Finding Care: Evaluating Early Childhood Centers Near You


Finding Care: Evaluating Early Childhood Centers Near You


Plenty of research shows the importance of high-quality early childhood education. While kindergarten has long been considered a child’s first step into education, experts have discovered that so much of a child’s brain development and learning happens before the age of five.

It’s essential to provide young children with educational experiences that will help them build a strong foundation of knowledge, awareness, and skills to help them thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

When it comes to pre-K learning, high-quality care matters. Finding an early childhood center that provides a safe, enriching environment and is committed to developmentally appropriate learning experiences is critical.  But how can parents find an early childhood center that offers this type of education and care?

This guide will detail how parents can find high-quality early childhood education programs to meet the needs of their littlest learners in New Port Richey. If you’re a parent searching for early childhood centers near you, reach out to the educators at Little Sunshine Preschool now to learn about our nurturing programs and schedule a tour.

Evaluating Early Childhood Centers Near You

As a parent, you make many decisions about your child’s health and well-being each day. Some of these choices are simple: what to feed at mealtimes, how to dress them for the weather, etc. And some of the decisions have long-term consequences, such as what early childhood center to send them to for care.

High-quality care and education are vital during a child’s earliest years. Your child’s experiences in their first few years of life can have a lasting impact on how they do in school later.

Evaluating early childhood centers near you doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. We’ve put together a guide to help you know what to look for in a high-quality early education program in New Port Richey so you can make this important decision with confidence.

Here are some of the things to consider when finding care for your child.

Play-based education

Research shows that young children learn best through sensory experience and hands-on learning. If you were to step into a play-based preschool classroom, you may find a noisy, happy scene. You’d likely see some children playing dress-up and pretend while others explore sensory bins. You might hear the crash of blocks as a colorful tower collapses and watch as children run and climb on a jungle gym.

All of this busy activity might look like a group of kids simply having fun, but early childhood educators know that this is how children learn best.

Young children are naturally curious and energetic. They are full of questions and ideas. Playing with a variety of materials engages a child’s senses and allows them to test their ideas. While the play may sometimes appear unstructured, early childhood educators spend a lot of time and energy creating an enriching environment with varied materials to promote developmentally appropriate learning.

While evaluating early childhood centers near you, look for a play-based approach to learning. The teachers should have a plan and a curriculum, but most learning experiences should be hands-on, interactive, and designed to keep children active and engaged.

Enriching classroom environment

An early childhood classroom should have a special focus on safety and engagement. When evaluating local early childhood centers, consider the environment. Look for:

  • A room that is divided into separate sections for eating, toileting/diaper changing, and playing
  • Age-appropriate furniture, toys, books, and other classroom materials
  • A clean, well-maintained environment
  • Toys are easily accessible to children
  • An area for quiet play or rest, such as a book corner
  • A dramatic play area with dress-up clothes, a play kitchen, a doctor’s office, or other “real life” play scenarios
  • Sensory materials–water, sand, play-dough, rice, etc.
  • Fine motor activities–beads, writing materials, legos, etc.
  • Gross motor activities–a climber, scooters and bikes, tunnels, balance beams, etc.

A high-quality classroom should be thoughtfully designed to allow children to direct their play and choose from a variety of enriching activities.

Dedicated staff

The educational level of preschool and early childhood educators varies from state to state, but most pre-K teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. While a teacher’s education and experience are very important, their personal qualities are equally critical.

Preschool-aged children may not be able to express their needs fully. Teachers and other staff must be patient, attentive, and encouraging to the children in their care. When evaluating early childhood centers near you, observe the staff’s interactions with the students. Do staff members get on the child’s level while communicating with them? Do the children appear comfortable asking for what they need? Are the children generally happy and content?

In addition to providing nurturing care, staff members should also have training that allows them to maintain a safe environment. This may include:

  • Training in CPR, safe food practices, first aid, and how to identify signs of childhood abuse and neglect
  • How to manage an emergency
  • Disease prevention protocols

During visits, observe staff as they go about their day. Ask any questions you have, and allow your child to interact with the educators and support staff to get a sense of your child’s experience in their care.

Find an Early Childhood Center Near You

At Little Sunshine Preschool, we understand that a child’s early years are among the most important ones. Our dedicated educators and enriching classroom environments can give your child an ideal introduction to school and provide the nurturing care they deserve. Contact our staff today to schedule a tour or to learn more about our New Port Richey preschool programs.

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