How to Choose a Preschool

When we need childcare, we want the very best safe and loving care we can find. Just as Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord.” Our little ones are precious to us, and with so many working parents, choosing a preschool has become a necessity for most families. But with dozens of daycares and preschools to choose from in our area, not to mention in-home childcare and full-time nanny services, it can feel overwhelming and exhausting to explore all of the options.

A quick Google search on “choosing a daycare” provides numerous articles with suggestions on examining the different options for childcare and how to choose a provider. Objective resources like The Department of Children and Families and the Early Learning Coalition can also provide background information and guidance on choosing childcare. And you are probably getting a wealth of well-meaning opinions from friends and family about what you should do and where you should enroll your child. In an effort to make your search a little less stressful, let’s look at a few guidelines on choosing a preschool and how the Ministry Village Early Learning Center (ELC) stacks up in those areas.

A great deal of early learning research has focused on 3 primary areas shown to foster brain growth and development among infants and preschoolers. Those areas are environment, caregiver relationship and bonding, and interactivity. As you evaluate a childcare provider, think about how each of these areas is addressed in their program.

Environment

Much has been reported on the importance of a stable, nurturing and safe environment for a child. If a childcare provider is licensed through The Department of Children and Families, you can expect the center to meet certain health and safety standards – childproof locks, an appropriate amount of space for each child in the classroom and outdoor play areas, monitored entrances and exits, well-planned emergency procedures, etc. You should also expect staff members to be appropriately screened and carry the necessary training and certifications, including CPR and first-aid. Many in-home daycare situations are not licensed and therefore not required to meet these guidelines, so be sure to choose carefully and ask questions when interviewing a provider. While the upkeep of the facility itself is important for safety and cleanliness, a quality preschool should offer more than just a nice building. The teachers and staff members at your chosen preschool will spend an immense amount of time with your child, so trust your instincts on how the center makes you feel. Do you feel welcomed by the administration and the teachers as you visit the facility? Are you merely impressed by the facility itself – all the bells and whistles? Or do you also walk away believing that the school provides a nurturing and loving environment for the children in its care? Like so many parents have advised their children through the years, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

The Ministry Village ELC meets all health and safety standards and maintains a clean and stimulating environment for every child in its care. In the infant classrooms, where children are crawling, rolling, and spending much of their active playtime on the floor, we have a “No Shoes” policy to keep the floor clean and safe. Our teachers either have a staff credential — a Child Development Associate credential (CDA) or Florida Child Care Professional Credential (FCCPC) — or formal education and childcare experience in a classroom environment. As a Christian preschool, our teachers also demonstrate a love for teaching the Bible, and they integrate biblical principles and values into every interaction with the children in their care through singing Bible songs, leading prayers and training them on Godly values like caring for their friends and treating others with respect and kindness.

Caregiver Relationship and Bonding

The relationship your child cultivates with those who care for him or her is vital to healthy development. Quality caregivers should be friendly and eager to care for children; be warm, understanding and responsive to each child’s individual needs; be attentive to and interactive with the children; help the children manage their behavior in a constructive manner; and communicate effectively with parents. You should ensure that the program’s philosophy and guidelines on discipline correspond with yours. Caregivers should make it a priority to keep families informed on their child’s day and overall progress.

At the Ministry Village ELC, we strive to employ teachers and assistants who love what they do. Our teachers enjoy seeing each child achieve milestones. They work hard to build a bond with each child, providing the comfort and stability needed to reassure a child that he is safe and loved. Our teachers stay in close contact with parents to work together on development, and keep families informed of the child’s day-to-day activities. Each classroom has its own private Facebook group page where teachers post pictures and videos of the day’s activities. There, parents can see how their kids are spending the days and get a glimpse of those precious moments of smiles, naps and early steps.

Interactivity

Interactivity with a child is of utmost importance for encouraging development. It has been said that “daycares” watch children while “preschools” engage children. As you tour a preschool, watch how the teachers and staff interact with the children. Are they busy cleaning the room and doing daily tasks, or are they engaged with the kids, down on their level, talking and actually listening for a response? A quality childcare facility will provide a schedule with structured time to account for each part of the child’s day. Free time should be part of the day’s structure, but not make up the whole day. There should be time for children to play together as a group, as well as time to play alone. Teachers should provide stimulating, interesting and educational activities to encourage the development of fine motor skills (which will be important for activities like writing in preschool) as well as gross motor skills (which will help kids learn to skip, jump rope and kick a ball). Infants should not be left in cribs or strapped into high chairs for long periods of time, but should instead have a designated schedule for tummy-time and floor play. Toys should be age-appropriate, in good condition, and stimulating to the imagination.

Each classroom at the Ministry Village ELC has a schedule for the day, providing children with the structure they need to feel secure and the freedom they need to thrive. Teachers sing songs and play games to keep kids entertained and engaged, and take them on buggy rides around the school grounds to enjoy the weather and search for birds and flowers. Each day also offers plenty of time to play on the interactive playground, both independently and together in groups. With a variety of toys, playhouses, balls and tricycles, the playground is a stimulating and exciting environment for the ELC kids to gain social interaction and entertain their imaginations. Quiet time and nap time are also scheduled into the day to give children the time they need to rest, relax and stay balanced.

The Ministry Village Early Learning Center is committed to delivering Christ-centered, high quality care to the children in our community. Our mission is to equip the youngest generation with the skills and processes they need to build a strong educational base, while welcoming every member of our community and ensuring that each one feels treasured, loved and supported. We hope you’ll find that the Ministry Village Early Learning Center can meet your needs and the high standards that we believe all children and families deserve.

🍎Our first VPK classes will begin in August 2019, and VPK is free for Florida residents! For more information on VPK and how to qualify, visit the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County (www.elcescambia.org).

🏫We have current openings in our program for ages 2, 3 and 4! Call us today at (850) 378-8044 to learn more!

💻Visit our website at MinistryVillageELC.org for more information including rates and curriculum, and call us for a tour at (850) 378-8044. We’d love to meet you and your little ones!

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Ministry Village Early Learning Center
1724 E. Olive Road, Pensacola, FL 32514
(850) 378-8044

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