The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Parents tend to look for preschools that highlight the academic skills that are needed to succeed in most kindergartens. Educators tend to look at a preschool environment that nurtures the whole child, viewing social and emotional skills as equally important as physical and cognitive skills.
After talking with a number of educators and reading a plethora of articles I found this short excerpt from School and Home (National Association of School Psychologists) “Ten Signs of a Great Preschool” to be the best summary of what many professionals are advocating.
Ten Signs of a Great Preschool
Placing your child into a preschool program will supply further reinforcement of your child’s general school readiness skills. However, as with anything else in life, some preschool programs are better than others. What follows is adapted from a list of 10 indicators of quality preschools prepared by the National Association for the Education of Young Children:
- 1. Children are mainly active in the classroom; that is, playing and/or working with other children or materials.
- 2. Children have access to various hands-on materials and activities.
- 3. Children receive individual and small-group time with the teachers, and not solely large-group time. *Note that children are receiving individual and small-group time with teachers. Inquire if this is a part of your child’s preschool day and what kinds of activities would your child experience in these situations.
- 4. Children’s work is displayed in the classroom.
- 5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet throughout the entire day; that is, their learning of these constructs in embedded into everyday activities. *Inquire about how this is accomplished in your child’s situation.
- 6. Children are given at least an hour to play and explore with little worksheet use.
- 7. Children are provided a daily opportunity to play outside.
- 8. Children are read to by teachers, individually, and in small-groups.
- 9. Children receive adapted curriculum dependent upon their own individual needs.
- 10. Children and parents are excited about the preschool; that is, children are happy and do not regularly cry or complain.
Here is the link to the full article.
*Italicized statements are my additions, not the author of the article.