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Posted By Daycarespotter.com - Parent Blog Contributor on 04/14/2018 in Useful Information For Parents

Top 25 Questions to Ask on a School Tour

Top 25 Questions to Ask on a School Tour

Going on school tours is a vital part of any search for the right daycare or preschool environment for your child. You can learn so much just by seeing the space and observing the staff and students at the school.

However, new school tours can also be a stressful experience because of the pressure to make the most of the limited time you have. Child care is a big parenting decision and you want to have as much information as possible before making it.

Here is a list of 25 questions that you should ask on any new school tour:

  1. What licenses and accreditations does your school have? You certainly want to send your child to a state licensed preschool or daycare and you can probably find out about this online before your tour, but you should also ask about any additional accreditations or awards the school has received. Accreditations and awards aren’t everything, but often well-established schools will have some.
  2. What is your school’s educational philosophy or mission? Equally or more important than any additional accreditations or awards a school has received are it’s educational philosophy and mission. The goals of the school have to be a good fit for you and your child. The most important things to you should be reflected in the values of the school you choose.
  3. What curriculum does your school follow? The curriculum that the school follows will likely go hand in hand with the school’s educational philosophy. A stricter curriculum is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It, again, all goes back to what is right for your family. A note though, you should be wary of any school that claims its curriculum can speed up your child’s learning beyond what is developmentally appropriate.
  4. What would a typical day at your school look like for my child? How much free play time will your child have? How much time do children spend playing and exploring outside? Curriculum is definitely an important component to seek out, but the other parts of your child’s day are as well. Kids learn the most authentically when they are playing, so free play and outside time are crucial to a good learning environment for kids.
  5. What is the staff to child ratio at your school and does this ratio ever change? It is important to know how many adults will be in the room with your child, along with the number of children. It is also important to know if and why this might change at any given time. You should also research the regulations of this for your state.
  6. What type of education or training opportunities do your teachers have? These qualifications may vary from age group to age group. Just because your child’s teacher doesn’t have a degree in Early Childhood Education doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified to care for your child. There is a lot of training out there for preschool teachers and many schools require their staff to do a certain amount of it every year.
  7. What is the average amount of time your teachers have been on staff at your school? Many daycare centers and preschools tend to have a higher turnover rate. If you find a school that has had a consistency in their staff spanning several years, it most likely shows that they really invests in their teachers and treat them well. Happy teachers usually lead to happy students.
  8. Are snacks and meals provided? If so, what types of foods are the kids eating? Is it a nut-free facility? If not, what is done to protect children with nut allergies? Many schools provide meals and snacks for their students. It is important to find out what this entails and if it is included in the cost of your child’s care. It is also important to address any food allergies your child may have. In addition, it’s a good idea to be aware of the school’s policies if you do have to provide your child’s meals and snacks.
  9. What types of technology are in your school (such as televisions, iPads, computers, Kindle Fires, etc.)? How and when are they used? The presence of technology is not necessarily a bad or good thing in and of itself. There are a lot of great, enriching things that can be done with technology - especially with older preschoolers. However, time on technology should be very limited and for specific, educational purposes. Most daycare or preschool facilities will have a TV somewhere that can be pulled out for a special pajama and movie day, but if there is a TV is present in the classroom on a daily basis, it may be a sign that the staff is overworked and the kids are not being engaged as much as they should be.
  10. What are the discipline procedures and policies for your school? Does the school have any specific policies on biting or other behaviors that involve one child harming another? Do they focus more on positive reinforcement rather than punishments? Again, what is right for your child may vary and you have to find a school whose policies line up with your parenting preferences. You always want your child to be safe and to be compassionately corrected when they are misbehaving. Often times, redirection is the best behavior correcting strategy for young children.
  11. How do the teachers communicate with me about my child’s daily behaviors and their overall progress? Many schools send home daily folders with their students to communicate with parents, but there are also an increasing number that use apps such as “Class Dojo” to share photos and information with parents throughout the day. It is good know how you will receive information about your child and the best way to communicate with their teachers. You may also want to find out about the frequency of parent teacher conferences and progress reports.
  12. What safety features does your school building have? An increasing number of schools have video surveillance cameras in their classrooms. You should find out if parents have access to these camera feeds online or how to access these videos, if you have a concern about what is happening during your child’s school day. Make sure that entrances and exits to the school are locked at all times. Playground areas should be fenced and secure. Any area of the school where students are should be child-proofed.
  13. What is your release policy and who may pick up my child? In addition to learning about the physical safety and security of the building, you also need to know who has access to your child and how someone can go about picking him or her up in your absence. Almost any school will allow you to have a list of approved people to pick up your child for you, but you should verify that their ID will be checked and find out how to go about adding or removing someone from this list.
  14. What types of toys are present in the classrooms? How often are these toys changed out or rotated? Again, kids learn the best through play and it is important that the toys they are playing with are developmentally appropriate and changed every so often to keep the students engaged. Some schools even change out classroom toys to go with their curriculum. For instance, if the month’s curriculum centers on community helpers, there may be toys such as doctor kits, post office supplies, and fire trucks.
  15. Does your daycare celebrate and recognize diversity among the students? Many schools have an increasing awareness of and value placed on diversity. Some things you can look for that indicate this: Do children learn about different holidays and traditions in their curriculum? Are there dolls, book characters, and toys in a variety of skin tones present in the learning environment?
  16. What type of field trips or special events happen throughout the year? Are there extracurricular opportunities available such as dance class, music, soccer, etc? Many preschools bring in things like dance classes, puppet shows, and other opportunities for your child to learn and explore. This can be a great way to enrich your child’s school experience.
  17. What is your sick child policy? What is your policy about administering medicine? It is important to know what to do when your child has had a fever or has been sick and when they can and cannot return to school. You also need to know who can or will administer medications to your child.
  18. How is potty training handled at your school? Do children have to be potty trained by a specific age? Many traditional preschools require children to be potty trained before moving to a certain age classroom. It is good to know what age this is and what the school does to help with potty training. In-home daycares are usually more flexible with toilet training requirements
  19. How are naptimes done at school? For many young children, a naptime is a vital part of their day. It is important to know when and where the children will nap. Will your child be napping in a space separate from the normal classroom? What do the children nap on? Make sure to find out if your child needs to bring in their own mat, blanket, or pillow for naptime.
  20. What is the parent visitation policy? Childcare providers should feel comfortable with a parent dropping in at any time. There should be an open door policy to see their child during the school day.
  21. What do you expect from me as a parent? Find out what the school needs from you before your child’s first day and on a daily basis. You may need to provide your child’s snacks or lunch. You may also need to send in extra clothes in case your child gets messy or has an accident. If your child is potty training, find out how many diapers and pull ups your child should have in their bag and if you need to label them with the child’s name. It is a good idea to write your child’s name in their belongings being sent to school anyways.
  22. What are your hours and how does drop off and pick up work at your school? Every child care facility has specific hours and times. You should find out the procedure for dropping your child off in the morning as well as picking them up in the afternoon or evening. Find out if there is flexibility in these times and procedures. Also, find out if there are fees associated with a late pick up should you have something come up at work or get stuck in traffic.
  23. What’s your holiday schedule? Are there any other center closings you need to be aware of? It is important to know if and when you will need to have alternative child care plans. 
  24. What are the fees? Are there any sibling discounts or scholarships available? Do you have to pay if your child is sick or your family goes away on vacation? While money may not be your deciding factor in choosing a school, for most people, it is still an important one. It’s best to have as much information about what you need to anticipate financially as possible.
  25. Are there currently any openings? Is there a waiting list? What does the application process look like for the center? Sometimes the best centers have a waiting list - especially if you are seeking out a spot in the middle of the school year. However, openings do come up and getting on a waiting list can never hurt if you feel the school is the best choice for your child.

*BONUS QUESTION: Can I bring my child on a visit prior to enrolling? This question may lead to a follow up visit before enrollment (or you may have brought your child with you already!). Keep in mind that children will act differently when their parents are present, but bringing your child to tour their new school can give you a sense of how comfortable they are there and hopefully get them excited about all the fun they will have at school.

This list is a great resource for making sure you get that crucial information when making a choice about where to send your precious little one. There are so many factors that go into choosing the right child care for your child and it is also vital to be armed with valuable information, but your gut instincts as a parent mean a lot. When you tour your new school, do the children seem happy and engaged? Are the teachers cuddling the babies and talking to the children on their level? Are people smiling? Is this a place you could leave your child and feel good about the experience they are having while you are away from them?

Remember, whatever you choose, and for whatever reasons you choose it, you have to do what is best for your family.