The Definitive Guide to Picking the Right Preschool


Published:

Step 1: Identify preschools within driving distance from your home or office with a five-star rating with the North Carolina Division of Child Development.
Even if a preschool has achieved a five-star rating, standards can fall very quickly if there has been high staff turnover or if the school ownership has changed within the last few months.

Step 2: Check to see if the preschool has accreditation from AdvancED or NAEYC.
Accredited preschools must jump through additional 'hoops' to meet stringent curriculum, training and testing requirements. Both accreditation organizations are well known for their high standards, so you can feel confident picking an AdvancedED or NAEYC accredited preschool.

Step 3: Now you have a short-list! It's time to schedule tours at each preschool.
Here are some tips:
- When you call to schedule a tour, make sure you are not visiting at naptime because you won't be allowed into the classroom.
- Most preschool classrooms have one lead teacher, one assistant teacher, and if it is a full-day program, one "closer." These individuals will spend the most time with your child. When you set up your tour, mention that you would like to meet your child's class teachers for a few minutes.
- Have realistic expectations. Preschools, by definition, are bustling with activity. When you arrive for your tour, don't be surprised by this. In fact, this is a good thing because 'organized chaos' is exactly what your child will experience in elementary school, so it's best to expose her at a young age. It makes the transition to kindergarten much easier.
- During 'Center Time' many classrooms allow children to pick art, blocks, or other 'centers' they want to play in. If it looks chaotic, no worries. That means there is freedom of choice, movement and expression in the preschool.
- If you see a child staring into space, that's fine too. Too often, preschools are too structured and don't give children enough time to just 'be.' Daydreaming is part of a happy childhood! Every classroom should have a "cozy corner" where children can be quiet.
- Look beyond appearances. Some preschools clean up really well for parent tours. Toys are neatly shelved and children are on their best behavior. "The best preschools let parents see what it's really like," says Lynn Rasmussen, owner of Kids 'R' Kids RTP in Durham. "You want to see a true representation of life at the preschool."
- Use situations to ask questions. During your tour, if you see a child crying: don't be alarmed. It may be his first day at preschool, or maybe he didn't sleep well the previous night. These things happen. It may appear that a teacher is ignoring the crying child, but a few before you walked in, she may have been consoling him.
- Ask questions! "Different families have different ways of correcting behavior," says Monica Miller, field marketing specialist Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which has locations throughout the Triangle. "You want to make sure it aligns with the center where you are enrolling your child because consistency is key."
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues - and the walls! Is the children's art celebrated on the walls? Do the children seem to like and respect their teachers? Do the teachers get down to eye level when they communicate? Seventy percent of human communication is nonverbal, so you can learn a lot from simply observing.
- Pay attention to safety precautions and protocols. Does the main door have keypad access? Is there full visibility into the classrooms from the hallways? Does the school offer secure remote video monitoring, and is that important to you? You also need to evaluate if the preschool is prepared for emergencies. Where would the preschool evacuate to, and how you would be notified? Some parents want to see where their children will take shelter in the building in case of a tornado or severe thunderstorm. Pay close attention to the playgrounds. Do you see any nail pops on the inside of fences? Sharp scissors and cleaning products should be out of reach - and if your child is under age 3, make sure there are no plastic bags in the classrooms either.
- Evaluate the curriculum. The curriculum must be age-appropriate and based on the development of the child's brain. For example, a younger 2-year-old's brain is very different from older 2-year-old's brain and yet some preschools offer the same instruction to both cohorts.

Step 4: Make a final decision.
- Align with your own values. "Aligning childcare with family values is first and foremost," Miller says. "In this era of farm-to-table and organic, I'm seeing families who have nutrition as a high priority." She says guidance and discipline are other big components to consider for families.
- Ask one consistent question to each preschool. Miller recommends that parents ask the following role-playing question during each preschool tour: Johnny and Amy want the same toy. Johnny hits Amy. How would your preschool resolve the situation?
- Consider your child's unique needs. Some preschools creates special learning opportunities: Dr. Seuss' birthday, St. Patrick's Day, July 4 and Memorial Day, for example. If your child is easily bored or very bright, this preschool may be a good fit. Other preschools organize festivals and carnivals. "A shy children can come out of his shell in a safe environment - this helps with the transition to kindergarten," Rasmussen says. "Extroverted children can't wait to perform on stage!" Does the preschool invite outside coaches to offer extra curricular activities on the premises? If your 3 year old jumps out of bed with a squeal of delight every Wednesday because Coach Alyssa is coming to teach soccer, this preschool may be right for her. If your child is speech delayed, some preschools will allow a therapist to work with your child during school hours. This can save you time driving to therapy appointments.
- Follow your gut. After visiting your shortlisted schools, narrow it down to one or two finalists. Then, trust your own instincts. As a parent, you know best what's right for your child, and for your family. "It is all about a feeling you have once you have toured the school, met the teachers and the owners and reviewed the curriculum," Rasmussen says.

It's easy to second-guess yourself, especially if a neighbor or friend recommends a different school. But at the end of the day, you need to know one fact: there is no "perfect" preschool. But you can find one that works for your family.


Neesha Mirchandani is a marketing consultant and mother of a rising kindergartener in Raleigh. Reach her at impactstars.com, twitter.com @neeshamirchi or via Google+.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Day 32 — One Simple Wish

For today’s act of kindness, I wanted to do something to help the children within the foster care system who have also been separated from their parents.

June 25-28: Yarn Dyeing With Kool-Aid, a Walk Through the Seasons, Reptile Encounter and Summer Storytime

This week in the Triangle, dye yarn, hike, get up close with reptiles and learn about agriculture.

Day 31 — Yelp! Reviews

More and more often, I find myself headed to the internet, and ultimately to Yelp!, to learn about a business.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

Dads play free mini golf with each paying player at regular price.

Cost: $7.99/person

Where:
Adventure Landing
3311 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Landing
Telephone: 191-987-21688
Contact Name: Mike Collins
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take Dad to enjoy food trucks, live music and more at Durham Central Park's food truck rodeo. All ages.

Cost: Free. Food available for purchase.

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Come out to the millpond and fish the old fashioned way - we'll provide you with a cane pole, tackle, and bait, along with basic instructions and assistance with identifying fish species. You'll...

Cost: $1.00 per person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Telephone: 919-381-6068
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about law issues including divorce, separation, child custody, child support, landlord-tenant issues, and more. A local attorney will lead the discussion. This event is free and free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Compass Center for Women and Families
210 Henderson Street
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Compass Center for Women and Families
Telephone: 919-968-4610
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy "Kate Writes a Song."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Budding naturalists ages 2-6 enjoy a craft, engaging activity, and guided walk along the greenway. Register online. Choose course #219939.

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old who was recently recognized by President Trump at the State of the Union, to honor U.S. veterans by placing flags and flowers on their graves...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh National Cemetery
501 Rock Quarry Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 1-530-515-3825

More information

Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Little eyes, ears and hearts are always watching and learning how to navigate life through Moms. Explore what it means to manage your mind and how important it is for your family as well as...

Cost: $10

Where:
Center for Excellence
3803B Computer Drive, Suite 106B
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Tracy Nolin Beerman
Telephone: 919-612-4608
Contact Name: Tracy
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

More information

Enjoy an easy-paced and stroller-friendly walk along the greenway. Suggested for ages 3 and younger with parent. Register online. Choose course #219870.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Enjoy a free blueberry dessert and purchase fresh blueberries from local growers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kindergarten students entering year-round school practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and explore circle time.   

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join the folks at Open Table UMC in the Mordecai Neighborhood for free music and food trucks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Table United Methodist Church
824 N. Bloodworth Street
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Open Table UMC
Telephone: 919-561-2637
Contact Name: Andrea Chapman
Website »

More information

See the remake of Jeghetto’s hit puppet show co-written by Pierce Freelon of The Beast. This show was awarded two grants from the Henson Foundation. This Afrofuturistic puppet show,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main Street
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 191-992-92787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Get the real scoop on turtles, how they “earn a living," and hear a story. Ages 5 and older. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Transform a plastic storage box into a worm bin suitable for indoor use. Materials provided. Suggested for ages 6 and older. Register online by June 17. Choose course #220017.

Cost: $45/family for City of Raleigh residents; $60 for non-residents

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

After a shaded walk out to the creek entrance, take nets into the water to see some of these creek critters up close. Discuss some of the reasons it’s so important to keep these aquatic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy
Telephone: 191-990-80054
Contact Name: Molly Richard
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy Little Golden Books' "Jurassic Park." This action-packed and age-appropriate title is great for dinosaur lovers, both new and old. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy food trucks, games and dog-related vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy a one-hour family friendly performance, followed by a party in the lobby featuring live music, face-painting, snacks and additional activities. The 2018 Children’s Matinee...

Cost: $17.25

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Drive
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

More information

Pilobolus delivers a one-hour family friendly performance as part of the American Dance Festival. Enjoy an all-ages party in the lobby featuring live music, face-painting,...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Dr.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

More information

Enjoy all-things blueberry, food trucks and more at Vollmer Farms' annual Blueberry Festival. Vollmer Farms' Back-40 Country Playground will be open and features a giant...

Cost: $15/person. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
View map »


Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: $10.00 per boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

As the Triangle continues to grow, it is increasingly important to tell the stories of North Carolina so that natives, newcomers and visitors alike feel at home in our great places. Celebrate North...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
Historic Adams Farm
2601 Broad St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Website »

More information

See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.