Skip to main content

What you need to know about choosing the best preschool

Age three is when most parents start thinking about sending their child to preschool. Three is actually the ideal age because children are ready for more group activities around this age. While preschool isn’t mandatory, most parents send their children to preschool at ages three and four to help the transition into kindergarten easier. Since preschool is not a requirement and many public school systems don’t offer one, parents must find a quality program on their own.

If it’s your first time looking for a preschool program, the task can seem overwhelming. However, choosing a preschool isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are important factors to take into consideration as you begin the task of finding the best preschool program to suit your child.

Circle time in a preschool classroom with children and teachers sharing a story

Check your school district first

If you live in an urban area, many public school districts offer preschool programs. Some districts only offer a spot in their preschool program if a child has a developmental delay. Others offer preschool, but they charge tuition. Your local district is the first stop in your search.

When do you need to enroll?

Depending on the area where you live, many quality preschool programs are difficult to get into and have waiting lists. If you plan on starting your child in preschool at three, start exploring programs when your toddler turns two. Plan on enrolling around springtime prior to the start of the academic year after your child turns three.

Decide on the type of program you’re looking for

Preschool programs typically have three different options that include five, three, or two half-days. A preschool program combined with a day-care center will usually offer full-day options. Think about whether a morning or afternoon start time works best for your child. Morning spots fill up quicker than afternoons.

What are the requirements for my child?

Since preschool isn’t mandatory, there isn’t an age requirement. Many preschool programs not incorporated into a day-care center begin enrolling children at two if they have a two-year-old program. The majority of preschool programs have three and four-year-old programs with an additional year of prekindergarten offered for children missing the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment.

Being potty-trained is most often the only requirement for enrolling in a preschool program. You will still be asked to send in an extra set of clothing just in case, but your child should not be wearing pull-ups on the first day of preschool.


Since the majority of preschools are private, the cost varies from program to program. Most preschools have monthly payment installments along with a registration fee. Parents usually pay the first and last month’s tuition along with a registration fee at the time of enrollment.

Educational philosophy

The driving force behind most preschools is to introduce children to socialization through play. Kids learn how to take turns, share, and coexist in a group environment while being introduced to kindergarten-readiness skills like color, shape, letter, and number recognition. A quality preschool program should include art, music, fine and gross motor activities as well as children’s literature and poetry.

Many preschool programs are teacher-centered, but there are some like Montessori programs that are more child-centered. A Montessori program has a different philosophy where children are allowed to choose their own focus for the day, and teachers are more like a facilitator than a leader. Since a Montessori approach isn’t a typical preschool environment, research it first before making a decision.

preschool teacher helping students with a puzzle at a table
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What to look for in a preschool program

Asking parents of older children for a preschool recommendation is a great idea, but once you target a couple of preschools in your area, it’s time to look a little closer. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all preschool program, which is why it is vital to see a preschool classroom in action. While one preschool might be a good fit for a friend’s child, it might not be for yours. Some children can go five days, while others are better suited with two or three for their first year of preschool.

The best thing to do is to arrange a tour of a preschool you’re interested in. Bring your child along with you and don’t worry if he or she is apprehensive at first. Take note of key points during your visit:

  • Is the facility clean?
  • Are the classrooms organized?
  • Do the teachers seem kid-friendly?
  • Is the director well-spoken, likable, and good with children?
  • How do the teachers handle problems that pop up in the classroom?
  • Is the program structured?
  • Is outside time part of the day?

Questions to ask

Apart from the logistics of schedule and tuition, when you meet with the director, have your questions ready. If you noticed something in the tour, ask. Here are a few key questions:

  • Is the preschool accredited and licensed?
  • Does the program have a set curriculum?
  • Are the preschool teachers certified?
  • What are the educational backgrounds of the teachers?
  • Does each classroom have an aide?
  • Are there specialty teachers for art, music, and physical education?
  • What is the school’s discipline policy?

Ultimately, preschool should be a fun learning experience for your child. It is his or her first introduction to school, and you want it to be positive for them. Use these tips to take the time to find the right program that is a good fit for your soon-to-be preschooler.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
How to teach a child to swim: Methods you need to know
Tips for teaching your child to swim when they are ready to learn
Adult teaching child to swim in a pool.

While watching your child jump into any open water could be a bit, parents don't want their child to be afraid of the water. Swimming is a fun activity that helps promote a healthy lifestyle, a great way to stay cool in the hot summer months, to get indoor exercise during the winter, and it's a life skill to have. Typically, the recommended age for lessons is 4, but there's really no incorrect age for how to teach a child to swim.

Swimming is an important lesson to learn for your kid’s enjoyment and especially for their safety. We'll share great methods and fun ideas on how to teach a child to swim so they'll become strong, happy, and confident fish in the water.

Read more
Baby play mat ins and outs: What age you should get one and the benefits for baby’s development
Play mats are fun for babies of all ages
Smiling baby on colorful play mat

Play mats are a must-have item for many babies because they can provide endless fun and stimulation for your little one, not to mention allowing them to play on their own. A play mat gives your child a comfortable spot where they can play on their back or their tummy and practice rolling over. It's also a nice place where baby's classic toys are within easy reach for your mini human. 

One benefit a play mat offers is encouragement for your little one to interact with their surroundings. Plus, baby play mats give a fun opportunity for your little one to reach developmental milestones and build the muscles they need to sit up and crawl. If you haven't grabbed one for your tiny tot yet, you'll want to after we tell you all about these fun baby play mats. 

Read more
Experts explain why kids watching YouTube isn’t a good idea
You'll want to rethink screen time after you know what experts say about kids watching YouTube
Young boy on an iPad.

You have things to get done around the house. But a small person who says they're bored is keeping you from making progress on your to-do list. And so, you do what many parents do in this stretched-thin situation: You turn on the television, hand over a cellphone, or put on YouTube. (Hey, no judgment; we have all been there, done that!) But is letting kids watch YouTube doing more harm than good?

Screens can be "addictive," as noted by Dr. David Greenfield, founder and clinical director of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. He explains that they have a dopamine-producing effect, and many realistic pediatric experts agree that, while screens are a part of our modern lifestyle, moderation should be enforced and limitations be set. Parents need to learn why they should be mindful of children watching YouTube and how to lay down the screen time law at home. We'll share some tips and words of wisdom from experts in the know.

Read more