Choosing a Preschool

It can seem overwhelming to navigate the goals and philosophies of the many preschools in our area.

Executive Director of the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood, Blakely Bundy, notices most parents don’t have “…a basic understanding of what exactly happens in preschool and why.” Use these guidelines to find the right preschool and help you stay informed and in the loop!

When should I begin looking? It’s never too early to look. Most area preschools have a formal registration period for new families up to a year in advance. So it’s wise to have your research and legwork finished by the time registration starts. Each school has their registration dates listed on their website, to help you plan.

How will I know if a school is good? Nearly all the preschools in our area are good schools, or they wouldn’t be in business. It’s important to find a school that best fits your child and family.

Is the classroom routine structured and unchanging? Probably not the best fit for a family that doesn’t regularly follow routines.

Do most of the moms at a school work? Might not be a good fit if you are looking for opportunities to get together with moms and children outside of school.

Are there additional play areas? Important criteria if you have a high-energy child or a child who loves to run around.

What is the class size? A child that can manage a high level of noise and activity will do well in a large class; a child who prefers to interact on a smaller scale may have trouble adjusting.

What is a preschool curriculum? There are many different theories and philosophies of learning embraced by preschools. Common local curriculums include: Montessori, play based, academic, High Scope, Creative Curriculum, theme based, developmental and Reggio Emilia. Ask each Director about the curriculum to find one that best fits your child’s learning style.

How much is tuition? Public, private, or not-for-profit status of a school generally dictates tuition, along with how many days a week your child attends. Tuition can cost up to $17,000 a year, so call around to find the best school in your price range. Middle-of-the-road programs cost around $2,000-5,000 a year. Typically public or park district programs are on the less costly side.

The best thing you can do is visit potential schools with your child during school hours. Ultimately, each school has its own rhythm and pace, and it should be compatible with your child and family’s own rhythm and pace.