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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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