Choosing a Pre-school – Our Top Tips!

Here are our top tips and advice when it comes to choosing a pre-school for your little one.

It’s officially back to school season and many parents will be preparing to choose a pre-school as their child becomes eligible for ECCE funding.

This can be a big decision as pre-school is a child’s first experience of the education system and it lays the foundation for future learning.

With this in mind, it pays to explore the different pre-school options that are available in your locality and to be informed about the factors you need to consider…

1. Assess Pre-School Options Early On

When choosing a crèche for your baby or toddler, it’s advised that you also assess the suitability of the centre’s pre-school, since your child will be moving on to this area in a couple of years.

So when visiting a prospective crèche, be sure to view all the rooms (not just the baby room) and pay attention to information about the pre-school programme and facilities. Make sure to also assess the outdoor space that is available as this will become more important as your child reaches pre-school age.

Our Cherrywood centre in Tullyvale has a large outdoor play area with lots of exciting play equipment that our pre-schoolers just love. Their parents also love that they are active throughout the day, running, climbing and playing outside with their friends. Our pre-schoolers also enjoy bus tours after they turn three years old, which opens up a whole new world of education for them.

Decide early what will be important to you and your family at every stage of development and base your decision on how the crèche or pre-school meets these needs.

2. Seek Out Information Online

Most pre-schools and childcare providers will have a website and/or social media accounts which can provide a lot of information & an insight into the quality of care that they provide. This can also help parents to assess the facilities and the type of activities that the children enjoy regularly.

When visiting a pre-school’s website, pay close attention to things like the ethos, their education programme, staff qualifications & training and the facilities that the centre has to offer. A good pre-school should also provide information about their compliance and regulations as well as their child protection policies.

It can help to jot down some notes on the advantages of each pre-school and also to note any dis-advantages or concerns that you may have about the service. You can then address these questions or queries later on, if you decide to make an enquiry or visit the pre-school for a viewing.

3. Ask for Recommendations

At Park Academy Childcare, a high number of our enquiries come from referrals – either from our current families or parents who have previously availed of our service. A referral from a trusted family member or friend is hugely valuable when choosing a pre-school provider as it gives you vital information about the quality of care and education that they provide.

We recommend that you have a list of questions prepared before seeking referrals so that you can get all the information you need to make a decision. Questions such as the following can help you decide if the pre-school might be suitable for your child:

Why did you choose this pre-school?
What type of education or curriculum do they provide?
What kind of facilities do they offer?
What activities do they provide?
What kind of relationship do you have with the Teachers/Early Years Educators?
Would you recommend this pre-school?

4. Arrange a Viewing

After shortlisting some options, we recommend that you view your preferred pre-school(s) before coming to a final decision. Visiting a pre-school will tell you a lot about the ethos & the quality of care and education. It will also will give you a chance to meet and chat with the Teacher/Early Years Educators and observe the children in their environment as they play and learn. Pay close attention to the feeling you get from the environment – a good pre-school should be welcoming & inviting. Trust your intuition. It will always be your best guide.

We also recommend that you have a list of questions ready and that you communicate these during your visit. Be sure to ask about a crèche’s policies and procedures (such as their illness and vaccination policies) if this information is not provided.

At Park Academy Childcare we encourage parents to bring their child along to their pre-school viewing so that they too can meet our team and explore our facilities. Our managers are always more than happy to provide a comprehensive tour of their centre and to answer as many questions or queries as you may have. Simply give us a call and we will set up a viewing for you for your preferred location at a time that is convenient.

5. Find Out More About the Curriculum

It’s always beneficial to do some online research on the type of education provided. However don’t be afraid to seek further clarification on this when you make a visit. Educational methods and approaches can vary so it’s important that you are happy with the curriculum and educational ethos before your child starts pre-school.

At Park Academy Childcare, our pre-school education programme is based on the Aistear Curriculum – the national curriculum framework for children from birth to six years as developed by the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment). Aistear is built on four pillars – Wellbeing, Communication, Identity & Belonging, Exploring & Thinking – and our children are supported to achieve learning objectives in each area, through play and positive learning relationships with adults and their peers.

When exploring a pre-school’s education policies it can be helpful to consider the following:

What is the educational ethos of the pre-school? (E.g. Montessori, play based learning etc.)
What kind of learning goals & objectives are set for the children?
Does the pre-school offer lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration & imaginative play?
Do they focus on social & emotional development as well as academic learning?
How do the Early Years Education team assess learning & development?
What kind of educational materials are available to supplement learning?

6. Consider Qualifications & Training

Lastly when it comes to choosing a pre-school one of the most important considerations should be the team of people that will be caring for and educating your child. Before choosing a pre-school you should clarify that the staff are qualified, establish what level of qualifications they hold and enquire about the pre-school’s child protection policies and compliance.

At Park Academy Childcare, our team are our greatest asset in providing high quality childcare that parents can trust. Therefore we ensure that we choose the very best people and that we provide them with the support and assistance they require. This includes providing opportunities for ongoing training and development and working hard to ensure that Park Academy is a great place to work for all team members.

A Final Thought…

After collecting all the information take the time to review your findings & process the information you have received. Most importantly though, trust your gut instinct on which pre-school best suits your child and your family’s needs.

Then you can take the next steps, confident in the knowledge that you have made an informed, considered choice. Starting pre-school is an exciting milestone for both you and your child so be sure to also enjoy this special time.

You can relax knowing that your child has an abundance of fun and stimulating experiences ahead of them!

Park Academy Childcare is parent’s number one choice for quality childcare. We provide baby, toddler, pre-school & after-school care & are based in eight locations across South Dublin & Wicklow. For more information on Park Academy Childcare & to see our locations go to www.parkchildcare.ie. To speak to our team or arrange a viewing contact us on 1890 273 243 or email us on info@parkchildcare.ie.

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