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'The three things I wish I'd known when choosing my son's preschool.'

Ku Children’s Services
Thanks to our brand partner, Ku Children’s Services

Even though it was a decade ago, I remember the day I decided to switch preschools for my son like it was yesterday.

I’d selected his first preschool based on convenience.

Of course, I’d done a visit and felt comfortable with the place, but being a sole parent who worked full-time, the fact that it was on the next street from our home was the deciding factor.

And that was fine – but I hadn’t thought about how much else the right program could offer us. Now I realised there might be more out there.

Six months later, needing to find a new preschool, I decided to take my time and really think about what my son’s first learning environment should look like.

Yep, it was my ‘preschool do-over’.

How to choose a preschool
"I decided to take my time and really think about what my son’s first learning environment should look like." Image: Supplied.

Here’s what I decided was important to us.

A preschool program that was genuinely play-based learning.

I’d previously thought of preschool almost like day care – a fun and safe place to play – and I hadn’t thought much about play-based learning.

But now, I was looking for what would be my son’s first proper educational environment; and it made sense to me to begin with seeking the right qualifications from the people whom he’d be spending time with.

What I really needed was something like KU Children’s Services, one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit providers of early childhood education and care. KU has preschool programs led by university-qualified early childhood teachers, and which emphasise play-based learning at their many centres throughout Australia.

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And their key focus? A holistic approach to a child’s development, preparing them for the transition to school.

My child was already interested in reading, counting and writing; something I realised wasn’t part of the program offered at his first preschool.

To be honest, if someone had suggested looking for ‘play-based learning’ previously, I would have thought it sounded a little intense; but in my ‘preschool do-over’, I got the chance to take a more considered approach, and find somewhere that children could learn while they are playing – the best of both worlds.

A preschool that recognised the value of learning with friends.

Thinking about my son’s previous preschool, I realised the children didn’t seem to be encouraged to learn with each other. The activities were focused more on individual pursuits, rather than opportunities to work as team (or at least start to).

Upon reflection that didn’t seem right, because I believed that working together would help the children make friends, too.

My instincts were validated when I looked into KU’s preschool program, which offers a lot of group-based play.

I also thought group work was a valuable way for children to learn about how to interact with other people; something my only-child son could benefit from.

I discovered that at KU centres, they promote socialisation, and a strong sense of community, not only through things like the encouragement of parent participation, but also the values of diversity and inclusion.

For example, KU has an Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) designed to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and histories in every child’s learning. I love that.

The way I see it, every family is unique, and every child comes to preschool with a special background. If I wanted my son to not only learn, but also grow as a person, how he spent his days had to include understanding the world, and people, around him.

A preschool that offered ‘the great outdoors’, and indoor challenges.

The other thing I really wanted in the new preschool was more stimulation; not just the offering of activities that would keep the children ‘occupied’, but not challenged.

How to choose a preschool
"The other thing I really wanted in the new preschool was more stimulation." Image: Supplied.
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If preschool was the stepping stone to school, then physical and emotional growth was a must. So, it was essential that be offered indoors, and outdoors, too.

I learned that the KU program offers children things like gardening and science experiments, music and movement. In fact, exploring nature and learning about sustainability and the planet’s future is a key part of their program.

Perfect for my little guitar-obsessed wildlife warrior.

To me, those are the basic things children need to know about to understand their world – and interactive experiences are the best way for that knowledge to be attained and retained.

Parent bonus: a preschool program involving physical learning experiences every day would also tire my child out so he’d sleep early, and all night!

When you know better, you do better.

The preschool we ended up going with met all of my new criteria. That was great at the time, and a really positive experience for me and my son. I’m so glad I got to do a ‘preschool do-over’.

But more than anything, it was a relief as a mum to know I was able to learn from my previous experience, and by really thinking about the benefits we wanted from a preschool program, do better the next time.

As parents navigating the world for our children, that’s the best we can do.

KU Children’s Services offer a range of childcare services from preschool to long day care, before and after school care, vacation programs, family programs and more. For more information, visit ku.com.au.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner KU Children’s Services.

Ku Children’s Services

KU Children’s Services is one of the largest not-for-profit providers of early childhood education and care and has more than 140 centres across NSW, ACT, VIC & QLD. 99% of our centres meet or exceed the early childhood National Quality Standards. KU’s philosophy supports the National Quality Framework, introduced to ensure consistent, high quality early childhood education for all children. Using this Framework, our qualified educators provide a play-based program designed to be flexible, recognising that each child develops at their own pace. Click here to find out more about KU’s high quality early education programs.

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