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We are looking around for the best preschool for our baby daughter. The place that we looked at said that for infants they have a 1:4 (adult:infant) ratio...for 3 - 5 year olds it is 1:12 (adjult:infant).

What are the proper things to look for? My wife is going to a free Mommy and Me class next week to see how the caretakers handle infants/kids. It would be great if I also gave her a list of things to check out.

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Here's a list without any particular order.

  • meet and talk to the teachers. Are they nice, do they seem well trained, responsible? Do you feel that they provide a culture or style that you approve of? Do they master the language well enough (they might be foreigners but still very good at your language)? Are they trained in first-aid?

  • visit and look at the preschool. Is it nice? Is it safe? Does it offer enough play space, and does it offer a good variety of suitable toys and other materials? Indoor and outdoor facilities?

  • look at the other kids. Do you feel comfortable putting your child into this environment? Consider aspects like number of kids, age spread, genders and nationalities; whatever is relevant to you.

  • Ask about rules and regulations. Does the preschool follow the rules you feel are right or important? Local laws? How would exceptions or even conflicts be handled? Also, what are their rules concerning diaper changes, potty, and pacifier?

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I have been involved with the running of our family nursery for many years. In my experience the following are the things that really matter in a nursery:

  1. Being friendly and welcoming to children and parents.
  2. Providing a caring environment where children feel comfortable and safe.
  3. Providing a large variety of fun activities for all ages.
  4. Carrying out an up-to-date educational syllabus.
  5. Providing healthy and varied meals.
  6. Following good hygiene procedures.

So in practical terms, I would recommend to ask about facilities, education, diet and maybe staff-ratios (as you mentioned). And while you're looking around, see if the kids seem happy and entertained, the staff seem friendly and are engaging with the children and that the place is clean and tidy. Also, I'd recommend having a good look at the wall displays- they should give a good idea about the quality of the teaching syllabus. And most importantly- "what is your gut feeling?"- would you feel happy leaving your child there?

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I wish I recalled the original source of this. If anyone has it, please share. A few years ago, this (paraphrased) appeared in the newspaper as advice for parents debating on what schools to choose for their children. The summary:

pre/grade school: Are you an involved parent? If so, then it really doesn't matter which school they go to.

middle school: All middle schools are bad.

high school: this is when you need to start worrying a little bit about the type/quality of school your child is going to help them to the next step (typically college).

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You're not answering the question. Miles is specifically asking for features. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 12 '12 at 16:35
Sometimes the wrong question is being this case the thing to look for is parental involvement. If you, as the parent, are involved with your child's education, and other parents in said school are as well, the school is fine. – DA01 Jan 12 '12 at 18:08 I see that the question refers to 'infants'. Maybe we have different terms for preschool. Anything an infant is attending I'd call 'day care' – DA01 Jan 12 '12 at 18:11
@DA01 Yes, I'm sorry the question wasn't clear enough, but I am referring to preschool, i.e. before kindergarden. If we're talking about school, you're absolutely right that parental involvement is huge. – milesmeow Jan 12 '12 at 18:38
@DA01: Sorry but believing that the question is wrong is no reason to answer the question you feel is right. Please answer the question as it is stated, respecting its context. Feel free to add a new question that covers your point, and add an answer to that as well. It's perfectly fine to create "fake" questions as long as they're valid, and it's also fine to answer one's own question. See also the meta topic What should we advise when one disagrees with the premise of a question. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 12 '12 at 19:19

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