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10 Signs of a Great Class for 3-6 Year Olds

By: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
How do you know you've found a great preschool, child care center, or kindergarten for your child? Here are 10 signs to look for from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Are you looking for a child care center, preschool, or kindergarten program for your 3-6 year old? If so, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests you look for these 10 signs that an early childhood classroom is a great one!

  1. Children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
  2. Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks and other construction materials, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys such as matching games, pegboards, and puzzles. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.
  3. Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day. They do not spend all their time with the whole group.
  4. The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to teachers.
  5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.
  6. Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little if at all.
  7. Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
  8. Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time.
  9. Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children's different background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
  10. Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program. Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick.

Also ask if the program you're considering is accredited by NAEYC. NAEYC accredited programs complete a rigorous self-study and external review to prove that they meet standards of excellence in early childhood education.

Adapted from: 10 Signs of a Great Preschool. (1996). Early Years Are Learning Years. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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