Nursery School Shopping Season

If you think that nursery school or preschool is in your child’s future, you should know that January kicks off School Shopping Season. Generally, these programs are for kids who will be 3, 4, or a young 5 in September 2011.

I remember going to a play date back when M was still two years old, and the mom I was with had already checked out, like, 6 or 8 different schools. I had a little mini-panic attack right then and there, sitting cross-legged on the toy-strewn carpet. Lucky for me, I managed to stumble my way into the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School, which was not just a great school for the kiddly-winks, but also a wonderful & supportive community for me.

Anyway, the oh-so-brief nursery school 101 is that you should ponder: what schedule works for you, whether your child will be more successful huddled over worksheets or playing in a sandbox, and whether you’d like to go to a school where you can basically slow the car down while your child jumps out or a school where you’ll volunteer and bring a snack occasionally, as well as all the variations in between. I actually have pretty strong opinions on this, but I will not subject you to them in this post. If you’re curious, you can check the Useful Information tab on that nursery school site, because compiling that research was one of the many things I spent time on before I spent time writing this blog. Ah, memories! I sound facetious, but I do miss it. A little bit.

If you want more general information about nursery school, here are a couple of helpful sites:

Once you get the lay of the land here at your computer, ask your friends with older kids about their nursery school experiences. From what I’ve seen, I’d say that about 5 out of 6 people you ask will love-love-love their preschool, and 1 out of 6 will have a harrowing horror story to appall you. So, you know: good luck with that.

A Preschool Fair is awesome because you can meet with a whole bunch of folks at one time. It makes it easier to distinguish between what your actual options might be. Ask them what makes them different from the people at the next table. Chances are, they’ll glance anxiously to each side and then lower their voices and give you the dirt. Check with parenting groups near you to see if they’re having a Preschool Fair. The Niskayuna Moms, I happen to know, are having a fair for their members this week.  Local libraries will also often host Preschool Fairs. Two I’ve found are:

Finally, many preschools and nursery schools (and it’s basically semantics, but tends to reflect more “academic” vs. “play-based” schools) will have Open Houses where you can come with your child, explore the classroom, meet the teacher, and speak with other parents. Many of these are scheduled in January (including “my” school, Thursday, January 6th from 6:30-8 pm). You can visit an Open House without committing to registering just yet, and it’s a great opportunity for you, really. Your child can play with some new toys, and you have an opportunity to chat with an early childhood education specialist. Sure, ask about if there’s an Emergency Plan and how they deal with food allergies and all that, but if you have a chance to visit a few places, why not ask each teacher about some current parenting challenge that you’re facing? You’ll get free advice and some insight into what kind of person the teacher is.

And, if all of this talk about preschools has you hyperventilating with stress, may I recommend Academic vs. Play-based Nursery Schools: Honestly, Who Gives a Shit? It will give you some perspective.


  1. Claire

    I recommend bringing a list of questions to the nursery school fairs. I did this at the Colonie library last year (yes, my son had just turned 2, but I wanted to make my selection so that I could register as early as possible in order to get the teacher and timeframe that I wanted). I compiled a list of questions and printed out several copies, so each table I stopped at I could take notes and get my questions answered. Then I came home to review my papers and the pros and cons, although my gut had already made the decision for me based on one school that really stood out (and yes, he is now registered for next September!).

  2. Erin Simmons

    Holy cow (please insert expletive of your choice for what I really said) – I hadn’t even thought of this. You completely freaked me out. I’m not ready to think of our M being ready for school, but she’ll be 3 in September… crazy. Guess I have some research to do. 🙂

  3. Melinda

    The NMG Preschool Fair was rescheduled for the 19th at the Nisky Community Center. The fair at the Colonie (Wm K Sanford) Library is happening on 1/29, I think from 10am-noon. There’s another sponsored by the MOMS Club of Burnt Hills – Ballston Lake on January 11 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at The Good Shepard Lutheran Church (Route 50 Burnt Hills).

  4. Thanks for the info., Melinda! Claire, sounds like you’re all over it. Erin, I really didn’t mean to freak you out. And you don’t even need to send M to nursery school at 3 or even 4, but I figure it’s nice to know what’s going on so you can decide in an informed way. Maybe Claire wants to share her list. . . .

  5. Claire

    Sure, here are some of the questions I asked:

    Methods for communicating with parents?

    Teacher/child ratio?

    Separation policy?

    Discipline policy?

    Potty training policy?


    Curriculum, fieldtrips, etc?

    And then some specific to my son: Methods for drawing out shy children? Policy for handling food allergies?

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