Finding the right preschool isn’t easy. As more international schools add nursery and preschool programmes, parents have more options than ever before. Asking this important question will whittle down your choices – do you want the intimacy of a small, neighbourhood preschool or the bells and whistles of a big international school?
#1 Location, Location, Location
Getting your child to school every day is a huge consideration when deciding on whether to go big or stay small. Do you prefer to walk your child to school? Do you have a helper than can handle pickups? Is bussing a better option for your work schedule?
If choosing a school close to home is a high priority, a neighbourhood preschool is likely your best bet. The sheer convenience of walking a child to school is one of the top reasons parents choose neighbourhood preschools.
Surinder Kaur, Vice Principal of the Kinderland centre at Pandan Valley, says the proximity of Kinderland’s preschools (which are islandwide) is very important to parents.
“Many parents cite the location, the convenience and the brand as the reasons they choose Kinderland,” she says. “Most of our parents either drive or walk their children to school.”
Parents with the time and ability to drive their child to preschool or use public transportation can expand the scope of their choices beyond their neighborhood. That often includes consideration of larger international schools with nursery and preschool programs.
#2 The Environment
Are you a “bigger is better” type of person? Do you value more space and grander facilities? Or does a smaller, more intimate environment feel like a better fit for your pre-schooler?
Some parents take a “stepping stone” approach, believing it better for children to grow into bigger schools as they age. Less is more – less children and less space can spell an easier adjustment for their little one in an unknown place. These parents are happy to trade impressive facilities for the homey, cosy community of a small school. Kids at neighbourhood schools often live close together providing opportunities for after-school play dates and close friendships.
Other parents favour the facilities and services that larger schools offer. They also have access to high school teachers who pop in occasionally to give pint-sized lessons in drama, music and even physics.
Larger schools also have the space and resources to offer specialist classes such as ballet, football, gymnastics and robotics. Smaller neighbourhood schools are starting to offer similar classes, too. Kinderland has music, literacy and fitness programmes as well as an integrated Chinese curriculum where lessons are taught in both English and Chinese.
#3 School Hours and Breaks
Do you want your preschooler home by noon for naptime? Do you require all-day care without lengthy term breaks? Or is it important to align holiday breaks with older siblings’ schedules?
Neighbourhood schools with full-day programmes and no term breaks are popular with working parents. These schools usually provide naps and baths for the kids, too. Kinderland operates from 7am to 7pm and offers both half and full day programmes. The schools also offer a Saturday service. Kinderland only closes for public holidays and a few centre closure days through the year. Large international schools typically follow term schedules with large breaks at the middle and end of the year.
The price of preschool is certainly a factor for many families, especially with more parents footing the bill for school fees than ever before. International preschools tend to be pricier than neighbourhood preschools (though this isn’t always the case). For this reason, many parents choose to keep their children in neighbourhood schools for as long as possible. Others choose to move their pre-schooler to big school at age three or below in order secure a spot at the international school of their choice. Still others find a middle ground or consider one of the more affordable international schools that have opened in recent years.
Children in neighbourhood preschools will eventually need to change schools, leading to potential transition issues. Many children weather this change just fine though. Transitions can be avoided by starting children in international schools from the start. That said, most kids quickly adjust after moving to a larger school, with many viewing their once beloved preschool as a place for “little kids” not long thereafter.
Kinderland is currently accepting children from 2 months to 6 years old.
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