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A working mom’s best partner is the right preschool

This post sponsored by KinderCare.

Taking my daughter to daycare for the first time was one of the most challenging moments in my motherhood journey. I was finishing up a delicious 12 week maternity leave, and could not wrap my head around leaving my daughter with “strangers”. There were plenty of tears during the weeks leading up to it. I even contemplated quitting my job for a bit. I felt like I was deserting my baby, and didn’t know how other moms did it.

Then I walked into the nursery for the first time. I saw the smiling faces her new caretakers, the happy babies crawling around,  and I instantly felt better. A quality childcare program will do that for you. It will make you feel secure from the moment you walk through the front door.

Over the two and a half years that Ayva was in that program, she learned so much. One day, after she was moved up to the toddler class, I was watching her through the window. I was amazed to see her finish eating her lunch, put her trash in the wastebasket, and wipe off her place at the table with a napkin! I didn’t know she was ready for that type of responsibility but her teachers did. They were true partners in helping me to raise Ayva up.

It takes a village

I’ve been a work-at-home mom since Jamie was born, so I didn’t really consider any childcare options for him. I am so grateful that I have had the chance to spend time and bond with him. Now that he’s getting older, though, I’m realizing that he would benefit a lot from being in a high quality program. With me being a working mom, even though I’m at home, there’s definitely a lot more support that I could use to make sure Jamie is being stimulated.

There’s so much that he needs to learn as he grows up, and as engaged as Terrence and I are with teaching him, we need all of the help we can get. I make sure to read lots of books to Jamie, play games, and keep up with all of his milestones. Babies are sponges. They’ll learn and take in as much as we can teach them. I think the right preschool could be an amazing partner.

Things are so different now, even from when Ayva was a baby. The world we live in is changing, and in order to thrive and be happy, there are some social emotional skills that Jamie needs to master. Teaching another human things like empathy, communication, resilience, and critical thinking isn’t as easy as you would think! It truly takes a village to make sure babies grow into thoughtful, caring, confident adults.

Read KinderCare‘s take on social emotional learning

Finding the right preschool

Now that we’ve decided that we’re ready for Jamie to head off to school, the work has started to find the right one for us. After working in early childhood education for years, as well as my experience as a parent with Ayva’s first school, I know exactly what I’m looking for.

The first thing I’m looking for is a positive energy when I walk in. I know that energy isn’t really quantifiable, and it’s truly personal, but I trust my gut. If I feel like we’re in a good place, we usually are. Checking out the overall environment is important, too. Is it clean? Do the teachers look happy? How are they engaging with the children? Is there evidence of learning on the walls and in the classrooms? 

Then I check out their curriculum. A quality center has lessons planned, even for the littlest babies. There are developmental activities that can be done at every stage, and I want to know that those things are being done. Look for accreditation to know that the school takes early childhood education seriously. It’s a mark of excellence that helps to give parents peace of mind in knowing that their kiddo is at a quality facility.

After that, I want to know about the staff. Where are they from? How long have they been there? Do they like working at the preschool? While early childhood positions do face some turnover, a good center will have teachers who have been there for years and years.

The one thing I’m looking for

I visited a local KinderCare the other day to tour the center and they checked off every box on my must-have list. From the greeting I received by the school’s director (who has been there for 34 years), to the friendly staff and smiling children, it’s easy to see why they’re leaders in early childhood education. KinderCare has been around since 1969, and their accredited centers have truly helped to set the standard in the industry.

KinderCare’s staff understands that what children need now to be successful in the future is rooted in their ability to express themselves, think critically, and relate to others, and all of their programs support that development. During my tour, I saw children playing games together outside, singing songs with teachers during circle time, making slime, and dancing. That was all happening at the same time in different classrooms! That type of variety is exactly what I’d expect to see in a high quality program.

I thought it was so cool that during our visit in the toddler class, Jamie jumped right in to engage with the other children. The teacher called him by name and involved him in circle time which made him super excited. These are the types of interactions I’m looking for as we search to find a choice that works for us. The most important thing that I need to see is that my child fits into the school. Jamie is pure toddler and loves to explore and have adventures. I need a preschool that understands and celebrates that about him.

Even though I’m not as nervous now as I was the first time I took Ayva to daycare, it’s still an incredibly important decision. I want my son to grow and thrive, and I know the right school can help him to do that.