The Perfect Fit: Finding the Right Preschool for Kids and Parents

Our hands were tightly grasped together, interlocking finger with finger. I didn’t want to let go. Her big blue eyes gazed up at mine, smiling at me, trusting me. Her backpack about as big as her, packed with her favorite snacks, her blankie, and extra clothes, just in case. Little did she know my heart was breaking inside, my eyes filling with tears. I knew she was ready, but was I?

She had given me all the signs at home. Not wanting to play with me quite as much, showing her independence, and her curiosity soaring through the roof. She wanted to be social and accepted.

It was her time to go off and make friends, her time to grow, and her time to learn. But finding that atmosphere for her was difficult. Both our needs, as a parent and a child needed to be met.

She needed an atmosphere that would allow her free spirit to continue to run wild, but also an atmosphere that would show her respect and knowledge. I needed an atmosphere that I could trust.

Here I am, about to send my best friend and little shadow that I’ve had by my side for the past three years, out into the “real world.” Preschool.

Finding the right preschool for your child and yourself is hard. You want certain criteria to be met while also not letting it cost you a fortune.

It’s important to:

Sit down with your spouse and discuss the things that are most important to you both:

  • Is there is structure throughout the day?
  • Does the preschool provide a snack/lunch?
  • Is it important to you that the school is religious?
  • How much outside time they get?
  • What math and reading skills are they learning?
  • Is there open communication between the teacher and the parents?
  • What is their discipline like?
  • Do they have parent-teacher conferences?
  • Do they require vaccines for all the children?
  • How many days a week do you want them to go? Two, three, five?

All these things can become overwhelming. Your head starts spinning and you feel run down until you just break. Will there ever be a place that you feel 100% comfortable with? Yes, not ALL preschools will meet your perfect checklist. But there is one out there that you will find is the right fit.

Take a tour of the school and ask questions you’ve thought about and have written down.

  • Observe as much as you can.
  • What is the atmosphere like?
  • Are the teachers welcoming?
  • Do the teachers seem overwhelmed or happy to be there?
  • Are the other children happy in their classrooms?
  • Does it seem organized and structured?
  • If you get an eerie feeling, then trust your gut. Your mom (or dad) senses are stronger than you think.
  • Does your child instantly want to run and play?
  • Do they seem curious about what is going on around them and want to join in?

Sleep on it! You are not in a rush.

  • They will most likely tell you that they are filling up fast, and while this might be true, you can certainly get on the waitlist just in case someone drops out.
  • Don’t feel like you have to make the decision right on the spot. Tell them you’d like to discuss it over and think about it.
  • Make sure you can afford their rates, and also their registration fee.

If you’d like to take a second tour, then do it!

  • This is the time to take your spouse if he/she didn’t already go before. Make sure you both are on the same page.
  • Make sure you still have good feelings about the preschool.
  • This is where your child will be spending a lot of his or her time. Make sure your child feels comfortable with it too.

I understand the overflowing of emotions that come with sending your little one off to preschool. The first day is the hardest, so prepare for those tears to come; tears of joy and also tears of sadness. Thoughts will constantly come into your mind, “does she know I love her?” “I hope she knows I’m not abandoning her.” “Will she miss me?”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and worried about your child, CALL!

  • Teachers are more than happy to talk to you throughout the day and let you know how your child is doing. Don’t be embarrassed. They can reassure you that everything is going well.

Remember that for the couple hours they are away from you, that this is their time! It’s their time to shine, grow and make friends. Most likely, you’ll miss them more than they’ll miss you.

Stay busy – this is your time also

  • Run some errands without your child.
  • Catch up on some much needed sleep.
  • Do some laundry.
  • Catch up on your favorite TV show.
  • Get the house tidy.
  • Get your nails done.

Before you know it, they’ll be running into your arms as you pick them up. They’ll tell you all about their day with a smile taking up their perfect little face, and I am sure, they will ask when they can go back.

Hold on to their little hands as long as they’ll let you. Give them a million kisses goodbye, and trust that they are in good hands. It’s time for you to let go, just a little bit.