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We all want to do what's best for our children. That's why many of us send our kids to preschool. But what should parents consider when they're selecting a preschool? Linda Morgan, editor of Parentmap magazine and the author of the book, Beyond Smart, has some ideas.

We know that early socialization promotes learning. You can make sure your kids play with other children if they stay home but it s hard to replicate the kind of social environment a preschool provides. We know that early learning is key it gets kids ready for all the learning they ll be doing later on. A quality preschool will offer opportunities for kids to play, develop their motor skills and social skills.

Why is choosing a preschool often so confusing for parents?

Because there are so many choices. Philosophies are different. You hear about Montessouri, about Waldorf, Reggio, religion-based schools, cooperatives it can make you dizzy. The idea is to try to match your child to the appropriate program.

ParentMap s Preschool Preview Night is coming up. Dozens of preschools will be there - It's a chance to compare programs, ask questions and find the right fit for you and your child. It s Tuesday night, 5 8 p.m. at Shoreline Community College and January 12, 5 8 p.m. at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

Should parents visit schools before enrolling their child?

It s a good idea. Look for teachers who are interested, engaged and enthusiastic, who like the children and like being there. Is the classroom clean and organized? Is there a plan? Teachers should know what they re trying to accomplish. Are the kids happy, engaged in activities and having fun.

What parents should consider when selecting a preschool

Is the Preschool licensed?

The Washington State Department of Early Learning licenses child-care centers and preschools based on health and safety checks, teacher-child ratios, teacher training and other standards.

Is it a good fit?

Look for a program that fits in with your child s personality and with your own background and worldview. Does your child work well independently or does he need more direction? Would your child be happier in a busy, boisterous setting or in a quieter one?

How s the staff?

Find out about the education and background of the teachers. What degrees and do they have? What s the ratio of teachers to students? Ask how long teachers have been with the program.

What do the kids do there?

Ask about the curriculum, which should include a variety of activities appropriate for the children s ages and needs. Do they play outdoors? Work on computers? Take field trips? Most important, ask yourself, can I see my child in this class?

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