When going to observe preschools, this amazing resource was found by a special education consultant and sent my way. I'd really focus on the "observation section." I especially love that there is a section looking for "outdoor play." I'd... bookmark this website and pass along to others who may be making this decision
in the next few years. Happy Preschool Hunting! ~Marena Mitchell, Speech-Language Pathologist
To tag onto the preschool discussions, I thought I would add some insight regarding what fine motor might look like in preschool. In a preschool classroom, children should be presented with multiple opportunities
throughout the day to engage in fine motor tasks. Look for a classroom to have fine motor play opportunities during free play or "center" time. Are there toys or other manipulatives that ...require your child to use their hand muscles? Are these materials easily accessible to the children? Art activities are a common avenue to address fine motor development. Marena has previously mentioned focusing on your child's experience when creating, rather than the finished product. Are the children encouraged to create freely, using a variety of materials? Does the artwork in the classroom look child-made? Another question to ask, or observe during a classroom visit, if possible, is: are the children encouraged to manage their belongings or classroom materials independently? For
example, when preparing to go out for recess, are the children encouraged to put on/take off and zip/unzip their coats independently? Are the children encouraged to open/close and put items in/out of their backpacks independently? At snack time, are the children given opportunities to serve themselves? Many want to
know if their child will learn to write. Preschoolers should be provided opportunities to write their name, with more direct teaching the year before kindergarten. Learning to write letters outside the child's name is a skill they
will be taught in kindergarten. When looking at preschool classrooms, opportunity is key. Children should be provided numerous opportunities in a variety of different ways in order to help them develop their fine motor
~Sarah Eller, occupational therapist
Here is some insight from an occupational therapist that works with the birth through three years-old population on what she would ask when looking at different preschools: “What’s your philosophy regarding child development and learning? What are the learning styles and approaches you feel are appropriate for your students? What is your philosophy on classroom schedules and routines? What are your thoughts on visuals?
How do you “handle” behavior?” With the last question, my reference point would be to hope to hear the
teacher say she would teach.”
These are great questions to ask. Even if you don’t completely understand the importance of each of these questions, the way the teacher responds will provide great insight into if it is the right place for your child or not. You will get a “feel.”
The conversation on “finding the right preschool” for your little one continues tomorrow.
~Marena Mitchell, Speech-Language Pathologist
“Given the importance of play, and balancing that with the need to prepare my child for realities/expectations of kindergarten, how do I go about choosing the best preschool for my child? What kinds of questions should I
ask, and what should I be looking as I tour various preschools?”
This is a fantastic question and one that is often discussed between myself and close friends, many who happen to be therapists and teachers. To start, I’d jot down what is important to you for your child’s preschool experience. That looks different for each person. My own personal philosophy – I’d look for a preschool that focused on teaching and providing opportunities to expand your child’s social emotional skills (interacting with
others, resolving conflicts, joining play, expressing their thoughts/feelings, etc.). I’d ask how they go about developing these skills for children. I understand the push for academics. However, it’s the area I’m least interested in when it comes to a preschool environment. Children learn through play and to learn means they have to play. So many academic concepts (letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc.) can be naturally embedded into play (shapes of food, counting the Lego pieces as they build, etc.). When you observe the classroom, you’ll see the teacher and the assistants in the classroom. When you walk in, pay attention to where they are and what they are doing. If they are sitting on the floor (or in a chair close to the floor), then you know they focus on playing with your child and/or providing those “teachable moments.” I reached out to a few people in education that I have the utmost respect for and who have spent a considerable amount of time in the classroom and each of them provided great insight. For the remainder of the week, I’m going to focus on this topic and share
some of their thoughts/responses.
~Marena Mitchell, Speech-Language Pathologist
Daily tips, activities, and suggestions on how to naturally embed speech, language, play, fine motor, gross motor, and cognitive skills into your child's day, often using the materials already found in your home environment.
Marena Mitchell is a speech-language pathologist