Preschool: Just think about it

Preschool. What are you thoughts, Toddler Parent? 

Wait … let me guess: 

Is he ready? Am I? My sister-in-law has been on the waiting list since her second trimester: Does that make me a slacker? Potty training! Does he even have to GO to preschool? Can’t we just hang out here like we always have? Montessori kind of freaks me out, but everyone’s doing it. Potty training! Wait … what’s the difference between Montessori and Waldorf?

Take a tour

Chances are, one or two of these thoughts have cruised through your head — late at night, after reading Kitten’s First Full Moon for the 73rd time. Even if your little one is on the younger end of the toddler spectrum, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about the next phase: Preschool. 

Ask around, talk to your partner and even take a tour or two, because when the time comes, you’ll want to feel familiar with your options and confident in your choice.

And how do you make that choice? 

It depends. Do you favor the free-play, free-form philosophy behind the Waldorf model? Are you OK with a church preschool, even though you’re not religious? Do you need a place that’s more lax on the whole potty-training issue? Is kindergarten readiness what you desire?

Trust your instincts

As usual, a reminder to breathe goes a long way, as does the ability to trust your gut.

I was a total slacker. I signed my daughter up for the preschool recommended by the neighbors, freaked out at the last minute and pulled her registration before the first day. I sent her the following year, after touring just two schools.

The first place I toured had a rainbow painted on the slide — my girl and I thought that was pretty cool. On that particular day, they were making gingerbread men in celebration of the winter holidays. We were invited to participate. 

These gingerbread men were the size of my head and lay in waiting in front of a decorating free-for-all — candies, sprinkles, gobs of frosting. This would be the snack for the day. 

Though I thought it kind of an outrageous amount of sugar for a little kid at school, I tried to tell myself it was a special occasion, that I should lighten up. I asked the teacher what snack usually consisted off — you know, on a normal day.

“Oh, something like a little cup of marshmallows with a side of juice,” she replied.

This was her best foot forward. This was her “let’s impress this mama and get that kid signed up” in the face of the immediate hyperactive gingerbread, frosting-smeared chaos. 

It was one small thing, but I couldn’t get over it. 

Follow your values

In the end, I chose a preschool that was light and bright with a cozy reading nook. It also had a fantastic imagination station with rotating themes. 

Also? Parents took turns bringing snacks. Collectively, I was pretty sure we could do better than marshmallows.

Truth be told, when it came time to pick my son’s preschool — after relocating from the suburbs to the cities — I was equally turned off by the school with a snack of bok choy and brown rice. 

It came with a side of yoga, composting class and a “Feelings Jar.” 

While all of those things are really great, they seemed a little heavy handed for nursery school. 

So I chose the school with — again — parent snacks, a play kitchen and the teacher who gave us hugs after the initial tour. 

Sunshine, a little handholding and play were my “important qualities” and apparently a snack philosophy somewhere between Willy Wonka and “granolier than thou.” 

Plan, prepare yourself

But that’s just me. As always, Toddler Parent, you need to do what’s right for you and your child. 

Whether your child is 1, 2 or 3 — think about what matters most to you and then be prepared to throw it out the window in the face of evil gingerbread men — or the deceptively sinister mung bean! 

Think now, I say, because the days are long but the years are short and that first day of preschool is closer than you think. And also? There are crazy waiting lists filled with pregnant sisters-in-law.