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By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education.

The first thing parents usually consider when looking for a preschool for their precious little bundle is location and price. However, while cost and convenience are important, there are several other factors that should also be considered.

  1. Staff

Staff who truly care about children shouldn’t be too difficult to spot! So, pay attention to how teachers interact with children. Do they get down to a child’s eye-level when talking? And do they show a real interest in what children have to say?

Tip: Be sure to ask what education and training staff have to work with a specific age group, as well as what the staff turnover is.

  1. Safety

Although scraped knees are a part of growing up, you should feel confident that your child will be cared for in a secure, nurturing environment every day. After all, feeling safe allows children to build relationships, become more confident, and meet their potential. So, do all indoor and outdoor areas and equipment seem clean and safe?

Tip: In terms of Section 30 of the South African Child Care Act, every childcare facility for more than six children must be registered with the Department of Social Services, so ask to see the registration certificate. Registered facilities have been vetted for a range of child safety features, including adequate space and ventilation, cooking and ablution facilities, emergency action plans, and more.

  1. Setting

A classroom should feel like a space that belongs to children. Is the one you are considering inviting, with separate spaces for looking at books, playing, and participating in group activities? Is there space to move around? Look for low shelves stocked with items that encourage children to play creatively, such as building blocks, toys, puzzles, games, art supplies and fantasy play items.

Tip: A well-organised classroom will allow the teachers clear sight-lines when children are playing independently.

  1. Schedule

Children learn through play, so it is incredibly important that time is set aside each day for them to do exactly that! In addition to indoor and outdoor free play, the preschool’s daily schedule should include some time together as a class, time for children to explore activities in small groups, story time, and time to rest.

Tip: In addition to participating in some structured indoor activities, children need to play, run, climb, etc. outside every single day!

  1. Smiles

Preschools should be filled with the buzz of happy, excited kids playing freely or engaged in informal group activities – not bored kids wandering around aimlessly. After all, young children learn best by doing, playing, and exploring! Preschools are also one of the first places where little ones get to practice their social skills – and that means talking. If a class seem too structured and too quiet, be wary.

Tip: Too much structure and no time to play and explore freely will result in little minds and bodies becoming pent up.

  1. Sixth sense

For young children, school should be an extension of the home – a place that is warm and nurturing. Does it feel right? Would you want your child to learn and grow and that space?

Tip: Trust your gut.

Click here to find a list of preschools in Gauteng and here in KwaZulu-Natal

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal Kznkids