Early education at the pre kindergarten level is extremely important to a child’s development, and numerous studies have shown that investing in education at this pivotal time in a child’s development can produce benefits all throughout that child’s life. But not all early education centers are equal in quality, meaning that if you’re a parent looking your options, you might be feeling the pressure to find the absolute best preschool for your child. There are plenty of lists out there of questions to ask school administrators or what to look for in a facility — and those can certainly be useful — but the goals of ideal early education can be summed up in just two words: controlled chaos.
The “Controlled” Part of the Equation
If there’s not some measure of organization at a preschool, then you might as well be sending your child to a standard daycare. The real difference between the two is that while a daycare is primarily about keeping children occupied so that adults can do what they need to do (work, in most cases), an early childhood education facility is primarily focused on specific goals for the children. In most preschools, that will include learning letters and numbers, working on motor skills, and developing more ambiguous abilities such as creativity and collaboration. The teachers and administrators at the school you end up choosing should be able to articulate those goals and explain how they tackle them while keeping the children safe.
The “Chaos”: Letting Kids Be Kids
A goal-directed approach doesn’t, however, mean that a great preschool will have rows of desk and worksheets instead of beanbag chairs and glitter. The most effective education systems for young children use creative hands-on activities and open-ended play to help children develop. In fact, when done right, this kind of directed play will simply feel like more fun for the children involved. So if you walk into a preschool that looks like the kids spend most of their time engaged in active play, that’s probably actually a good sign.
Do you have thoughts on the ideal environment for preschool education? Join the discussion in the comments.