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Things You REALLY Need to Consider When Selecting a Preschool

what you really need to know when selecting a preschool

One of the most daunting aspects of parenting is acquiring a good education for your child. And in today’s world, this often begins with preschool. Although starting your child this early is not required, many parents opt to go this route.

When making a decision on where to send your child, there are LOTS of factors to consider besides just location and price. Several of our contributors who have been down this route are sharing their wisdom and experience on things you REALLY need to take a look at … and often times it isn’t what you would originally put on your “must-have” list.


One of the most important aspects is communication. It is essential to communicate well with the people which are going to act as “secondary caregivers” for your precious bundle(s). If there is not an environment of open and honest communication, head elsewhere.


What kind of discipline does the preschool employ? Is it similar to your views? Do they use a behavior chart, do time-outs, and/or positive discipline such as re-direction?

If your child has not been in daycare prior to preschool, keep in mind that the discipline not only affects your child, but all in the classroom. Imaginary scenario: What do you feel is an appropriate response for repeated biting– whether you have the biter or the bitten?


Do you keep kosher, have allergies, strive for organic, or partake in any sort of specialized diet? Many preschools will serve some sort of snacks. What are they feeding your child? If your child cannot eat that food, are they willing (and good at remembering) to give substitutes?


Many private preschools are run by places of worship. Do they correspond with your family’s views? If you are unsure — ask! Does it matter if their views are different? Keep in mind your child will be learning these principles and will come home telling you stories from the Koran or singing songs about Jesus. Are you okay with that? What if they ask you further questions on the topic? Are you comfortable answering and discussing?


There is an adage in the education community, “Environment is the third teacher.” Are the teachers and kids smiling or do they look stressed? Is there the sound of laughter in the class? How do the indoor and outdoor play and learning space look? Is their work proudly on display?

Education Philosophy

Does the preschool believe in inquiry based learning? Montessori? Waldorf? Is play an essential part of the curriculum? Do they subscribe to the Reggio-Emilia approach? Investigate different styles of teaching, such as these, and see what meshes best with your family.

One current trend in the U.S. is to start pushing traditional classroom academics at earlier and earlier ages. However, many studies indicate this is not healthy for the children, nor does it help in the long run. Your preschooler should not be pushed to read/write beyond their motivation. Neurotypical 3- and 4- year olds are starting to develop their executive functioning skills, figuring out how to socialize properly, learning their own emotions and creating their inner voice. The value of play-based learning cannot be understated.

Learn math and measurements through kitchen pretend play.

Learn math and measurements through kitchen pretend play.


If you get a feeling something is not right, don’t second-guess yourself.


Special Needs

If your child is special needs, you may qualify for public preschool. Many districts provide quality special education to help developmentally delayed students. If you chose not to do this, keep in mind a private school may not be required to fully provide services for your child. Reach out to early intervention services for 0-2 years old (like BabyNet), your local school district for 3k or 4k, or the school district in which the school is located (if they are K+). If your child falls into the “private or homeschooled” category, service(s) may not be provided due to limited funds, though often it is if it is common (such as speech therapy).

Also, there are special special needs programs, besides those the districts provide. Check out Bridges at The Therapy Place, or any school that offers preschool and accepts the Palmetto Kids First Scholarship (5k-5th). Some examples would be Cutler Jewish Day School, Glenforest, or Barclay.

Financial Resources

  • ABC Vouchers — Available for families that have children with disabilities and/or low-income eligibility
  • Palmetto Kids First Scholarship — Qualify for up to $10,000 in private school tuition in qualifying institutions for children with divergent learning needs, K-5th grade
  • Head Start — Free public programs, including preschools, to low-income families

These items to consider should help you make an informed decision about which preschool is the best fit for your child. If you’ve been down this road before, what additional points would you add to the list?

Know of an amazing preschool you want readers to know about? Check out our Guide to Columbia Area Preschools to see if they are listed. If not, contact [email protected] for details on including them in our directory.

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