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What to Look For in Early Childhood Preschools in Chicago

Chicagoans have an overwhelming number of options when it comes to early childhood preschools in Chicago. There are many factors to weigh in selecting the appropriate place for your child or children. Some of these are obvious and hardly warrant discussion: parents needing childcare must select a location that meets their basic needs of cost, location (proximity to either home or work), and hours of operation. Some parents may have strong preferences about using a religiously affiliated organization or a secular one. But once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential childcare centers, how do you decide? What else should you look for in choosing among early childhood preschools in Chicago?

On February 22, 2013, Ronald Richter, then the commissioner of New York’s Administration for Children’s Services, wrote to the New York Times that the state’s EarlyLearnNYC program (4-year-old preschool) was far more than “glorified day care,” but rather included teacher development, “rigorous performance standards,” and research-based curriculum with measurable outcomes. These are good measurements of a serious early childhood program. 

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers a much more robust set of criteria that early childhood preschools ought to meet. This group grants accreditation to groups that meet its high standards. According to this group, high-quality care for toddlers includes, among other things:

  • Children stay with one primary teacher, forming close bonding relationships.
  • That teacher learns each toddler’s ways of communicating and nurtures a strong, communicative relationship with the child’s family.
  • Teachers treat others kindly and respectfully, setting a good example for children.
  • Teachers frequently read and sing to toddlers, including in native language.
  • Children are given many chances to engage in active play safely, indoors and out.

The NAEYC offers a similar guide for preschool age (age 3 to 5) children. Here is a sampling of their guidelines:

  • Children should feel safe and secure.
  • Children are given activities and materials with a sufficient level of challenge without being overly difficult.
  • Children are given ample opportunities for both play and exploration as well as opportunities to relate what they learn with past experiences.
  • Every day, teachers read to children individually, in small groups, and as a large group.
  • Teachers nurture language skills (in English and native language) by both talking and listening (including encouraging children to share ideas and feelings).

The early childhood preschools in Chicago that follow these guidelines are far beyond “glorified day care” and will help your child develop into a well-rounded elementary school student. JCC Chicago, with locations throughout Chicago, is fully accredited through NAEYC and offers a full range of care, from infant through toddlers and on to preschool.

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Karen Jean

Karen Jean