How to Find the Right Preschool

Finding a good school.

Choosing the right preschool is an important decision for parents. For some, it will be the first time a stranger will watch and care for their child. Here are tips to help make the right decision.

Check the License
Do your own background check. In California, preschools and day cares must be licensed through the state’s Department of Social Services (exceptions follow). Look up licenses through the Department’s website which contains five year’s worth of data on facilities. Call your regional office if you’re looking for information beyond what is listed.

While the standard day care or preschool requires a state license, there are some exceptions:

  • Children taken care of by a relative
  • Recreational programs and organized camps that are licensed through the Department of Public Health.
  • Businesses that offer limited child care to customers required to remain on the premises (e.g. fitness centers)
  • Programs overseen by other state agencies

Visit the Preschool and Ask Questions
Prepare a list of questions before making an appointment to visit the preschool. Child Care Aware recommends asking about:

  • Staff-to-child ratios
  • Background checks, credentials and medical training of care providers
  • Curriculum
  • Discipline policy
  • Reporting injuries
  • Process for cleaning and sanitizing the facility
  • Potty training and diaper changing
  • Nap and sleeping arrangements
  • Supervision on playgrounds

Eight percent of preschool violations involve lack of supervision, according to the Department of Social Services. Seven percent of violations involve cleanliness and safety of the premises. A visit will provide the opportunity to see if the center’s cleanliness is in line with your standards. It also allows you to watch the interaction between teachers and students and communicate directly with staff.

Undoubtedly, cost will play a role in which preschool you choose. Ask about registration fees, payment policy on missed days and penalties for picking up children late. If you’re a military family, ask if the school offers military discounts.

Start Early
Don’t leave your preschool search to the last minute. Many facilities have waiting lists. Talk to other parents in the community to get preschool recommendations and check San Diego Family Magazine’s Education Directory. When it’s time to make a final decision, follow your intuition and go with the best fit for your family and little one.  


Melissa Mecija is a freelance writer and mother of two. She is also a reporter/anchor for 10News, the ABC affiliate in San Diego.


Published August 2017





How to Find the Right Preschool

Choosing the right preschool is an important decision for parents. For some, it will be the first time a stranger will watch and care for their child. Here are tips to help make the right decision.C . . .

Read more

5 Tips for SAT Success

Mastering the SAT can have tremendous impact on a student’s life, but it comes at a cost. Preparing for the SAT can be a stressful process for teens (because the stakes are high) and for parents ( . . .

Read more

5 Back-to-School Tips for Divorced Parents

Transitions from grade to grade can be challenging. Adding the stress of divorce—especially for newly divorced parents—can make a new school year even more nerve-racking for the entire family. C . . .

Read more

Farmers Markets Offer a Bounty of Learning Opportunities

Farmers Markets Offer a Bounty of Learning Opportunities

Going to farmers markets on a regular basis puts fresh, seasonal produce at kids’ eye level. They start to notice that foods vary week by week and learn what’s in season. This offers an opportunit . . .

Read more

The Preschool Years: The ideal time to introduce a second language

Studies show that when children learn a second language, there is a boost to cognitive growth, creativity and critical thinking skills. Bilingual children also tend to be more empathetic and open-mind . . .

Read more

Safety Tips for Children Who Walk to School

Is your child ready to walk to school? Ask yourself the questions below before deciding. These safety guidelines and tips will help ensure a safe walk to school.Walking to school is a healthy alternat . . .

Read more

How to Find the Perfect Preschool

Looking for a preschool program for your child? Help ensure a positive preschool experience with this list of tips, highlighting what to look for in a preschool and questions to ask.   The Benefi . . .

Read more

Teacher Gifts that Could Land You on the Naughty List

(and what teachers REALLY want)We asked local teachers what the best gifts for teachers are—and in the process, also discovered which are worth reconsideration. All contributing teachers expressed n . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!