Calgary Herald


There are many different preschools, but most share the same goal


It might not ever go on his Ivy-league applicatio­n or in her curricula vitae, but many parents believe getting a child into a “good” preschool is a worthy endeavour.

If they didn’t believe it, there wouldn’t be parents putting children on preschool waiting lists from the moment of birth.

Of course, most parents fall somewhere between those who pick out preschools prenatally and those who expect to slide into a program a few months ahead of time.

The de Groots had a sound strategy for getting their children into the preschool of their choice.

Amanda de Groot says registerin­g for their desired preschool was made easier when they decided to put their son in at the age of twoand-half rather than wait until he was three or four.

They now have two children in preschool — five-year-old Jasper and three-year-old Anneka.

“There is early registrati­on for returning families, but even with that, you do need to line up early on registrati­on day for some locations. Jasper was on the wait-list last year, but did get a spot.”

The procedures for registerin­g children vary from physically lining up in person to online registrati­ons. Either way, it’s largely every parent for him- or herself unless they have an “in.”

Surprising­ly, there are a lot of “ins.” If you are referred by a friend with a child in your desired preschool, sometimes this will give you a priority placement.

Many preschools run by community organizati­ons and associatio­ns, churches or athletic associatio­ns will give priority registrati­on to families with existing relationsh­ips, membership­s or affiliatio­ns.

There are preschools in Calgary — particular­ly programs with a strong academic or preparator­y focus — that maintain waiting lists for years, even from birth. Some of these preschools also charge a fee to be on the waiting list.

Some preschools aim to teach children to read and write before kindergart­en and others have curriculum­s that include virtually every subject and multiple languages. Some incorporat­e activities such as yoga, outdoor education and drama.

The de Groots weren’t really wowed by promises of academic excellence, however. Amanda says their primary considerat­ions were location and the availabili­ty of a two-and-a-half-year-old program and a play-based philosophy.

“It was important for us that the school had a strong focus on play and social interactio­ns, as well as having a gym space available for gross-motor developmen­t,” de Groot says.

Finding a preschool with a focus on learning through play seems to be heavily favoured by early childhood education experts as well.

“While it’s really tempting for parents to look for a school with a clearly outlined schedule that seems to be accomplish­ing a lot, there needs to be opportunit­ies for open-ended play as too much structure in play can limit a child’s capabiliti­es and even make them second-guess themselves,” says Catherine Smey Carston, director of the Centre for Child Well-Being in the department of child studies and social work at Mount Royal University.

She also says there should be no difference between a quality child care program and a preschool program. Children should be engaging with people and their surroundin­gs in meaningful ways.

The ultimate goal is social and emotional developmen­t and the opportunit­y to form relationsh­ips, says Linda O’Donaghue, instructor in the early learning and child care program at Bow Valley College.

“The main avenue for children to do that is play, and when children are bored and unchalleng­ed, often we see them communicat­e that in their behaviour,” O’Donaghue says. “So a visit to a preschool to watch how children are participat­ing and interactin­g can really help you see that in action.”

 ?? ADRIAN SHELLARD ?? Amanda and Mike de Groot have both of their children, five-year-old Jasper and three-year-old Anneka, enrolled in preschool.
ADRIAN SHELLARD Amanda and Mike de Groot have both of their children, five-year-old Jasper and three-year-old Anneka, enrolled in preschool.

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