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6 tips on picking the right preschool for your little one

Enrolling your child in preschool can be overwhelming. There are tons of different schools, and each school has its own teaching methods, schedule, cost and philosophies. Finding the right program in the right area might seem like searching for a needle in a haystack, but it helps if you know what the ins and outs of choosing your child’s first school.

Here are 6 things to keep in mind when searching for the perfect preschool.

Establish your budget.

It's no secret that preschool can cost thousands of dollars per year. Because there are so many programs with so many different features, you want to settle on a budget to make it easier to narrow your down your choices. BabyCenter.com says that some schools offer different payment plans to help you either save money or manage your payments. Setting and sticking to your budget can help you as you search.

Starting your research early can make a world of difference while you're trying to narrow down preschool options. (ajc.com)

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Start your search early.

Choosing a preschool is hard enough without putting yourself on a tight deadline. BabyCenter.com recommends starting by doing extensive research, seeking referrals and searching the internet.

Once you have a list together, you can start by making phone calls to each preschool you're considering. After asking your questions, you'll probably be able to cross a few off the list. From there you might want to schedule a time to visit your top choices and then make a decision based on what you see. At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide if a school's atmosphere is right for your child.

Decide which kind of program would be best for your child.

Each preschool follows its own method of working with kids. Some are more fluid and informal while others use a more formal learning environment. Parents magazine identified six different approaches that preschools use to enrich children:

  • Montessori – Emphasizes nature, creativity and hands-on learning. Focuses on developing a child's senses, character, practical life skills and academic ability.
  • Waldorf – Involves hands-on group learning with a focus on repetition in a creative, supportive environment.
  • Reggio Emilia – Students learn through art, projects and activities that support their ideas and interests. This theory focuses on the importance of community and self-expression.
  • HighScope – Learning is supported through consistent daily routines and a highly organized classroom. Children learn about math, reading and science.
  • Bank Street – Kids learn about the world through active experiences such as playing with building blocks, puzzles and clay.
  • Parent Co-Ops – Parents and children learn together in a nurturing environment focused on teaching kids how to cooperate and resolve conflicts.

In addition to this list, there are also specialty preschools and faith-based preschools to choose from. You can research each philosophy in more detail to decide which one might be the best fit for your child.

Think about the location.

If you live in Buckhead and work in Midtown, it might not be the best idea to choose a preschool in Sandy Springs. Remember, getting to this place is going to be a part of your daily routine and traffic can be unpredictable.

If you choose a preschool close to work, there are many benefits, according to MyBrightWheel.com. They recommend choosing a program close to your job so that you can easily get to your child if you get a call that they are feeling sick. You also get to spend a few extra moments with them in the car on the way to and from school.

Pick a schedule.

Like jobs, preschool schedules can be full time or part time. Based on your child's needs and your lifestyle, you'll have to narrow down whether you want to enroll your child in a full time or part-time program. Regardless of which schedule you pick, CuteMonster.com says you can expect to go through a noticeable adjustment period either way.

Check on accreditation, certifications and policies.

Now that you've narrowed down a program, location and schedule, you need to add some more factors to your search criteria. Get Ready to Read recommends that you ask the following questions:

  • What is the turnover rate for staff members?
  • What percentage of the staff have degrees in early childhood?
  • Is the program accredited?
  • How does the setting handle discipline?
  • What are the safety procedures for picking up and dropping off children?

Based on the school's responses, you have to pick out the things that matter the most to you and use that to weigh your options. Simple Families expands on the importance of some of these questions.

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