By Keri Stoltz, Franchise Owner at Primrose School of Midtown at Colony Square
Moving to a new city is often as stressful as it is exciting, especially when it comes to managing major life changes like starting a new job or finding housing. For parents of young children, finding a new childcare provider is often at the top of the to-do list when relocating — and it’s a process that can be agonizing even for lifelong residents of a city.
Finding local providers online and getting childcare recommendations from any metro Atlanta connections like friends, family, co-workers or your pediatrician are natural ways to begin your search. Their experiences will give you a good starting point, however, keep in mind that what they want for their child may not be the same as what you want for yours.
Once you have a list of options, go through the following steps to help narrow it down:
- Visit each provider’s website to learn more about what they offer.
- Once you’ve developed a short list of top choices, call for more information.
- If you like what you hear over the phone, schedule a tour.
There is no factor more important to your decision than your impression when you visit a preschool or provider. Many parents can tell if a school is right for their family based on how they and their child are greeted, how the children attending are interacting and how their questions are answered by the teacher or school director.
Even if you have a strong gut feeling, there are a few key questions you’ll want to ask either over the phone or as you tour the provider. The whole experience of searching for childcare can be overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to write down your questions ahead of time or keep a running list in your phone to ensure you don’t forget to ask something that is important to you.
Below are five topics that are important to ask about when evaluating your childcare options in metro Atlanta:
- Early Learning Approach: You may be seeking an unstructured, play-based environment for your child; a more structured approach with guidance from teachers; or a balance of both. Know what you’re looking for and ask the school or provider how the approach translates into the daily activities and classroom experiences.
- Learning Environment: Observe the children at the preschool or provider — how they are playing and learning, how teachers interact with them and the atmosphere of the classroom. Do teachers create a loving, secure environment for the children to learn, and do they seem to genuinely care for the children? Also ask to see the daily schedule. If there are different classrooms for various age levels, ask to see the rooms your child will grow into so you can get a full picture of the experience. You may also want to ask how the school helps extend what the children learn in the classroom at home.
- Parent Communication: Being away from your child is difficult. Ask about the tools and processes the provider uses to keep parents informed each day. Do they send you a daily overview of the activities your child participates in? Do you know what your child ate for meals and snacks? Do they send you pictures throughout the day? Good parent communication will help give you peace of mind even on the toughest days.
- Safety: Ask about the safety precautions the school or provider has in place (locks, placement of dangerous materials, etc.), as well as whether it has an emergency plan for various situations. You’ll also want to know how they will communicate with you in the event of an emergency.
- Accountability: Many childcare providers are accredited, but not all are held accountable for meeting certain standards on a regular basis. If quality is a big must-have for you, ask how the school or provider measures continuous improvement and whether a third party holds it accountable.
Primrose Schools in the Atlanta area accept children from 6 weeks old through pre-K with select schools offering private kindergarten, as well as before and after-school programs and summer camps for school-age children.
The Primrose Balanced Learning approach nurtures children’s intellectual, creative, physical and social-emotional development through a balance of purposeful play and nurturing guidance from teachers. To learn more about the 40 schools in metro Atlanta visit primroseschools.com/atlanta. For more helpful parenting tips and information, visit primroseschools.com/blog and sign up for the Pointers for Parents newsletter.