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Finding the dream preschool can be truly strenuous as a parent. Securing the highest-quality preschool education for your child can help greatly determine and influence their academic success for years to come. In fact, a scientific study conducted by Dr. Arthur Reynolds, Professor, Institute of Child Development and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative determined that not only does early childhood education correlate with long-term academic success but also positively influences a child’s health and well-being life choices. “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Preschool education is not mandatory, yet it has long been a priority for parents seeking more than just a run of the mill child care center. At The Learning Tree our mission is driven to provide that rich and fulfilling quality level education that cannot be found anywhere else. Listed below are a few of the key indicators that parents and guardians should be aware of when seeking the right preschool for their children.
The interior layout of a preschool holds significant value. The classroom itself should be an open floor plan with plenty of low tables, shelves, chairs and a clear restroom section. As you glance across the classroom, take a moment to imagine how safe it would be if a child was briefly unsupervised. While child supervision is of the utmost importance, identifying every possible situation helps to provide more comfort as the unpredictable is just that.
More so, even rounded corners on bookshelves and tables help create a safer preschool environment. But even more important in our world today is health and safety from a cleanliness perspective. Along with constantly disinfecting surfaces throughout the day, a high-quality preschool will also ensure that things such as electrical sockets are properly covered and that potentially dangerous materials such as cleaning supplies are safely secured and beyond the reach of any child.
However, a great preschool classroom environment goes well beyond that of just child safety. Toys and resources such as books, dolls or blocks should be readily accessible. Why does toy placement matter? According to Stanford University professor and early childhood education expert, Deborah Stipek, “A thing you see in not-very-good schools is the kids have to ask for toys,” says Stipek. “A strong teacher wants to maximize the genuine, problem-solving interaction with the child and not spend time retrieving toys.” Providing ample time and space for a child to play helps them develop empathy and encourages language development.
At first glance, a highly-adaptable preschool can appear almost chaotic with children running and playing everywhere, but at its core even playtime can teach valuable lessons for young preschoolers. Is the educational value of stacking blocks or finger painting always clear? No, but a good preschool teacher is able to identify the value and purpose of every activity. Our teachers teach with a purpose. They should be able to clearly articulate why a child is engaging in a particular activity, along with what the ultimate learning goal is.
For instance, the teacher who had their students engage in the block stacking activity is proactively encouraging the students to learn about basic physics, spatial reasoning and even team cooperation as they work in a group. On the flip side, the students who are finger painting learn the basics of color theory such as mixing yellow and blue to create green. While these are just two examples, they show how our teachers help children learn through the power of exploring their environment.
One of our favorite tips for parents in this scenario is to take a close look at how your child interacts at preschool throughout the day. Ideally you’ll have found a great preschool if you notice the children are participating in a wide-variety of activities and games that not only allow them to exercise their own personal choice but also allows them to be creative and have fun. Be sure to ask the teachers the purpose of the activities you’ve observed and if you feel inclined ask about their background in education and what led them to this particular preschool center.
Don’t worry, we aren’t here to rigorously test your child. In fact, this is more of an indicator of a great preschool, as they work to track the development of individual children. Academic preparedness is a major component of ours, but so is the emotional and social growth of your child. Likewise, there are certain assessments and signs that help teachers and parents identify potential developmental delays, learning difficulties and even possible health problems.
Early childhood education does not require or expect that children learn a particular set of skills before leaving preschool, yet nonetheless our developmental growth assessments can help provide parents with an ideal starting point for what skills their children should make a point of focus before moving on to the next level. Skills such as social interaction and communication that require students to control their emotions, practice sharing and playing cooperatively make for a much smoother transition to kindergarten.
From an academic point of view, children who can hold a book and turn the pages while identifying certain letters and numbers or understand very basic mathematical concepts will be much better prepared for their next level of education. High-quality preschools provide children with the opportunity to explore and play, while also having the right team of teachers and educators who encourage creative thinking and problem solving. When you intertwine all of these, you provide an early education system that is specifically designed to promote developmental progress.
The Learning Tree Child Care Centers are located in the Elgin-East & Elgin-West, Huntley and Algonquin suburbs of NorthWest Chicago. Our dedicated center directors and teachers empower and nurture children to reach their best potential through educational programs, social activities and parental involvement.
Our hours of operation are from 6:30am to 6:00pm.
The Learning Tree is excited to partner with the U46 School District to offer the school-age U46 Summer Connection Camp Program at no cost to families.