Even before kindergarten, parents should be aware of ways to make the most of learning opportunities for their young children. One important choice for many families in their child’s early years involves preschool or child care.
The first years of a child’s life are a crucial development period, and children who are nurtured and stimulated during these years are much more prepared for formal reading and math and are more likely to have the social skills they will need when it’s time for kindergarten. Parents are a child’s first teachers, but early childhood education programs are also important, especially with the growing number of families with one parent, and families where both parents work full-time.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has approved new Early Childhood Program Standards that outline what NAEYC believes every child care, preschool and other early childhood education programs should provide to nurture the learning and development of young children. These standards can be used as a guideline by parents to determine the quality of a preschool or child care program.
As the leading organization of early childhood educators, NAEYC established an accreditation system in 1985 to raise the quality of early childhood education and help families identify good preschool and child care programs. To earn NAEYC accreditation, programs must meet national performance standards of quality that go beyond most state health and safety licensing requirements. Teachers and staff in these programs receive ongoing training, and the programs are observed by independent, professional experts, and reviewed by a national accreditation panel.
To find a NAEYC-accredited child care or preschool program in your area, click on “Accredited Program Search” on the NAEYC Website at www.naeyc.org. Local child care resource and referral agencies are also good sources. To find one in your area, check www.childcareaware.org.
The following guidelines, based on the NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards, can help you identify high-quality early care and education programs for your young children.
Preschool and child care programs should focus on children:
Preschool and child care programs should have qualified staff:
Preschool and child care programs should build relationships with families:
Preschool and child care programs should be well-run:
Evaluating a program based on these standards will help you choose a high-quality program for your child that will allow them to get a great start on learning.
Reprinted with permission from National Association for the Education of Young Children.