By: Erica Leggiero

If you have a little one at home who is two to four years old, it may be time to start finding a preschool. Contrary to what you may have heard, finding a quality preschool is not so hard. The best way to start your search is to prepare. Be clear on what you'd like your child to gain from his preschool experience. No two preschools will offer the exact same things, so investigate two to three schools before deciding on one. This gives you the chance to see many different settings, curriculums, and classrooms. 

Here in Ohio, some of the local preschools advertise their Step Up To Quality ratings. You may be asking yourself what is Step Up To Quality. Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) is a five–star quality rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. SUTQ is a five-star tiered system that recognizes and promotes preschools whose programs meet high-quality standards that exceed licensing requirements. The standards set by SUTQ are based on nationally researched standards that lead to improved outcomes for children. A SUTQ rating means that the preschool consistently goes above and beyond in educating your child and providing a high-quality early education.

1. Do Your Research.

Research, research, research. You'll want to look for a few specifics that will work for your family before you call for a tour of the school. 

  • Where is the school located? Close to work or home?
  • Is it a part-time or full-time program?
  • Are they state-licensed? (This means the school meets state facility safety requirements and provides adequate staffing.)
  • Do they follow a curriculum
  • Do they have a Step Up To Quality rating?
  • What are the fees? Is there a registration fee?

2. Know what to look for.

You've narrowed down the school and now you're ready to tour, but what do you look for? Many preschools are will be decorated with brightly-colored child art work, so you want to know what to look for beyond the surface. 

  • Is the facility safe and clean? 
  • Are there age-appropriate books and toys?
  • Is there a safe outdoor play area with adequate shade?
  • Does the classroom provide a variety of activities or "centers"?
  • Is the atmosphere fun and inviting?
  • Do the children seem happy?
  • Am I comfortable here? Trust your gut! 

3. Get to know the Teacher.

You'll be leaving your child in the hands of the teacher, so you want to know as much about him/her as you possibly can. The teacher is going to be your partner in teaching your child during these developmental years and you want to feel confident about them.

  • What are the teacher's credentials?
  • What are the teacher/student ratios?
  • How does the teacher individualize instruction?
  • How does she keep you informed on your child's progress?
  • How does she communicate with parents?
  • Does she make the kids feel welcome? Is she warm and inviting?
  • What is the teacher’s philosophy about early childhood education?

4. Make a visit checklist.

Here's a quick checklist of things you'll want to talk to the director about when you visit. 

  • Does my child need to be toilet-trained?
  • What's the school's discipline policy?
  • What are the safety procedures for dropping off and picking up children?
  • What are the payment options and procedures?
  • Does the school conduct monthly fire or weather drills?

Remember, choosing a preschool does not have to be an overwhelming or stressful task. Finding the perfect fit is easier when you go into the process prepared and ready to ask questions. Teachers love knowing that you are ready to partner with them in your child's education, so ask as many questions as you can. Most importantly, make sure the school and teacher make you and your child feel warm and welcome. When you find the right preschool, get ready to embrace your child's greatest adventure! 


About Erica Leggiero: Erica is currently the teacher and director of the preschool located at Countryside YMCA | Landen, a 5-Star rated Step Up To Quality program.