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Questions to ask a potential preschool or daycare provider

Starting preschool or daycare is a big step for you and your child(ren).  There are many preschools and daycares for you to choose from, so how do you know which one is right for your family? 

It is important to visit a preschool with your child prior to making this decision.  Visit during school hours, so you can see how the teacher's interact with the children.  You can observe whether or not the children are busy, safe, and happy in their surroundings.  Take your time while you are visiting preschools, and look at how your child reacts to the school.  You can often get an idea of whether or not the school will be a good fit by watching your child.

Here is a list of some questions that you can ask when interviewing a potential preschool or daycare provider:

- Do you have openings, and if not is there a waiting list? 
Now is the time when parents are looking for preschools to begin in the Fall.  If you are looking now, chances are good that you could get on the waiting list.

- What are your hours?  Do you offer a part-time schedule?
Some preschools have flexible hours, but most often, they have set hours, which doesn't always coincide with a parents working schedule.

- How flexible are you with pick-up and drop off times?
You may find that some preschools are not flexible with times.  They often have set schedules and request that children are in school during these times.

- Do you have a parent's handbook?
Most daycares and preschools will have a parent's handbook.  This handbook should address their policies including:  hours, sick policy, holidays and other days when the school is closed, fees, including late fees and whether or not parents are responsible for paying fees when the school is closed or when your child does not attend for sickness or vacation.

If they do not have a parent's handbook, all of the above questions should be addressed at your interview.

- How and when do I pay my bill?
This may be addressed in the handbook, but can be asked at the interview.  Some centers will require that payment is made in advance, while others may be more flexible based on what your pay frequency is.

- What is the daily schedule like?
Most centers will have a daily routine, which includes story and circle time, free play, group activities, lunch, snacks, nap, etc.

- What is the school's Educational Philosophy?
This may also be in the handbook, but it would be an appropriate question to ask so you can determine whether or not their philosophy coincides with yours.  This would include whether their focus is on socialization or academics, child or teacher led activities, television time, etc.

- Do you provide lunch and snacks? 
If not, are there any foods that are not allowed, such as peanut butter and sugary snacks?

- What is the student/teacher ratio, and what is the turnover rate like for teachers?
The student/teacher ratio can vary based on your location, as well as, the ages of the children.

You may think of additional questions after your visit.  In that case, it would be good to get a business card for the director.  You may also feel additional visits are necessary for you to choose the right place for your child.

For more information on choosing a preschool, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), or Boston Central.

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