Checklist for a Healthy Preschool
License and Accreditation
- Check whether the school is currently licensed. This ensures that the preschool facilities are up-to-date and that they meet the state's minimum health and safety criteria. Accreditation by organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) also ensures that the preschool is safe and healthy. The NAEYC, for example, conducts on-site visits to evaluate that the preschool meets no less than 80 percent of the following standards: absence of physical and psychological punishment; adequate supervision of toddlers and infants; adequate supervision of preschoolers and kindergartners; staff member who is trained in first aid and CPR; staff places infants on their back to sleep; educationally qualified administrator; and the preschool must be licensed and in good standing.
Food and Nutrition
- Inquire about the preschool's nutrition policy. Some questions to ask include: What foods are served to the preschoolers? (See if the school serves meals that include all major food groups.) What is the policy on homemade lunches? Are snacks served during the day? Are sugary snacks and candy restricted? If your child has a food allergy, inquire about how the school handles potential food allergens.
- What does the daily routine entail? Ask for a calendar and schedule. Do the children play on the playground or have physical activity scheduled? Check the schedule to see if the children participate in many sedentary activities such as television watching and computer use.
Illness Prevention, Checkups and Sick Child Policy
- A zero tolerance policy for sick children keeps the interests of the staff and children in mind. Inquire whether sick children are allowed to attend. Another question to ask is if parents are required to report illnesses to the staff. Ask what steps they take to prevent illnesses. Take a tour of the school to see if facilities appear clean and well organized. Some schools may require that children not only be up-to-date on immunizations but be current on well-child checkups as well.
- During a preschool visit, look at how the staff interacts with the children. Some things to consider include: Is the staff nurturing? Does the staff provide adequate supervision? Is there a low teacher-to-child ratio? A small ratio will help maintain safety and sanitation as well as forge a relationship between the staff and students. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education suggests a 7-to-1 ratio for 3-year-olds and an 8-to-1 ratio for 4- and 5-year-olds.