Evaluating a new preschool with safety in mind

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When deciding where to send your young child for preschool, you'll have several criteria in mind. Obviously you want him to get the best possible start on his educational path and you want him to have fun and be safe. It's a lot to keep track of when vetting schools. Here are some things to look for when touring a preschool.

Do staff members follow the six supervision strategies?
According to the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, there are six basic strategies that all early childhood staff should follow. The driving principle behind these methods is the aim to steer a child's natural creative energy toward productive and educational activities. The strategies are:

  • Engaging and redirecting. Teachers and staff should be able to grab the attention of young learners and direct them toward productive tasks.
  • Listening. While students should be respectful and attentive to their teachers, it's equally important that teachers take the time to listen to their pupils. This encourages safety through communication – if a child is hurt or sick, he should feel comfortable talking to an adult.
  • Positioning staff. How do the adults station themselves around the classroom or playground? They should be spread out, not clumped together. Inattentiveness due to chatting can greatly decrease emergency response time.
  • Scanning and counting. This strategy should be employed anytime the children are outside and on trips to and from the restroom. Head-counts ensure no one gets left behind.
  • Setting up the environment. When you're touring the school, pay close attention to the classroom environment. Is it clean? Are sharp corners padded? Are there different stations for each area of learning development? Ask about cleaning schedules and integrated pest management strategies.
  • Anticipating children's behavior. This strategy is the hardest to see, so you might need to ask some questions of the staff. It might seem impossible to guess what a child will do next, but experienced staff will have some idea of how children normally react. Ask about emergency preparedness and what procedures are in place in case of illness or inclement weather.
Scanning and counting students is extra important when outside the classroom.Scanning and counting students is extra important when outside the classroom.

Keeping everyone safe
When it comes to early childhood safety, there are two main areas of importance: injury and illness prevention and emergency response. The first area is vital because this kind of preparation can reduce the risk of an accident happening in the first place. The second area is more important still because it covers the trying times when something bad has already happened. By developing a strategy ahead of time, preschool staff can stop emergencies from getting worse.

"Young children should learn why and how injuries happen."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Childhood Injury Report, a third of deaths for children aged 1- to 4-years old were caused by unintentional injuries. Following the aforementioned six strategies will help prevent such tragedies from occurring. In addition to adult preparedness, safety and injury prevention should be a part of the curriculum. The World Health Organization recommended that young children should learn why and how injuries happen. Demystifying accidents is the first step in teaching children how to self-monitor.

Adults should always set the example. School staff should engage in daily safety procedures, such as keeping the premises clean, wearing slip-resistant shoes to prevent injury to themselves, monitoring students and being generally attentive.

When considering your child's first school, keep this information in mind. Ask questions about safety procedures and be observant when touring the facilities. Staying active in your child's educational life is an important way to keep them safe from injuries and illness.

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