When I first started searching for New Jersey preschools that my 3-year-old daughter could attend, I had no idea what I’d be in for. A quick Google search left me with more options than I could keep track of—and even though it was reassuring to have an overwhelming number of schools to choose from (there are 10 preschool programs in our township of West Milford alone), I started to feel a little anxious about picking the right one. Did I want a public school or a privately owned facility? A half-day or full-day program? What type of curriculum would be the best fit for her? There were so many things to choose from and I felt clueless about almost every single one of them.
Since there’s no better advice than a mom who has been through a big parent-child transition herself, take it from me—choosing a preschool is a fun and exciting task, but there are a handful of factors every mom should consider before enrolling her child in one. Follow the preschool checklist I used below to choose the best NJ preschool program for your new little learner!
featured image via @elleivyandi
1. Public School or Privately Owned Facilities?
Similar to grammar school, middle school and high school, preschools are either privately funded or publicly owned. Public preschool teachers are required to follow the state’s set curriculum and related policies. A lot of public preschool classrooms are located inside a public grammar school. Private schools—like a Catholic preschool center—may be allowed to teach children about additional topics, like religion. Private preschools may also require a uniform for each student to wear, while most public preschools do not.
2. Tuition Costs
The cost of tuition can range quite a bit from preschool to preschool throughout the state. Before finally committing to the preschool my daughter attends now, the tuition was a make-or-break factor for me while comparing schools. A certain facility might be your child’s idea of a dream preschool, but sometimes the cost can be too high—and that’s okay. Make sure that the preschool you’re settling on is within your budget before committing.
3. Types of Curriculum
Preschool students are all learning the basics, from the letters of the alphabet and counting to weather and the days of the week. Although there are a lot of similar preschool programs, ask potential preschool teachers exactly what your future preschooler will be learning at their facility on a daily basis. My 3-year-old’s preschool curriculum ultimately won me over because of their outstanding handwriting program.
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4. Field Trips
Field trips are a big deal when you’re a preschooler. I definitely advise asking potential preschool owners and staff members about whether or not there will be field trips throughout the school year for the children to attend, and where the field trips are usually located. Apple picking, children’s museums, and musicals are always a big hit, and I truly believe they make the preschool experience for our children.
5. Half-Day or Full-Day Programs?
Many public preschools will only provide a very limited amount of time in which each preschool student can attend class throughout the week. If you’re only looking for your child to attend preschool for a couple of half days each week—for about 2 to 2 ½ hours each day—this won’t be an issue. But if you’d like your child to spend a little more time in school, be on the lookout for preschools that offer multiple half day programs and full day programs instead. The full-day programs at my daughter’s preschool (and at most other preschools that I checked out) include a lunch break and nap time in the middle of the day to break up the morning and afternoon learning sessions while they’re in class.
6. Punishment Policies
If you’re enrolling your child in a public preschool, it will follow the standard punishment policies that every other public preschool does throughout the state. Privately owned preschools should make you verbally aware of the punishment policies that they condone at their center—but always be sure to read the punishment policies in the contract and paperwork that they provide so you’re all on the same page before signing up.
7. Additional Childcare Options
Every parent knows that balancing life, careers, and children can be difficult. If you need extended childcare before or after your child’s days at preschool, be sure to find a preschool that provides these types of additional childcare services. The preschool I ultimately chose for my daughter provides extra scheduled pick-up and drop-off times before and after school, which is a great perk.
8. Free Preschool Programs
If there’s just no way to afford preschool and you’re a mom or dad who qualifies financially, there are income-based preschools that the state offers to parents and their preschool-aged children. These types of preschools are either free or at a much lower cost and are calculated based on family size and income.
9. Class Sizes
With the exception of a few mommy-and-me classes we attend each month, my daughter really doesn’t get a lot of social interaction with other children. She’s also painfully shy. So, I really wanted to enroll my daughter in a preschool program that didn’t have an overwhelming number of students in each class. If having a smaller class size matters to you, this is definitely something to be mindful of while visiting preschools.
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10. Extracurricular Activities
Some privately owned preschools will actually provide extracurricular activities for their enrolled students to participate in throughout the school year. The preschool that my daughter attends offers soccer once a week, and they also partnered up with a local dance center so that full-day preschool students can attend a dance or gymnastics class once a week during the school day.