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Pick the Right Preschool

Carey Killian of Portland, OR, was torn about where to send her daughter to preschool: one that spent a lot of time on academics, to prep Skylar for kindergarten, or one where the kids were mostly playing?

Many parents worry that their children will miss out or fall behind if they don't learn letters and numbers in preschool. This couldn't be further from the truth, says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., coauthor of Einstein Never Used Flashcards. "Children learn by doing, exploring, and having fun," she says. Learning faster isn't necessarily better.

When you visit a school, ask these questions to get a sense of whether it'll be a good fit for your child:

What do the lesson and activity plans look like? Find out if there's an emphasis on things like singing and sharing.

Are there goals that kids are expected to reach during the year? Watch out for ones that seem too strict (count to 20 by December) and look for more socially oriented ones (play well in groups).

How much structure is there in a day? Kids do well with some order in their days, but there should be plenty of time for free play.

Will he be ready?
Good indicators that your child will be able to handle preschool next fall:

* He can play solo for a few minutes.
* He's starting to get comfortable around other people.
* He can follow simple instructions.
* He can take care of himself in some ways, such as putting on his shoes.
* He at least knows what the potty is. Some preschools require that kids be trained.