Tips for Picking a Preschool in New York

Choosing a preschool for your young child can be a particularly daunting task, especially in New York City. With what seems like limitless options how does a parent narrow down preschools to find the right one for her son or daughter?With all the factors that can come in to play, Pam Wolf, founder of NY Preschool, with 13 locations across the city, suggests starting with educational philosophies. She says, “Right now there are about 25 different philosophies on how best preschoolers are educated. It really is a matter of opinion and a matter of understanding your own child and determining which philosophy aligns with your own schools of thought and which philosophy you think your child will fare best in.” 

Preschool Philosophy

Do you think your child would like a Montessori school or perhaps they are more of a Reggio Emilia child? It’s up to you to do the research, but for most kids, a play-based philosophy is what suits them best.  That’s the philosophy at NY Preschool, but Wolf says when you go to visit any preschool you’ll want make sure “that you see the children spend most of their time playing, or working with materials and other children.”  At a young age, children learn through play and interaction. “Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned through play in preschool. So seeing children just playing is productive it’s not thought of as idle, it’s play with a purpose in our schools,” Wolf says.

After you determine what philosophy best suits your family, you, of course, want to make sure that all the tangible things are up to standard. Does the school look well organized, clean, and safe? Are the teachers nurturing and nice? Is it close to your house (if that’s important to you)? Once you determine those things, you can move on to how the school operates on a daily basis.

Class size is an important factor. Even in larger classes of 16 to 18 students, Wolf says that teachers still find one-on-one time with each child throughout the day. At NY Preschool, “During a teacher directed activity, children are broken up into smaller groups, depending on their readiness for the activity at hand. While children can be within a 3-to-6 month age difference in the same classroom, their social and emotional skills can vary widely, and to have a teacher who can work individually or in small groups with these children is the key to a child’s success. The ability to work individually with teachers so that they can meet children at whatever level they come to us, and the varying levels over the course of a year, is very important,” Wolf says.

The Bridge Between Home & School 

Communication between the school staff and parents is of the utmost importance. At NY Preschool, “the more that we speak with the parents and the more the parents speak with our teachers the better off everybody is,” Wolf says. Parents have the opportunity to connect with their child’s teacher every day, if that’s what they want. Because NY Preschool is a “language rich” environment, meaning communication is key, Wolf wants to make sure that that level of communication carries over at home, as well. Every week letters are sent home to help parents better communicate with their children about what happened at school. Instead of asking your child, “What did you do in school today?” parents are given the opportunity to engage on a deeper level with their son or daughter. With the help of the weekly email, parents can dive deeper into their child’s school day by asking questions about a specific snack or activity from that week. Wolf says parents are more likely to receive a response from their child that way and it will open up a world of communication.

License and Registration, Please

Of course it is also important that the school is licensed. The Department of Mental Health and Hygiene must license every preschool; Wolf says if you do not see the license displayed prominently in the front of the school, “leave.” It’s as simple as that. There are over 400 rules and regulations for school administrators, teachers, and children that attend preschool, to keep everybody safe and healthy. NY Preschool meets every one of them and you’re definitely going to want to make sure that any preschool you send your child to does the same. 

NY Preschool is also accredited by the National Association of Education for Young Children. Part of this accreditation is that the association speaks with 80% of the attending parents. It’s a prestigious accreditation that only 1 in 10 schools receive.

New York is a great place for a child to grow up. There is so much in the way of culture and diversity and with the help of a good educational start, your child will be well on his or her way to developing a life long love for learning.  The process of picking a preschool can be daunting, but it’s exciting, too. 

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Main photo courtesy of NY Preschool