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Choosing the right nursery school to fit each child

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After a cross-country move with two preschool children, I began the search for a nursery school and found several good ones. But which was right for my children?

Robin loved working puzzles, while Justin took just the characters' heads out of the puzzles so he could use them to tell a story. Justin hadn't even picked up a pencil or crayon yet, but Robin had papered our kitchen walls with her drawings and paintings.

The cashier at the supermarket had nicknamed Justin "Fingers," but I could take Robin into the china department of the local department store without worrying about buying something that had to be taken home in pieces.

Uncertainty dissolved when I began to see two different children and to look for schools that could meet their needs.

Although I began my search by finding names and locations of nursery schools in the Yellow Pages, from our real estate agent, and by talking to neighbors and other mothers I had met, the greatest help was a resource file at the public library which contained information supplied by the directors of the local nursery schools. I found schedules, fees, and curriculum and scholarship information.

Using this file, I made a list of a few schools and began visiting each to observe the teacher and children and to interview the director.

As a former teacher, I knew that I wanted a warm, loving atmosphere, guidance to trained teachers, and a small class so that each child would have personal attention.

Most schools had plenty of blocks, cars and trucks, puzzles and games, a housekeeping corner, art materials, dolls and puppets, a record player, and books. I rejected one school because the room was too small. Another didn't have enough toys and games. On the other hand, one school had a play kitchen with three toy sinks and dozens of cars and trucks. So many toys seemed to overwhelm and confuse the children.

On one of my visits, the scene was one of independent and happy industry. The teacher was helping two children who were eager to print their own names. Others were building an apartment house out of blocks. One very active and occasionally disruptive boy was patiently but firmly helped by the assistant teacher to find an activity he would enjoy.

While paints and collage materials were available. It was up to the child whether to participated in an art activity, except for an occasional project related to a holiday or class activity. Justin's interest in art activities was minimal at this point, but he did need a little practice in cutting, tracing, and coloring to prepare for kindergarten. So I knew this would be a good balance for him.


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