Parents decide to enroll their children into nursery programs for many reasons. Sometimes it’s so that the child can begin building social skills and become accustomed to being around other children so that the transition to preschool and kindergarten is easier; sometimes it’s to begin laying a solid academic foundation; sometimes it’s because busy schedules mean that both parents are working, and there is no other option. Often, it’s all of the above!
Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: You want what is best for your child. And that can make choosing a nursery program a weighty endeavor. With so many options for nursery and preschool programs, how will you know that you are making the right choice?
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To make this process easier, we’ve pulled together these tips that families have found helpful in evaluating nursery options for their child.
1. Know what you want your child to get out of the experience.
You are the expert on your child’s needs, and you likely have multiple reasons for wanting to enroll your child in a nursery or preschool program.
If you are looking for a nursery program because you want to give your child an academic head start, then you’ll want to evaluate prospective programs through a scholastic lens. What kinds of pre-academic skills does the school curriculum include? Is the program literature-rich, and will it teach the basics of pre-reading, writing, and mathematics? Are there additional unique topics like science, foreign languages, etc.?
If one of your goals is to support your child’s emotional and social growth, you’ll want to evaluate the nursery through a social lens. How does the school facilitate social skill development and community building? How does the program aim to build confidence in your child? Will the program teach your child about how to handle the normal childhood feelings of frustration and conflict?
And if one of your concerns is excellent childcare while you work, you will need a program that can accommodate your schedule.
2. Make sure the school’s values align with your own.
If you have strong convictions (whether personal, religious, etc.), then you may be most comfortable if your child’s nursery program reinforces those values.
Friends’ Central School’s mission, for example, is to cultivate the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical promise of our students. This shared mission informs the School's vision, which is to awaken courage and intellect—and peacefully transform the world.
We pursue our mission and vision every day by integrating these four principles into every aspect of life at Friends' Central School:
- We are guided by our Quaker Values of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Equality, Community, and Stewardship
- We educate for excellence
- We inspire tomorrow's leaders
- We honor the individual
Friends' Central School’s commitment to a values-based education distinguishes us from other nursery programs and makes us a great fit for parents and families who would like to feel that the program supports what you are teaching at home.
3. Pay special attention to physical and emotional safety.
Sending your young child to a nursery program entails trust. Ensuring the safety of your child will be paramount.
When selecting a nursery or preschool program for your child, safety is one of a parent’s main concerns. You want to know the facility’s safety standards, how they handle security, what their processes are in case of emergency, etc.
Physical safety is non-negotiable. Emotional safety should likewise be non-negotiable. Ask questions about how teachers create a culture of kindness and respect. You’ll want to know that discipline is a teachable opportunity, not a punitive enterprise. Pay attention to the children in the program. Are the children happy? Are the teachers providing a social curriculum that supports the important work of nursery school: learning to be part of a group, how to be a good friend, and how to navigate conflict and frustration?
Trust Your Instincts
Choosing a nursery program or preschool is a big decision, and one that we know you take seriously. I hope you’ll find the tips above helpful, but I encourage you to listen to your instincts. If the program makes you feel comfortable and if you leave with a smile, those are good indications that your child will also be happy.