1. Kids are on the move.
Preschoolers need to spend most of their time playing and working with other children and materials. Check that they’re not wandering aimlessly or expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
2. There’s variety.
Children should have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for building blocks and other construction toys, props for pretend play, picture books, art supplies and table toys, like matching games, pegboards and puzzles. Kids shouldn’t all be doing the same thing at the same time.
3. The kids get group and individual instruction.
Keep your eyes peeled for teachers who work with individual kids, small groups and the whole class at different points throughout the day. Make sure teachers don’t spend all their time addressing the entire group—each child should get some daily one-on-one attention from the adults in the room.
4. The classroom is colorful and kid-friendly.
Make sure the classroom is decorated with the children’s original artwork and writing and with stories dictated by the students to the teachers.
5. Lessons apply in the real world.
Kids should be learning numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. They should also be exploring the natural world of plants and animals and doing meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance or serving snacks—all of which teach valuable, basic skills.
6. The day is a mix of work and play.
Students should have at least an hour at a time to play and explore. Worksheets should be used infrequently, if at all.
7. Kids should get outside.
Outdoor playtime should be scheduled daily, weather permitting. This time should never be replaced with more in-class instruction.
8. Teachers read… a lot.
Look for teachers who read books to kids individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just during storytime.
9. The program is versatile.
Make sure the curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead, as well as those who need additional help. Teachers should recognize students’ various backgrounds and experiences. Not all kids learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
10. Kids are excited to be there.
Children should look forward to school. And as parents, you should feel comfortable sending your child there. Kids shouldn’t cry regularly or complain that they feel sick before school.
Article adapted courtesy of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.