Today I went to an open house at The Montessori Early Learning Center and it occurred to me that it might be handy to have a little form to bring so that you make sure you cover all the bases. Also, later, when you are comparing schools you can easily see the differences between schools at a glance. 

Most parents find preschool sneaks up on them. Preschool is usually for 3-4 year olds and it’s an introduction to classroom settings, socialization, and intro to the alphabet, colors, story time. It prepares them for the skills they will need in Kindergarten. I feel that it’s most essential for 4 year olds since so much is expected of them in Kindergarten these days. A day care can also have a preschool program built into it. While a day care will be open almost all the time a preschool will have days off for holidays so consider that if you are a working parent. If your 3 year old has extreme separation anxiety issues, you can even do a makeshift preschool at home using your own materials. 

It’s good to start doing research when your child is 2 years old if you plan to send them to a school in the fall. Many schools have open houses from January to March because that’s when parents are looking. Be sure to go around 10 am because that’s when the students are in their classes and doing their lessons. And since some good schools have wait lists (yes, even in NJ!) the earlier you look around the better. 

Also, check with your town first to see if the Rec department or Dept. of Education has a preschool program. I know Emerson and Westwood have programs. These are usually half day programs but at very low cost. But you have to register early. 

For more on preschools and the difference of a Montessori school see my other preschool guides here:

Link here   and Here


Feel free to cut and paste and add in your own questions. You’re trusting these teachers with your child for a good part of the day. So, you want to be sure you find a good school!

Name of School:


Date of Visit:

Full day hours, From:        To:               monthly rate:

Half day hours, From:        To:               monthly rate:

after care hours:                Rate:

Registration fee/initial payments: 

Date for age cut off: (Usually September or October)                  must be potty trained?

Name of Class child would be in:                      Teacher’s name: 

                                                                       Credentials? Experience?

Teacher/Child ratio:

Type of School:  (Montessori, traditional, mixed Montessori, Catholic, Day Care, or *Working Parents friendly) *This last type is for schools where you are paying for any hours between 6:30am to 6pm. This type of program is best for working parents who will not have to worry about “after care” costs or late fee penalties. There is also a difference between child directed and teacher directed learning. 

Hot lunch provided?                How much per day?

Outside playground: (Rate from 1-5, 1 highest), comments:

Facilities: modern?           Clean?                Rate 1-5:

Security: (how do people come in/out)                Rate 1-5: 

Sibling discount?

Morning activities:

Nap time? if so, what times?

Afternoon activities:

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION or Rolling admission?

Scholarship available?

School accreditations: NAEYC, etc. 

Reading/writing system: (open court phonics, workbooks, no system)

Extracurricular stuff: (art teachers or music teachers who come once a week or once a day)

COMMENTS: (Impressions of the teachers, facilities, current students, ease of drop off/pick up–is it near major roads?)