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Selecting A San Diego Preschool

Selecting A San Diego preschool, or a preschool in any city, is an important task for parents to take on.

When your little one is ready for preschool here in San Diego you have numerous choices. And, you have exciting times ahead! Preschool can be a wonderful experience for you and your child!

Of course, selecting a San Diego preschool – the right preschool – for your child is an important step in nurturing their development.

As parents, we want our children to be in an environment that is supportive in all developmental domains. But selecting a preschool in San Diego, or anywhere else, is not as straightforward as some parents think.

Contrary to popular belief, preschools are not created equally.

All preschools have defining features that make them unique from other schools. That is why it pays to be selective in terms of choosing the right school for your child.

Need a hand? Here are some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a preschool:

1. Philosophy

There are a variety of philosophies that schools build their teaching methods around. It is very important to have an understanding of the characteristics of these teachings methods when selecting a school.

One philosophy may be more suited to your child’s temperament and needs.

When looking at schools keep in mind your child’s unique learning style.

There are two basic types of curriculum you will see, Out of the Box and Emergent.

Out of the Box

Out of the Box curriculum is predetermined and standardized.

For example, one week in winter, all children may work on snowflake art.

One way you can identify this type of curriculum is by looking through pictures on the school’s website. Out of the Box activities are often teacher-led (rather than child-directed) and pictures of artwork will all look the same.

The advantages of this type of curriculum are limited for children. Very often the activities that take place in this type of curriculum are not developmentally appropriate.

Since the activities are selected before the teachers have met their class, they do not represent the children’s interests but rather what the teacher thinks the children should learn.


Emergent curriculum, on the other hand, is based on the children’s interests.

In this type of curriculum, the teacher looks for teachable moments that can be expanded upon.

For example, a teacher notices the children have a profound interest in airplanes. For a teacher utilizing emergent curriculum, this could be the beginning of an unfolding series of activities on airplanes.

The goal of this curriculum is to embark on a learning exploration, often lasting all year or as long as children are interested in the topic.

As the teacher develops activities within this theme he or she will consider the learning styles of the children in the class. The teacher will create a variety of ways in which the children can experience the topic, such as reading about it, creating paper airplanes, researching the mechanics of airplanes.

In this type of curriculum, the activities are relevant to the children’s interests and based on supporting their individual development in all domains.

These two curriculum styles can be seen in the most common preschool philosophies. Often you will find that schools are inspired by a combination of philosophies.

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia schools are primarily based on emergent curriculum.

They are child-directed and project based.

In this approach to teaching, the child’s inherent curiosity and love of learning are fostered through research of interesting topics. Teachers act as guides and encourage children to learn alongside them and the other students rather than simply answering their questions.

Children in a Reggio Emilia school will develop excellent social-emotional skills and motivation. They will develop a sense of self-efficacy and interest in learning.

Canyon Rim Children’s Center is a good example of a San Diego preschool inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy.


In Montessori philosophy, children are given the opportunity to learn at their own pace.

Teachers set up the classroom intentionally to inspire learning and the child is able to independently engage with materials that are of interest.

The classrooms are mixed age and the older children act as guides for their younger peers.

This philosophy is best for a child who thrives when given opportunities for leadership and independence.

The French Montessori Preschool is an excellent example of a San Diego preschool implementing the Montessori method of teaching. Maria Montessori is also outstanding and we have personal experience with this San Diego preschool.


A religious philosophy is most often based on Out of the Box curriculum with a focus on religious teachings.

The philosophy will be ideal for a family who is deeply religious and wants their child to learn the tenants of their religion.

St Michael Academy is an example of a San Diego preschool which embodies religious philosophy.


Waldorf schools are highly focused on developing a consistent routine and nurturing children’s imagination.

One goal of Waldorf philosophy is to empower children’s intuitive interest in learning and to empower their individualism. This philosophy has a notable approach towards cognitive development, or what you may be familiar with as academics.

Rather than having a stringent academic curriculum Waldorf is based on play and exploration. For example, formal reading skills are not introduced until the first grade. There is also an emphasis on the environment; the classrooms are intentionally home-like.

Children with strong imaginations and a need for structure would do very well in a Waldorf school.

The Waldorf School is a San Diego preschool which implements the Waldorf philosophy.

2. Accreditation

Choose a preschool that offers the highest standards in early education.

All true preschools must be licensed. Licensing is the absolute minimum standard.

Ideally, it is best to choose a school that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or NAEYC. The NAEYC has a strict set of guidelines that preschools must meet to provide the best education.

3. Qualified Teachers

What is a good preschool without qualified educators?

The best preschool should have competent teachers who have the training, requirements, and experience to mold young minds.

Since the requirements and training for preschool teachers will vary from state to state, we highly recommend researching the requirements in your state.

One thing to note is that becoming licensed as a “qualified teacher” in most states requires only that teachers have a few Child Development classes. Actual hands-on experience may not be required at all.

The first five years of your child’s life are a crucial time for brain development; the majority of the neural connections he or she will utilize throughout life will already have been made by the time preschool is over.

Look for teachers who have college degrees in Child Development or equivalent education and schools that encourage their teachers to engage in professional development.

Ask lots of questions as you evaluate different preschools. Ask about the credentials and the experience level of the preschool teachers.

A low student-to-teacher ratio is a sign of a great preschool. A preschool with low student to teacher ratio means your child will be given equal opportunities to excel in his or her studies.

4. Clean and Safe Child-Friendly Facilities

Ideal preschools will have separate areas for different types of learning. There should be a clean and organized learning center, a reading center, and an art center.

The preschool should be equipped with age-appropriate toys and facilities that promote better learning. Children learn from play and social interactions so the school should have safe indoor and outdoor play areas.

The environment should be welcoming to children and adults.

There should be both child-sized and adult-sized furniture. Children are better able to learn when their feet are able to touch the ground; this enhances their ability to feel comfortable and safe.

When you walk into the classroom you should feel as though you have the opportunity, if time permits, to join your child for a period of time and sit in a comfy adult size chair.

5. A Clear Set of Policies

A clear set of policies is important to avoid any confusion among parents.

The policies should cover everything from parent involvement to tuition and withdrawal policy.

Did you find this article useful? We can help you select the best San Diego preschool that suits your child’s needs. Sign up today for more tips and helpful resources!

Bonus tip

Before you make a visit to a particular school, check YouTube and see if the school has a video posted like this one for the Carmel Mountain Preschool