Given the college-like intensity of preschool admissions these days, with applications, waitlists, and hefty tuitions, choosing a preschool can be a daunting process. But you can soften the stress by narrowing your criteria ahead of time. Here are some considerations to take into account in your search:
Part- or Full-Time
You may remember going to preschool for a few hours a day, two or three days a week. And while those options exist, some preschools offer full-day, full-week preschool, or child-care/preschool combinations. Decide how many days and for how long your child will attend preschool.
Play-based, Academic, Co-Op
Knowing your goals for preschool can help you decide which preschool philosophy and style might fit best. Play-based schools target developmental and social growth and encourage child-directed learning. A traditional preschool with an academic focus has more structure and is teacher-directed. Co-op preschools rely heavily on parental participation. Other types of preschools include nature-oriented, religious-affiliated, and bilingual.
Consider how far you want to drive and whether you want your child to be around preschoolers who will attend the same elementary school in future years. You may prefer a more distant school for its reputation and be willing to drive. Or you may find a preschool along your commute to work more convenient.
Class Size and Teacher-Student Ratio
More reserved children may fare better in a more intimate setting, while other preschoolers thrive in a bustling room with lots of kids. Don’t forget to note how many students there are per adult in the classroom. A larger class with a teacher and several aides may allow your child more one-on-one attention than a small class served by a single teacher.
If your child’s birthday falls close to the elementary enrollment cutoff date, you may want them to attend more than one year of preschool. Many preschools offer age-based classes, but you may also find a preschool class followed by a pre-K class works for your family.
Preschool is more than a place to play, it sets a foundation for young learners. Research shows that a high-quality early education program gives young children a strong start on academic, social, and emotional growth, and may help parents and educators identify potential learning problems early.
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of finding the right preschool, the Denver Preschool Program (DPP) is a helpful resource. Through DPP’s online tools, parents can estimate the amount of tuition credit they may be eligible to receive, submit a tuition support application, and search preschools.
Families outside of Denver can access Colorado Shines Quality Child Care finder for help choosing highly-rated preschool programs around the state.