Why Preschool Is the Best Time for Your Child to Learn a Second Language

Across the United States, second language immersion programs are growing. In Austin, Texas alone, hundreds of students are expected to enroll in multilingual programs across several school districts by the 2023-24 school year. Study after study has shown the benefits of bilingualism, leaving parents wondering where they can sign their children up.

But learning a second language doesn’t have to wait until a child enrolls in kindergarten. While it’s certainly never too late to embark on the bilingual journey, introducing your child a second language during their preschool years comes with many unique advantages. To learn more, PrekAdvisor spoke with professor and director of California State University – Monterey Bay’s Monterey Institute for English Learners Suzanne García-Mateus, Ph.D.

There’s No Time Like Preschool

We often hear how it is easier for young children to pick up on a new language than it is for adults. And although there is something about their brain chemistry that allows them to soak up a new language like sponges, this is a common misconception because it is not the only factor.

“That’s actually a myth. It’s not actually “easier” for them,” García-Mateus explained. “The difference for young children is that they have more opportunities to use the language.” In fact, some research actually points out that it is easier for adults to learn new languages thanks to their established linguistic awareness. 

Instead, young children in immersion programs appear to more readily pick up on languages because it is simply what they do all day. Their time at school is spent playing, singing, and freely having interactions in the new language, creating a strong foundation in the second language and building confidence in their linguistic abilities. 

As kids grow, these opportunities typically decrease. Older children and adults have competing demands like social lives, jobs, and busy schedules that command their focus and attention. A preschooler has the opportunity to spend eight hours a day with the new language, whereas older learners may only get an hour or two to practice their skills. It becomes harder to achieve fluency in new languages as we get older simply because we don’t have as much time to practice. Because of this, there’s no time quite like the first five years of a child’s life for them to be introduced to another language.

Learning Languages Together

Some parents worry that teaching their child a new language before they’ve completely mastered one will create confusion and prevent them from properly learning either one. But this, too, is a common misconception. In fact, parents shouldn’t wait at all. Young children are perfectly capable of taking on two or more languages at once. 

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, one of the best methods of bilingual teaching is to use the two languages from the start. 

The Benefits of Immersion Programs

Instead of small doses of instruction, preschool immersion programs allow children to dive headfirst into new languages and cultures. Being bilingual comes with a number of unique benefits ranging from sociocultural competency to cognitive flexibility.

The Cultural Benefits

Immersion programs do more than simply offer instruction for another language— they offer a look into another culture. So often, parents are focused on the academic achievement aspect of bilingualism that they fail to see the advantages of learning about other cultures. Immersion programs help foster growth, acceptance, and respect for people across all walks of life. It also gives parents the opportunity to have these types of conversations with their children, starting from a young age.

“Children will have an opportunity to gain cultural awareness about an ethnic group that they are probably not a part of,” García-Mateus noted. Learning multiple languages allows children to develop a level of understanding and empathy for others that can help them bridge divides that may have been harder to overcome otherwise.  This carries over to other aspects of their lives as well because it teaches children that there are multiple ways to describe and understand the world around them.

Cognitive and Economic Benefits

On top of the sociocultural competency advantage that bilinguals have, research has revealed time and time again the cognitive and economic benefits of learning a second language. An article published by Michigan State University described greater cognitive flexibility, a better ability to focus, and an increased adeptness at solving mental puzzles in youth who speak more than one language. While bilingualism isn’t necessarily a magic bullet key to success, it can certainly make individuals stronger candidates over their monolingual peers.

But for bilingual educators like García-Mateus, these additional advantages are just icing on the cake.

What Parents Should Keep in Mind

Once you make the decision to enroll your child in a language immersion program, there are a few steps you can take to set them up for success. 

Finding the Right Preschool and Immersion Program

At the preschool level, children should not be seated in classrooms listening to lessons on grammatical structures.

“I cannot emphasize this enough,” García-Mateus stated. “They need to learn through play, through songs, and through meaningful interaction.” Children need to be able to interact with others in the language that they are learning, and the best opportunity for that is through structured play, outdoor time, and project-based learning. García-Mateus went on to say that for parents who are observing preschools, “a positive indicator that they are playing to learn is seeing children being children.” 

As for which specific type of immersion program is best for your child, that all will depend on the student demographic. For example, Spanish dual-language education is designed for populations that have a mix of Spanish-speakers who may be bilingual already and English-speakers. For populations where there are no to few Spanish speakers present, methods like structured immersion would be more appropriate.

Promoting Bilingualism at Home

For children to develop their skills, learning shouldn’t stop in the classroom. Parents often ask what they can do to supplement their child’s second language acquisition, especially if they do not speak the language that their child is learning. García-Mateus outlined a few important practices that parents can do to support their emergent bilingual at home.

Simple things like playing music, tv, and videos in the second language can go a long way in reinforcing the skills that they are learning at school. As children begin reading, parents can have their child read aloud to them in the language, even if they don’t understand what is being said. Parents should ask questions about the stories. What did they learn? Who were the main characters? What did the characters accomplish? By doing this, children hone in on their biliteracy, pronunciation, and comprehension skills.  

Lastly, García-Mateus described how parents should show their children how they love the language that they are learning. This means never, ever putting down those who speak the language and how the speakers pronounce words. “Parents really need to uplift the language that the children are learning in their home,” she noted. Doing this will create a positive association with the language and get their child excited about learning it.

Opening Your Mind to a New Culture

García-Mateus offered one last piece of advice for new parents with children in immersion programs. “If you’re coming into these programs, and [the language] isn’t a part of who you are, consider yourself a guest and be honored to be a part of that community.”

As a parent with a child in an immersion program, you will likely encounter cultural norms that are different from your own. Children are observant and see how you adapt, adjust, and respect other cultures. Keep this in mind, and know that this is a special opportunity for you to learn and grow with your child. 

Preschool is an important time in your child’s life and presents unique language-learning opportunities. In immersion programs, they’ll have ample opportunity to build and practice their skills through play and meaningful interaction. The benefits of bilingualism go beyond the often talked about economic and cognitive advantages. Being bilingual gives children a chance to immerse themselves in another culture, opening up an entirely new world of possibilities for them and their future.

The Importance of Play and Movement in Pre-K Learning

When you think of your child’s pre-k curriculum, you probably think of the academic concepts that they will sit down and learn. And while instruction on 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs are certainly important, it’s crucial to realize the pivotal role that movement and play take in your child’s preschool learning.

Acting out stories, twirling and dancing, running and jumping, and making up games are more than just entertainment for children. They are the ways that they discover the environment around them, develop socially and emotionally, and learn how to express themselves in a healthy way. Because of this, movement and play should be one of the methods through which your child is taught in pre-k.

Benefits of Movement and Play

Play is the foundation through which a child acquires essential knowledge about their world and gains skills that will be used throughout the rest of their lives. In fact, play has been shown to have both a direct and indirect effect on brain structure and functioning, meaning that it actually has the ability to literally transform the physical brain. In short, there is no aspect of a child’s development that is not influenced by these types of activities.

Working Together and Understanding Communication

Playing with others teaches children the basics of communication and how to interact socially with others. They’ll develop skills such as sharing, negotiating, and conflict resolution.

Language skills are also sharpened during this time by talking to other children, explaining games, and working through problems aloud when alone. By listening to others speak, they’ll pick up on new vocabulary and draw connections from objects to the words that describe them. Without realizing it, they’ll also begin to pick up on the grammatical structures of the language. This is one of the reasons why Spanish immersion schools are so effective in fostering second language fluency in children.

Processing Emotion

When engaging in dramatic play, children take on the persona and emotions of other people and characters. This gives them the opportunity to process and work through feelings like fear, anger, and emotions around specific situations they may be facing. For example, the classic childhood game of playing doctor can help a child overcome anxieties related to going to their actual pediatrician. By acting out other characters, your child will also pick up on the basics of empathy. 

Play also helps build a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Think of a child wanting to do the monkey bars on a playground for the first time. They recognize and establish a goal, then formulate a plan to accomplish it. Through trial, error, and eventual success, a child builds the confidence to try and take on other new things.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Puzzles and games provide an excellent opportunity for your child to hone in on their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Even made up games among children are often complex and require children to strategize and think ahead to some degree. They’ll master basic skills like evaluating information and making decisions based on what they know.

Building Healthy Bodies and Minds

Play and movement are also crucial in your child’s physical health and development. It’s never too early to create active lifestyle habits in your children, and it all begins by encouraging play. Through games and movement, children discover their range of motion, develop balance, build muscle strength, and fine-tune their coordination. 

Like many aspects of development, the skills a child builds early on are the basis of other skills down the line. For example, completing tasks with their hands in play helps a child build the muscles and control that’s needed later on for writing. 

The role that play can have on mental health is also astounding. One study examined the correlation between the decline in play in the American classroom and the rising incidence of anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism. The study contends that the two are in fact related, and that the decline in play has contributed to the rise in psychopathology in youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also noted the role that play has in managing “toxic stress” and forming “safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.” 

Making Connections

Free play allows a child to make connections between what they experience and what they are taught through passive learning. For instance, a child might notice how whenever a ball is thrown in the air, it always comes back down. They may develop their own theories and perform self-guided experiments. Does the ball go higher if I stand on top of the play scape and throw? Does it go farther if I throw harder?  Though they know no formulas or technical jargon, your child has discovered gravity. 

A teacher may explain basic science concepts in the classroom, but until a child sees it in action, it may just remain an abstract concept. According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it’s possible to play with purpose and to guide children in understanding concepts with playful learning. Both structured and unstructured play is a time for a child to independently seek answers to their questions and delve further into their own interests.


The benefits of movement and play are endless, yet, schools are giving children less time to play than ever before and opting for a passive learning approach. When looking for the perfect preschool for your child, it’s important to consider the role movement and play will have in their curriculum. An exceptional pre-k will give your children ample time for play and allow them to move and express themselves in the classroom.

What Are the Different Types of Preschool Programs?

We’ve all heard the phrase “kids are like sponges” and it’s a saying that couldn’t hold more truth. From the moment they’re born to age 6, children continuously absorb and process the environment around them. In fact, research shows that by age five, 90% of the brain has developed. This is a crucial time in your child’s life, and there’s no better time to give them a head start that will set them up for social, emotional, and academic success down the line. Pre-k provides this foundation for a life of learning and lays the building blocks for their education to come.

But did you know that not all preschools are the same?  And we are not just talking about the faculty, facilities, and quality of school lunches. Just like elementary school and beyond, quality preschools follow a pedagogical program and curriculum. Pedagogy is how teaching is done, as compared to a curriculum, which is what is taught. Great preschools should have both. In pre-k, the curriculum should address all aspects of a child’s development, provide ample time to learn through exploration and play, and teach the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten. 

While schools can utilize their own unique approaches, many opt to follow existing pedagogical programs. We’ve broken down some of the most popular pre-k programs including:

  • Montessori
  • IB
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Waldorf
  • Highscope
  • Bank Street 
  • Language Immersion


Montesorri education is defined by practical application of sensory-based and self-directed learning that focuses on establishing self-discipline, independence, and self-esteem. Montessori allows students to learn at their own pace and classrooms are typically multi-age, allowing children to build a unique learning community. Children are viewed as individual learners with teachers serving as guides.

The environment and classroom materials and resources play a big role in the Montessori education. You’ll find special wood instructional materials called manipulatives, math aids, puzzles, blocks, and practical items organized on open shelves.

To be a Montessori instructor, teachers must graduate from a specialized training program. There are also two Montessori organizations that a school can be affiliated with: Association Montessori Internationale and the Amercian Montessori Society. However, a school may claim to be a Montesorri without actually being affiliated with one of the organizations.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate curriculum serves students ages 3-19 in over 150 countries throughout the world. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is geared towards children ages 3-12 and prepares students to become “active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others”. The PYP has five essential elements: knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes, and action.

The curriculum is designed to support the students’ efforts to construct meaning from the world around them. Emphasis is placed on social and emotional development, communication, and deeper-level thinking skills. Students are encouraged to be active participants in their learning through hands-on activities and play. 

In order to implement the Primary Years Programme, teacher must attend specialized training provided by the International Baccalaureate.

Reggio Emilia

In a way similar to Montessori, students take the lead in their learning with a Reggio Emilia curriculum. This student-centered learning is driven by experiences and relationships with each other. Young children are encouraged to be curious about the world around them, express themselves, communicate, think logically, and problem solve. The Reggio Emilia approach follows four main principles:

  • Emergent curriculum: What is taught in the classroom stems from the interests of the children. Teachers communicate with students and parents to determine what subjects the students find to be most interesting. 
  • Representational development: New ideas are presented in multiple formats and mediums.
  • In-depth projects: Students complete in-depth projects on subjects that they are most interested in. They learn to explore, ask questions, and represent what they learn. 
  • Collaboration: Teamwork and collaboration is encouraged.


Rather than early exposure to academic content, emphasis is placed on creative thinking and imagination in the Waldorf approach. Focus is placed on a child’s spirit and soul with instructors fostering a love for curiosity and learning. The daily structure is predictable and dependable, allowing children to gain security and familiarity in the rhythm of their days.

Daily activities include imaginative play, arts and crafts, storytelling, music, cooking and other creative learning experiences. The Waldorf approach is also noted for its exclusion of electronics and digital media. 

Teachers receive special training through the Waldorf organization, and schools must be affiliated with the organization to claim the name.


With the HighScope program, your child will follow consistent daily routines in a well-organized classroom setting. There is a heavy emphasis placed on academics and teachers encourage students to build their skills through “active participatory learning”.

HighScope is noted for its “play-do-review” format of the school day. Students participate in a play-based activity, develop a plan to reach their goals, and analyze the results at the end of the day. This curriculum has been noted to be especially beneficial for students who might need more one-on-one attention.

Bank Street 

With the play-based approach of Bank Street, students learn through experience. Your child will participate in a great deal of hands on activities like dramatic play, art, blocks, and puzzles in a Bank Street school. The world is considered to be the greatest teacher of all, and lessons are typically focused on social sciences like history, geography, and anthropology.

This curriculum is designed to develop emotional, social, physical, and intellectual aspects of a child’s life. Like Montessori classrooms, Bank Street preschool classrooms have mixed ages, allowing children to work together at all stages of development.

Language Immersion

Early childhood is the most crucial time in our lives for language acquisition. Cornell University research shows that the earlier a child begins learning a new language, the more likely that they will develop fluency as well as the other cognitive advantages that come with being bilingual.  

Language immersion preschools take advantage of this fact with classes that are either partly or completely conducted in another language. Learning styles, structure, and content may vary from school to school, but the goal is to provide fluency in a second language. 


With so many options out there, it can be hard to choose. But no matter what pedagogical program and curriculum your child’s pre-k utilizes, it should address all aspects of a child’s development, provide ample time to learn through exploration and play, and teach the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten. 

How Can Pre-Schools Instill a Love of Learning in Their Students

Aside from helping young children grow and develop socially, emotionally, and academically, one of the most important things that a child’s preschool experience can do is instill a lifelong love of learning. Cultivating a love of learning at an early age will enrich a child’s life as they get older and enter adulthood. A child that has developed a genuine interest in learning will be motivated to acquire new skills and knowledge in areas that they’re passionate about and be enthusiastic about exploring new topics. 

A love of learning can’t be taught, but it can be inspired. Because young children are naturally curious and inquisitive, pre-k is the perfect time in a child’s life to instill this passion.

Preschools can instill a love for learning in their students by:

  • Encouraging learning through play
  • Providing answers to questions
  • Supporting the student’s areas of interest
  • Holding engaging discussion instead of lectures
  • Providing a learning-friendly environment
  • Allowing teachers to lead by example

Encouraging Learning Through Play

Many see play simply as entertainment or diversion, but this isn’t the case. For young children, learning through play important for development and is one of the most effective forms of instruction— and the most fun! Play helps children explore and make sense of the world around them. Games improve motor skills, teach communication, and build critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

An activity as simple as stacking blocks can teach a toddler the foundation of science and math like counting, shapes, and the concept of gravity. Games played with other children helps develop speech, language, and listening skills. Evidence also shows that children who engage in play-pretend activities have more sophisticated levels of interaction with others as well as higher cognitive abilities. 

Many preschools are play-based or at least incorporate play throughout the day as a form of instruction. 

Providing Answers to Questions

Why is the sky blue? What makes the grass green? Why do cows moo? We’ve all heard the endless stream of questions from inquisitive kids. Pre-k is a place where children can discover the answers to these questions and be challenged to ask new ones. Exploration is encouraged and new exciting discoveries will be made on a daily basis.

Preschool will also help children be able to figure out answers for themselves instead of simply accepting responses from those in a position of authority. By helping children work through problems and answers, they earn a sense of accomplishment and discover the joy of learning.

Supporting Areas of Interest

Kids are naturally going to be more interested in certain subjects and topics than others. Instead of trying to force interest in all areas, it’s beneficial to focus on the things that they love and explore those areas more. Preschool gives children the chance to delve more into subjects that they love. Some major pre-k curriculum are student-guided, meaning that students can choose activities based on their current interests.

In addition to this, preschool opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your child by exposing them to different experiences and subjects. 

Holding Discussions Instead of Lectures

The discussion-style teaching of pre-k allows children to take an active role in their own learning. Instead of a teacher standing in front of the class and simply telling students how to do a certain task, discussion style teaching lets students work through problems and encourages them to ask questions along the way. 

By asking open-ended questions, teachers can prompt students to think critically about the material that they are learning. Inspiring out-of-the-box thinking early on leads to better creative problem solving later in the child’s life.

Provide a Learning-Friendly Environment 

One of the main indicators of a quality preschool is the presence of a learning-friendly environment. Preschool classrooms should be set up to make learning fun and encourage free movement, but also have well-defined areas for special tasks. 

For example, a reading nook provides a quiet, relaxing area for children to look through picture books. More spacious areas and outdoor playgrounds are conducive to cooperative play. These types of setups also allow your child to determine which way they learn best. 

Aside from the physical layout of the classroom, good preschools provide a place where children feel safe. Children who are able to express their opinions and emotions without fear of angering or disappointing others will be more inclined to explore outside their comfort zones and develop a healthy sense of self-confidence. Preschools provide an environment where children are lovingly encouraged to learn from their mistakes. Failure is not seen as a bad thing, rather it’s viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Leading by Example

Attitudes towards learning are infectious; if the teacher is motivated to teach and learn alongside their students, this enthusiasm will be passed along to the children. On the other hand, if an instructor seems bored with the class material, children can pick up that sentiment. Teachers should enthusiastically share their own knowledge and experiences with learning with the class. 

Some adults like to respond “I don’t know” to shut down kids’ excited inquiries. While teachers should be honest about their lack of knowledge on a subject, they should also add “but let’s find the answer together” to the phrase. From a young age, children will see that one is never too old or too experienced to enjoy learning. 

While your kid may be hanging on to your leg on the first day of school, by the end, they may be hanging onto their teacher’s leg. Throughout the school year, children grow to look up their classroom instructors. One of the best ways that a teacher can lead their class to love learning is by example. 


In order for a child to truly develop a love of learning, a preschool teacher’s efforts must be supported at home. As a parent, you should be excited about what your child is learning at school. Encourage them to share their knowledge, and build upon it. This is one of the most important developmental times in your child’s life. Set them up for success and happiness down the line by showing them that learning is fun, rewarding, and worthwhile. 

How Good are Your Child’s Preschool Facilities?

Research has shown a connection between high-quality preschool education and long-term outcomes like higher future earnings, better health, better focus, and less criminal activity. So how can you determine the quality of the preschool in your area to make the best, most informed choice for your child? One of the important factors in ensuring the quality of your child’s education is the quality of the facility as a whole. Preschool is not just about learning ABCs and 123s. During this pivotal time in a child’s life, they’re learning to explore, explore their curiosity, their personality, and the world around them. Their preschool must give them the best space to do this. 

Some factors to consider: 

  • Safety and Space
  • Communication and Conflict Resolution
  • Accreditation and Licensing
  • Programs and Resources

Safety and Space: Room to Grow, Safe to Be

As a parent, the space and cleanliness of a preschool is the easiest factor to check off the list with a visit or tour of the school. As with any preschool, it is non-negotiable that the facilities be clean and safe for the children and that there is plenty of space for them to run and play. Pre-k age children experience taking a very hands-on approach with all of their senses and curiosities, touching and tasting everything, climbing and crawling on everything. Here are some things you should look at: 

The Playground

Ample space for outdoor play is crucial to prevent run-ins between children and injury as much as possible. A rubber surface on the playground will also help to avoid serious injury, breaking the falls of children on their climbing, recess escapades. Rubber pellet and wood chip surfaces present a choking risk. Wood is especially dangerous as children could get splinters. 

The Furniture

Child-sized bodies require child-sized furniture. Make sure the furniture in the classroom is fitting to their size and is of strong, safe material and structure. 


With all the touching and tasting, regular cleaning with non-toxic supplies is imperative to prevent the spread of germs that is especially common in pre-k.  


Dropping your child off at preschool is a new experience for them and you. You want to be able to feel as much ease as possible in this situation, so ensure the preschool you choose has taken proper precautionary safety measures, from safety drills to check in and check out system to cameras and locks. 

Communication and Conflict Resolution: Why It Matters

Parents’ involvement in their child’s education is vital, making communication between the school and the parents incredibly critical. It is ideal if the preschool has no past history of formal regulatory actions by parents or regulatory bodies citing issues with the facility. Even if they don’t, before sending your child to the facility, confirm that past problems have been successfully resolved. It is critically important that the school is open and honest with parents about issues and operational topics that affect them or their children in some way. With that, child-specific conversations should be had between teacher and parents frequently as they are working together in the efforts of the child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The Reggio Emilia-Inspired philosophy provides a good rule of thumb for this parent-teacher communication dynamic. 

Accreditation and Licensing: Standards Beyond the State

Every preschool institution should be licensed to operate, first and foremost. In addition, a good quality preschool should also be accredited by a state or regional organization. Accreditation is a voluntary process that a quality school will undergo to prove their quality. Preschool accreditation guarantees that students are offered a high level of care and that the school meets certain academic, social, health, and safety standards. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the largest preschool accrediting organization, evaluates based off ten standards

  1. Relationships
  2. Curriculum
  3. Teaching
  4. Assessment of Child Progress
  5. Health 
  6. Teachers
  7. Families
  8. Community Relationships 
  9. Physical Environment
  10.  Leadership and Management. 

Nationwide, only around 10% of preschools and early childhood education centers have received accreditation from the NAEYC. Accreditation goes beyond the simple state regulations of licensing. School visits, interviews with teachers and administrators, and student observations determine whether or not the pre-K exceed those regulations. 

After School Program: Learning After Hours

Not only do after school programs provide a safe, structured place for children of working parents, they also demonstrate many potential benefits. Improved academic performance, reduced risky behavior, and better physical health are among the benefits of an effective after school care program. Research by Harvard Graduate School of Education points to three critical factors of a successful program. 

  1. Access and Frequent Participation
  2. Quality Staff and Program 
  3. Strong Partnerships

Access and Frequent Participation

Children benefit more if they attend programs more frequently. It is especially beneficial if the program is tailored to their needs, interests, and schedules while presenting new challenges and ideas.

Quality Staff and Program 

Intentional programs with specific goals and outcomes achieved through organized and engaging activities are vital for success. The other key ingredient to this is a role model staff with strong leadership skills and proper training. 

Strong Partnerships

Partnerships with stakeholders, like families, schools, and communities are important. 

Onsite library: Open Book, Open Imagination

Books have a way of activating a child’s imagination and encourages them to ask questions. Introducing reading to a child at an early age can create a very good habit while expanding their knowledge and vocabulary. Stories and pictures are a fun and intriguing way for a pre-k child to practice everything from their ABCs and 123s to their shapes, colors, and animal sounds. An onsite library or library resources at a preschool is a good sign of quality and learning potential. 

Choosing a preschool for your child is one of the most meaningful decisions you will ever make for them. This age of exploration and discovery is incredibly impactful for a child’s present and future development. It is the foundation for social and academic learning. Suzanne Bouffard, an education researcher and author, calls pre-K the most important year for children and because of this, “quality really matters.” Make sure your child will be attending a high-quality preschool by evaluating all the factors mentioned before your child takes the giant leap with their little legs. 

Is Your Child Getting the Attention They Need at Their Preschool?

Preschool sets the stage for kindergarten and the years beyond. During this time, as preschoolers are first introduced to the school system, the attention they receive will significantly affect the attention they give. This will not only impact their transition from grade to grade but will also influence their futures. So how do you know if your child is receiving the attention they need at their preschool?

Questions to ask when assessing your preschool’s level of child-focused attention:

  • Is the school child-centered? 
  • How much recess time is allotted?
  • Are children allowed the freedom to express themselves in the classroom? 
  • What style of discipline and attention is your child receiving? 
  • Does the school provide onsite counseling services?  

Children: The Center of the Room 

All key decisions should be made with the preschoolers at the center. But what does that look like? In contrast to a lot of traditional preschools, child-centered schools focus their planning on the children’s interests. This may involve play-based activities, emphasis placed on developing social, emotional, and cognitive skills, and teachers acting as facilitators of learning as opposed to dictators of lessons. A former teacher, Jessica Smock, comments on preschool education, saying, “we can’t rush our kids’ brains to learn more, learn faster or learn in the style of miniaturized grown-ups.” This is not to degrade more traditional school systems, as every child is different and, for that reason, learns differently. Laura Lewis Brown makes the point that any quality preschool, whether it is considered child-centered or more traditional, can prepare a preschooler for kindergarten. The quality comes from a teaching system that evokes intellectual curiosity in whatever setting works best for your child.

Recess: Room to Run and Play

Recess has more of an effect on a child’s development than people realize, which is why it is essential for a preschool to offer ample playtime amidst their students’ studies. According to research done by George Washington University in 2007, 20% of schools had reduced recess time, likely due, in part, to U.S. educational policy. According to this report, 62% of school districts had increased time spent on core subjects, like English and math. At the same time, 44% of districts decreased time allocated for lunch, science, art, music, social studies, physical education, and, of course, recess. With this decline in recess, the American Academy of Pediatrics argued that it is actually “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” Several benefits come from some breaks away from the classroom, all of which play a huge role in a preschooler’s major developmental period. 

What are the benefits of recess?

  • Academic and Cognitive
  • Social and Emotional
  • Physical 

Academic and Cognitive Benefits

Studies have shown that recall and learning are improved when the material isn’t presented all at once. When children are given a break from their academic activities, they are more attentive and productive upon their return to the classroom. There is a scientific reason for this. No matter your age, for your brain to function optimally, it needs time to recycle the chemicals required for long-term memory to form. Two experimental studies found that 

  1. When children’s recess is delayed, they become inattentive. 
  2. When they are given recess time, they are less fidgety and more likely to stay on task. 

Social and Emotional Benefits 

During recess, preschoolers are given a daily social outlet. They are free to run and create freely, playing made up games and socializing with their peers on their own accord. This is pivotal for preschool-age children as they develop communication skills, like negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving, along with coping skills, including perseverance and self-control. Not only does is allow them a space to source their creativity, but it also provides a means to manage stress as they adapt and adjust to a new and complex education environment. Peter Grey, a psychologist, hypothesizing that generational increases in conditions like depression and anxiety can be primarily attributed to “the decline, over that same period, in opportunities for free play and the increased time and weight given to schooling.”

Physical Benefits

It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Recess is a time for preschoolers to get that time in. Even if all students don’t participate as fully in the active part of recess, this is still a chance of out the classroom to counterbalance sedentary time and provide valuable practice of motor skills and movement. Nearly 200 different studies have suggested that physical activity supports learning. Additionally, plenty of research has shown a positive relationship between regular exercise and cognitive ability, especially memory and thinking skills. 

Positivity: Room for Possibility 

Gone are the days of time outs. Dr. Jane Nelson crafted the concept of positive discipline that can be used by parents and teachers alike. This kind of discipline takes the focus off of punishment and moves it towards teaching. What does this look like in practice?

Don’t point fingers.

Instead of just pointing out the wrong, demonstrate how the preschooler can set things right. 

Show kindness with firmness.

Stay calm. Display empathy and respect while still being firm in your belief that what the child did was the wrong thing to do. 

Give choices. 

When possible, give the preschooler choices to fix their mistake. For example, offer them the option to apologize or sit to calm down first. This empowers them and teaches them how to make good choices for themselves. 

These are just some of the practices to look for in your preschool teachers. Another thing to look for is what kind of attention your child is receiving. Is it positive? Preschool teachers should be warm and nurturing, embodying positive attention. That doesn’t just mean giving a thumbs up and saying ‘good job!’ This involves 

  • Showing interest in the preschooler’s interests and engaging with them
  • Providing specific feedback that encourages good behavior 
  • Making eye contact and smiling

Room to Express 

Preschool is less about learning the ABCs and more about learning to express yourself. At this age, children are learning to be their own person and express their ideas and feelings. The classroom should be a place where they are free to do this. Teachers should be flexible, allowing time for students to test their ideas, not only at recess but during class time as well. The classroom should be a place for them to harbor their creativity and vivid imagination. Preschoolers should feel like they are being heard when they express their ideas, no matter how crazy they are, and trust me, they will be crazy. 

Onsite Counseling: More Room to Express

There are many different issues, even at a young age, that children can be exposed to. Whether they are experiencing family problems at home or social pressure at school, they may not yet be able to understand what they feel if they have not quite fully developed that skill. This, then, may cause them to act out. A counselor is the best person to help them express what they are feeling, find the source of the issue, and help them respond and cope in the best way. 

Preschool is one of the most influential times in your child’s life. As they will spend the majority of their time at school from now on, make sure your child is receiving the best education they can be, not just based on their pre-K curriculum. Sure, math and vocabulary are important for them to learn, but they also need to learn to love learning. The kind of time and attention they are given is one of the main contributors to reaching that goal.  

Does Your Child’s Pre-K Curriculum Measure Up?

Choosing a preschool for your child is no small decision. As a parent, you want the absolute best for your child, and the best preschools have more than outstanding faculty and a great facility.   Preschool is a time where children develop socially and emotionally, build self-confidence, and are taught skills that serve as the foundation of future academic knowledge. Because of this, it’s also important to consider the curriculum used and if it meets your child’s developmental needs at this point in their life.

But how can you tell if your child’s pre-k curriculum is up to par? Here are some of the top factors to consider:

  • Is it designed to help the child succeed in Kindergarten?
  • Is it recognized, accredited, or authorized by a Third Party?
  • Is it following the prescribed curriculum?
  • Is there communication between the teacher and parents?
  • Is there an opportunity to learn a second language?
  • Are there special classes in the arts?
  • Are there extracurricular activities for early learners?

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

1. Is It Designed to Help the Child Succeed in Kindergarten?

There are many types of curricula that a school can implement, but no matter which they use, it’s important that it’s designed to help the child succeed in kindergarten and beyond. 

The curriculum should be focused on child-friendly ways to learn and develop socially, emotionally, linguistically, and cognitively. 

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards, the curriculum shouldn’t just focus on one specific area of development; instead, it should address all aspects of child development. There should be ample opportunity to learn through play and exploration, and teachers should be able to work with children on the individual or small group level. Activities should be designed to improve a child’s reasoning, problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, and language use. Academic wise, preschool is a time where pre-literacy and pre-math skills are introduced. Games and activities should aim at teaching the basics like numbers and the alphabet. 

2. Is It Recognized, Accredited, or Authorized by a Third Party?

Just like other levels of schooling, preschools can be recognized and accredited by an unbiased third party. In this voluntary process, the school will be assessed on a number of different factors ranging from the physical environment to leadership and management.

With most accreditation organizations, the preschool’s curriculum is also evaluated. If the organization doesn’t feel that the curriculum is up to par, they will make recommendations of what needs to change in order to be certified. Because of this, accreditation lets parents know that the quality of education meets a specified standard.

Even if the preschool isn’t accredited, it can still utilize a recognized curriculum. There are a number of organizations that have preschool lesson plans designed by early childhood education experts and meet the standards of third parties, such as state governments. Don’t hesitate to inquire about the accreditation or certification of the plan used to teach your child.

3. Is It Following the Prescribed Curriculum?

Having a planned curriculum in place is important, but a plan doesn’t do students any good if it isn’t utilized in class. It can be hard to tell if your pre-k is following the prescribed curriculum since you’re not in the classroom with your child, but there are a few things to be on the lookout for.

One of the best ways to ensure this is through the mastery of goals set at the beginning of the school year. You can track your child’s progress by recognizing skills as they learn them throughout the year. Children are typically eager and excited to share what they discover, and parents should ask questions about their child’s day and topics they are learning about.

Another crucial component of this is effective parent-teacher communication, which we will discuss next.

4. Is There Communication Between the Teacher and Parents?

Whatever curriculum that the school implements, it’s extremely important that it is communicated clearly to the parents. Clear communication between parents and teachers benefits everyone involved. Parental involvement allows the teacher to focus more on teaching and student’s individual needs. And when a teacher lets parents know what is going on in the classroom, the skills can be reinforced at home, leading to mastery for the child. 

There are many ways for parent-teacher communication to take place, and more than one method will often be utilized. It might take the form of:

  • In-person parent/teacher conferences: These typically occur on a quarter or semester basis, or whenever deemed necessary by either party. 
  • Weekly take-home folders or packets: Teachers might send home the work that the child has completed that week with notes and an opportunity for parents to comment.
  • Phone calls or emails: Even brief messages can be beneficial in updating parents on progress or potential problems.
  • Curriculum nights/ open houses: Events like this give parents a chance to learn about the day-to-day activities and routine that their children go through.
  • Parent-teacher organizations or school councils: Groups allow parents and teachers to come together collectively to voice and address concerns.

Your preschool may use methods different than these. The important thing is that the communication is clear, effective, and efficient.

5. Is There An Opportunity to Learn a Second Language?

You’ve probably heard someone say at one point or another, “I wish I was taught another language when I was younger.” While it’s never too late to learn a new skill, there’s no time quite like early childhood to learn a new language. In fact, according to Cornell University research, the sooner a child begins learning a second language, the more likely the child is to achieve native-like proficiency. 

Learning a second language does more than just expand your child’s ability to communicate with others— studies show that critical thinking skills, creativity, and mental flexibility increase when another language is acquired at a young age. For some parents, the opportunity for their child to learn another language is extremely important, leading them to enroll their kids in programs like Spanish immersion schools.

6. Are There Special Classes in the Arts?

The arts play a crucial role in a child’s ability to develop ideas and express emotion. Participating in the arts does more than just stimulate your child’s creative side; it benefits their physical, social, and cognitive abilities as well. 

Physically, the processes and motions of creating things with tools like paintbrushes, glue, clay, and musical instruments strengthens fine motor skills. Socially and emotionally, art is a time where a child can relax, focus, and build self-confidence. It’s also a place where they can express their feelings in a healthy manner. Sounds from music, colors and shapes from drawing and painting, and movement from dance increase neural connections and stimulate the brain. Process-focused art also gives young children a chance to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to problems on their own.  

A preschool that recognizes the importance of creativity and offers specialized classes or designated time for the arts is one that is setting up your child for success. 

7. Is There An Extracurricular Program for Early Learners?

Preparation for kindergarten and beyond doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. Preschoolers learn valuable lessons from extracurricular programs like sports, dance lessons, musical instrument lessons, scouting groups, and special art classes. Your little one will start discovering and understanding important life skills like goal setting, teamwork, and time management. Preschools that offer these types of programs give kids a chance to explore other interests and are taking that extra step to shape a well-rounded student.

Nice facilities and qualified teachers are only part of the equation of what makes a great pre-k experience. When choosing a school for your kiddo, consider the curriculum used and how it will benefit their emotional, social, and cognitive development. A great pre-k curriculum will allow your child to explore the world around them and prepare them for a bright and happy future!

Does your Pre-K have Quality Teachers in the Classroom?

Preschool is the first stepping stone of a child’s education apart from home. They’ve learned to walk and babble, but now it’s time for numbers and the alphabet. These may seem like simple subjects to teach since every adult knows their colors and shapes; however, knowledge of a topic doesn’t necessarily determine one’s ability to explain it and make it resonate. Furthermore, preschool is not just ABCs and 123s. It is a foundational time in a child’s life in which they learn to explore and experience the world around them. They learn to socialize and their curiosity begins to spark questions. For this reason, it is essential to look at a variety of factors in evaluating the quality of a preschool teacher who will be giving those answers.

Let’s dive into the following factors: 

  • Education level
  • Tenure level
  • Amount of experience in education
  • Personality qualities
  • Disciplinary style

1. Education Level: How a College Degree Impacts Teaching

Just because someone without a degree knows their ABCs doesn’t mean they have the proper qualities and qualifications to teach it well. A teacher’s education level is one of the most vital elements in evaluating the success of a school since what they’ve learned can determine both what and how they teach. For a preschool to be considered of high quality, at least 20% to 50% of teachers should have attained a bachelor’s degree in education or another related field. There has been debate on whether preschool teachers should be required to have a college degree, as there are many factors involved in evaluating a person’s teaching capabilities. Despite the varying opinions, many studies have shown a positive and statistically significant correlation between a teacher’s education, the quality of care, and the student’s outcome

2. Strong Tenure

A study of Texas Public Schools showed that teachers who exited those participating schools were less effective on average than those who remained. In this regard, the time a teacher has spent working at a specific school could give a valid indication of the quality of the school and that of the teacher. Having at least 20% to 50% of teachers with two or more years of tenure at the preschool can be a helpful gauge of excellence along with a low turnover rate between 15% and 25% a year if not less. A prominent cause of teachers abandoning their classroom is attributed to overall dissatisfaction with the career; therefore, a low turnover rate in a school could suggest that 1) it is a beneficial place to work and 2) the teachers love their job, care about their students, and have seen positive results in their years of teaching efforts. This then leads us to the next determinant of excellence, experience.

3. Experience in Education

They say practice makes perfect, so it’d be correct to assume that the more experience in the classroom, the more equipped a teacher would be to teach young children at such a developmental stage in their lives. A reliable base measurement for adequate experience would be at least five years in early childhood education. A school of good quality should have around 30% to 50% employed with this amount of experience or more. The right balance ensures that there are teachers that can use their expertise to help their students and to advise other teachers who are newer to the field. 

4. More Than a Degree: Personality Qualities of Quality Teachers

A degree and experience in early childhood development provides the practical skills necessary to pave the way for a preschooler’s learning, but that’s only one part of the puzzle. Personality also plays a crucial role in the matter. At the base level, warm and caring personalities are best fitted to the educational career path, but many other qualities help to form an outstanding preschool teacher. 

Passion and Compassion

Passion, a “strong and barely controllable emotion” by definition, is not something that can be taught, yet it is something found in the fabric of every good teacher. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a prominent statesman in India, said, “Great teachers emanate out of knowledge, passion, and compassion.” With a passion for teaching also comes compassion for students. The passion of a teacher inspires students, which is especially essential during a child’s early stages of life as they are newly being introduced to learning in a formal school setting. Maybe with these qualities, a teacher is not even a teacher at all, but an “awakener” as the poet, Robert Frost calls it. With passion and compassion, any teacher has a high chance of awakening a passion and desire for learning in their students, inspiring more so than they’re teaching. Passion allows them to gain the trust of their students while compassion will enable them to help their students, reaching out especially to those who struggle. With these two as the base, many other qualities follow. 


Every person works at their own pace. This is especially true at the preschool stage, where most everything is new to the child. Some will learn things more slowly than others. Questions will be asked over and over again. There will be boogers and plenty of distractions, some tears and talking outside of recess, so patience is critical. 

Energetic and Interesting 

A teacher’s energy is what will engage students the most. They are the ones that set the tone for the whole classroom, so teachers should foster an atmosphere that encourages active participation and discussion among the kiddos. They can do this with an engaging and energetic teaching style. 

Knowledgeable and Adaptable 

It is understood that knowledge and complete understanding of the subjects one teaches is of the utmost importance in this field. With preschoolers, however, knowledge and understanding of how they learn and work best could be considered even more pertinent. As Jackson 5 sings, ABC may be as simple as 123, but maybe not to a young child. A knowledgeable preschool teacher knows the information and how to relay it to three and four-year-olds who’ve never heard of the Jackson 5. They must also know how to adapt when a child doesn’t pick up on it the same way the others do. 

5. Proper Disciplinary Actions

At the Pre-K age, children are finding their footing, testing the waters, trying out different behaviors to see what goes and what doesn’t. With all these going on, discipline is pertinent, but disciplining a child, specifically when they are not your own can be a daunting task. Stephanie Byrne-Biancardi, an early education teacher, gives six disciplinary acts that should be practiced in the classroom and at home. 

To Discipline is To Teach 

It is thought that to discipline means to punish, but, instead, it means to teach. Receptivity to lessons is based on a relationship with the child. A teacher should build trust with their students, actively getting to know each one and how they act through daily routine and constant communication. A healthy and meaningful relationship will help the child to see discipline as a lesson rather than a punishment. 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement should be an active part of every Pre-K teacher’s classroom regime. Stickers and smiles are ways to acknowledge what a child is doing well and encourages them to continue that behavior. 

Model Behavior

Preschoolers tend to have a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. A good leader and teacher leads by example, modeling good behavior in hopes of the children following their lead. 

Direct, Explanatory Guidance

The burning question on the mouth of every young one is “why?” Teachers should express their reasoning to students rather than offering just a “because I said so” response. 

Preventative Measures

In spending a lot of time with a child in the classroom and in building a meaningful relationship, a teacher should take note of triggers to take preventive measures that avoid unwanted behaviors. 

Preschool teachers provide the foundation to be built upon from every grade going forward, so it is essential not to take preschool education lightly. In choosing a preschool and evaluating its teachers, inspect the many factors that would affect the quality of their teaching. Their education, experience, work ethic, personality, and actions are all valuable measures of evaluation to ensure your child is getting the best education at their most developmental age and stage of learning. 

Disclaimer: Percentage ranges discussed in this article are based on PrekAdvisor’s own evaluative criteria and guidelines developed over more than a decade of experience in the education space.