There are many buzzwords used to describe early-childhood education. One of the most common is “high-quality preschool.” When looking for a preschool in Phoenix, most families would agree that choosing one described as high-quality is ideal.
It sounds great, but what does it really mean for a preschool program to be high-quality? Here are some of the elements high-quality preschools have in common.
- Trained Teachers
- Developmentally Appropriate Practices
- Open-Ended Play
- Strong Connections Between School and Home
High-quality preschools employ lead teachers who have been trained in early childhood education. These teachers should have at least an associate’s degree, though many hold a bachelor’s degree. In their education, teachers will learn the foundations of child development, which is critical to their ability to support their students.
At high-quality preschool programs, teachers are active participants in their students’ learning. Instead of serving as supervisors, they observe and interject into children’s activities. For example, a teacher might encourage a child building a block structure to add an additional element or troubleshoot a building problem.
Teachers also support students in their social-emotional learning. High-quality preschool programs use logical consequences to encourage students to learn from their mistakes. Instead of “time-out,” teachers will discuss problems with students and brainstorm ways to make it better. They’ll also support students’ self-regulation with reminders about positive behavior and strategically planned breaks and quiet time.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
High-quality preschools know how to use child development research to create an environment that is most conducive to learning. They follow guidelines based on research and expert advice, giving children opportunities to learn based on what’s appropriate for their development.
Developmentally appropriate practices meet children where they are. It means considering how to support students as they grow and learn. High-quality preschools plan on these moments and know what to expect from their students based on their developmental stages.
Some key components of developmentally appropriate practices are:
- Providing students with ample free playtime.
- Setting students up to meet behavior expectations by offering plenty of reminders and ways for them to self-regulate.
- Considering how long students can reasonably be expected to sit still and quiet, go without movement breaks, and maintain focus on a task.
- Meeting the physiological needs of students by scheduling meals, snacks, and naps at appropriate times throughout the day.
Giving children the freedom to learn through play is an important element of high-quality preschool. Children learn best through play. At a high-quality preschool, most of the day will be spent engaging students in play.
Open-ended play is the best way to encourage students to explore. Toys and materials presented to children should have multiple uses whenever possible. Teachers can encourage children to use the materials differently by adding new elements. Posting images of famous architecture can inspire children to build something new in the block center. Regularly swapping out pretend play items can help children flex their imaginative muscles.
High-quality preschools won’t have children doing worksheets or spending extended time sitting still. Playtime should offer children the opportunity to make their own choices about how to spend their time. Sometimes teachers may guide students or have them work on a project for a short period of time during free play, but most of that time should be open for the students to make their own decisions.
Strong Connections Between School and Home
High-quality preschools encourage families to participate in their child’s learning. Communication between schools and home should be strong. Families should be able to get daily feedback about their child’s progress if they ask for it. Schools will assess children regularly and provide updates to parents periodically. High-quality preschool programs make sure student learning and development is being monitored.
Another thing many high-quality preschools do is keep parents informed about what children are learning. They will post weekly lesson plans for families to see and often include extension activities for families to keep the learning going at home. Many preschools also post videos or photos of day-to-day classroom activities for families to see. It’s wonderful for families to feel included while their child is at school.
A high-quality preschool program in Phoenix, Arizona
Valley Child Care and Learning Centers offer a high-quality preschool program for families in the Phoenix area. Families can trust that their children are getting the best education possible, with a research-based approach to curriculum. Teachers emphasize play-based learning, using developmentally appropriate practices to support children in their growth.