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Selecting a Playschool

Just before I got pregnant with my second baby, I had these grand plans to visit as many pre-schools as possible to determine which would be the best one to send Gavin to.  Of course at the time I wasn’t planning to send Gavin to school until he was older – at least three, perhaps even four years old.

And then I got pregnant.  The fatigue and morning sickness symptoms of first trimester were not as bad as they were during the first pregnancy, but they were enough to keep me from visiting the schools.  In the end, I conceded defeat and agreed to send Gavin to school earlier than I had originally intended.

To help ease a transition I knew would be difficult for Gavin, I gave up trying to find the “best” school and selected the school where his godbrother and godsister were attending.  I figured that if he could see some familiar faces at school, it might make it a little easier for him to adapt. Even though I didn’t do the research as thoroughly as I would normally have, I felt that the benefits of having familiar faces at school outweighed any other benefits that could be have been derived from a “better” school. 

That said, recent events have reassured me that the school we chose to send Gavin to was a good choice after all.  Not only have the teachers been patient and understanding towards Gavin, the principal has also been proactive about meeting his needs.  For instance, she was willing to change him to a class he was happier in rather than insisting he remain in the class he was originally assigned to.

For me, the primary focus for Gavin and school has been the ease of his transition through what I know must be a very difficult time for him.  He has never been away from me consistently for four hours a day, five days a week.  At two and a half, I feel this has been a very big step for him to take.  Regardless of whether it seems overly protective on my part, I still believe that anything that can be done to ease his transition should be done.

Although you can look at a school’s educational program, the style of teaching, the type of teachers, etc., I feel that for children at this age, the more critical features of the school a parent should consider are whether the child will be happy at the school and whether the teachers are likeable (from your child’s point of view, not yours).  Of course there are also other things you should also consider, such as safety concerns, the ratio of teachers to students, etc. which I do feel is equally important, too.

I used to want the best of the best school for Gavin – Montessori trained teachers, the top programs, the best equipment, etc.  If you can find such a school for your child, I still think it’s great, but I no longer see those as essential criteria that a school must meet.  Regardless of the programs offered at school, toddlers can learn so much more than what is taught in class. 

At school, toddlers are learning about social interaction, making friends, sharing, caring, and a whole host of other non-academic lessons.  They are developing emotionally to a new situation that they have never encountered before.  That, in itself is a huge life lesson.  And learning about life itself is a large part of growing up and understanding the world around them.  As long as a child is happy and willing to engage his environment, you can rest assured that he will be learning something.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

8 thoughts on “Selecting a Playschool

  1. I read your Home-schooling vs Formal schooling….now I wonder shall I do the same, also in the same time let her join her enrichment classes such as music class (which she enjoys either kindermusik/musikgarten), then can go to kidzsport and swimming @ the clubhouse. When she turn 2.5~3 years old, then can go to the montessori school where we have reserved a placement for her. Since I have bought plenty study materials such as LOGICO PICCOLO, which I haven’t actually spend time to introduce her and also found several printable activities sheet from the internet.

    Last month she can sang several nursery rhymes and copied the nursery rhymes CD, counting 1~10, speech also improved a lots. We don’t know is it because she started her Brain development classes since November that helps or juz coincedencely happen at her age of 23 months or the school does help her, or may both classes she been attending plus in the car I played a lot of Nursery Rhymes to her.

    I do agreed you said “toddlers are learning about social interaction, making friends, sharing, caring, and a whole host of other non-academic lessons.” but my hubby isn’t happy with the school and worried the way that she been leave out with all the teachers is it a common thing in the past 6 months as well? or may be we are expecting too much from the school? I done most of the research and found 3 satisfied schools, 2 in Bangsar and 1 in Damansara Heights. Took my hubby to viewed the schools, last shortlisted 1 in bangsar and 1 in Damansara Heights, then he is more preferred the Damansara Heights pre-school but they only take 2.5+ years old, so we can wait, during the slot times, we put her in Bangsar Pre-school which ok to take her when she is 18 months.

    Now my hubby just informed me to tell the Principal that Em will be withdrawn till next term, and I can take her to do the enrichment classes, get social with her frenz who isn’t in the preschool yet until she is ready to go to the Damansara Heights preschool that he is satisfied and that school is more structured. He said different children is suitable for different types of education and the teacher plays an importance role here to observe a student’s behaviour, emotional, skills and development, if a teacher can’t observe that in the low ratio group, it will have some problems there. Second thing he wasn’t impressed with the school is lack of feedback.


  2. To be honest, I wasn’t keen to send Gavin to school so early. I was thinking at least let him turn 4 first. This was only because I got pregnant. I agree – it is very difficult to find a good school and the younger they are (the children), the more important it is to have good teachers that know how to bring out the best in your child. That’s why I often felt home schooling was best when your child is very young. As an involved parent, you know your child best.

    I don’t know if you read my post about why preschool isn’t good for really young children? Logically, we think that it will help them develop socially, but ironically, it doesn’t. For instance, how can a child learn to “share” with other children who don’t know how to share? When they play with adults, we can show them that if they share their toys with us, they will get it back. But if they share a toy with another young child who doesn’t know how to share, they learn that they don’t necessarily get their toys back if that other child refuses to give it back. So instead of learning to share, they become more possessive of their toys.

    Many of these lessons, they need to learn from adults – not other young children. That said, there are some good things to be had from preschool – keeping your child engaged in activities, helping them learn to overcome shyness and interact with other children their age, etc. Then again, all these things can also come later on, so there isn’t really a need to rush a child to preschool. For us, it was more of a convenience to have Gavin away for part of the day so I could give Gareth one on one attention.


  3. That’s most of the parenting books said: “Parent is the best teacher for the Child.” Children learning more from their parents rather than teacher.

    for instance: If parent lies in front of the children – Children will learn that too.


  4. Most of the parenting books that I read, it stated: “the parents who should be the first teachers of young children.”

    Looking back in the past 23 months, I think Emilie enjoys learning from either my hubby and me, in fact she do learnt faster. I supposed it is the bonding period making her happy.

    Sending her to school was purely thinking that she is the only child and will be d only child in the family, she need to learn how to make and play with lil frenz. We thought the best way is not only thru our own frenz group, another place will be school.

    Well, 2.5 years old ~ 3 years old let her go to the montessori school that both of us like and she been that school several times too, for visiting and for their school fund raising fair. We like the principal and the teachers are so friendly, I supposed my hubby like it, purely coz the principal is from the UK and most curriculum used is similar to the UK and easy to communicate as well.


  5. Shen-Li,

    what I found from web, may be you read them before.

    What is a good teacher?
    1) A good teacher talks with children a lot, asking questions that allow them to explore more deeply through play. They show respect for children by telling them what they’re going to do, i.e. “I’m going over to the book corner now,” rather than just flitting around the room. With the best teachers, you can’t see how hard they’re working because you can’t tell that with one child they are focused on his small motor development, and at the same time, they are thinking about how to help these two other children engage in more cooperative play.

    2) A really good teacher has eyes in the back of her head. She knows what’s happening on the other side of the room. She isn’t necessarily telling children what to do all the time. In the case of a conflict between two kids, I’d want to see the teacher articulate the problem in a way that helps children see what’s happening, but allows them to resolve it. For instance, the teacher might say, “You both want that shovel right now. Is there a way you can both play with that?” The answer might be more shovels or taking turns with the one they have.

    3) Preschool teachers need specific training, ideally an early childhood education degree, not just a background in education. Also look for teacher-student ratios. Don’t go by state standards alone. They are a good place to start, but NAEYC accreditation standards say there should be one adult for every six 2 to 3 year-olds in a classroom, and one adult for every ten 3- to 4-year-olds.]


    Oh yeah – FYI, my frenz recommended me to bought a set of [Chinese 1st 100 words] which is pretty good, her daughter preschool used it as a text book, she do see the improvement. The new version came with CD. Here is the link:
    although you can get them from POPULAR Bookstore, but it is a bit expensive selling in Popular.


  6. Thanks for the links.

    Yes, you are so right – parents are the best teachers for really young children. Young children learn best in a one-to-one environment with an attentive caregiver. Who would be more attentive than a parent?

    We definitely need to be more vigilant on what we say and do. They pick up so fast and sometimes you don’t realise it because they don’t necessarily repeat it at the time when you do it but much later. They are storing so much inside that little head of theirs that we don’t know about.

    I read in Nurture Shock the same thing about how children learn to lie – when they watch their parents lie. Even something as small as the parent lying on the telephone to get rid of those telesales people… It’s tough – so many things we do without thinking now falls under the scrutiny of our young ones…


  7. I recently read e homeschooling, it has few programme; such as waldorf;aop, calvert etc. Unfortunately my Hubby disagreed d homeschooling.


  8. My hubby disagrees with it, too, so I never researched very deeply on it. Haven’t heard of any of these programs but recently reading the book “Nurture Shock” recommends a program called “Tools of the Mind”. Still reading about it but hope to blog more about it soon. Sounds very interesting and very promising.


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