your child has received, since they provided it) to the social (you and your child are already familiar with other children, families, personnel, and school policies).
6. What are the nursery school’s safety policies?
Safety is—of course—paramount. Parents need to feel confident that they are sending their child to a program they believe is safe, aligns with their own parenting style, and follows state regulations. Here are some questions that you should ask to help get a sense of the school’s safety standards:
- What is your policy regarding illness? How are toys and furniture cleaned regularly?
- Do you have a nurse on staff?
- How are parents notified in the event of emergency?
- What are the school’s security protocols?
- What is the child-to-teacher ratio? This is mandated by law, so it is important to make sure that any program you are considering meets the requirements.
Reaching Your Decision
The questions above speak to the most important issues that parents consider when choosing nursery programs for their young children. By asking these questions of each of the nursery programs on your shortlist, you should have an easier time comparing your options and coming to a final decision for your child.