From Our Blog: A Parent’s Guide to a Center or Preschool Open House

Mom and son at a preschool open house event

Are you looking for the perfect child care center or preschool for your little one? You’re in luck — it’s open house season. Open house events can be incredibly helpful, but they can also be overwhelming.

And if you’re an expectant parent, like me, you might be wondering where to start. Figuring out where you want your brand-new baby to spend the majority of their days can be an emotional decision. How will you find a safe environment, nurturing caregivers, support for developmental milestones, and consistent communication…all in the same place?

Instead of getting caught in the open house whirlwind, plan ahead and think about what to bring, what to ask, and what to look for. Here’s how to get ready for a child care center or preschool open house.

Read up ahead of time.

Some child care centers post their policies online, and some might even post a link to their center newsletter. Read what you can before you go to the open house so you have an idea of what the center is like.

If you’re looking for a center for your infant, keep these questions in mind.

When you’re starting the child care search for the first time — potentially before your baby has even arrived — it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Think about what’s most important to you, ask the following questions, and decide whether the center’s answers align with your expectations.
  1. What are the caregiver-to-child ratios?
  2. What are the caregivers’ qualifications?
  3. Is the center licensed and accredited?
  4. What are your security and emergency policies?
  5. Will you follow my baby’s schedule for feeding and sleeping?
  6. What are your illness and vaccination policies?
  7. How will you keep track of and document my baby’s developmental milestones?
  8. What does a typical day look like in the infant classroom?
  9. Can I stop by at any time?
  10. Do you offer storage for things like car seats, breastmilk or formula, and diapers?

Consider these questions to ask at a preschool open house.

What matters most to your family when it comes to choosing a center for your child? Think about your must-haves in a preschool before going to an open house, and ask questions that will help you determine whether the center is the right place for your child.
  1. What type of curriculum do you follow?
  2. Do children have daily opportunities to choose their own activities?
  3. Is time set aside for small group activities each day?
  4. What credentials do the teachers and directors hold?
  5. Is there a regular nap time?
  6. How do you handle mealtimes? Do you provide breakfast, lunch, and snack?
  7. Does my child need to know how to use the toilet?
  8. How do you approach behavioral issues?
  9. Can I get involved? Are there volunteer opportunities?
  10. Do you offer extracurricular or enrichment activities?

Scope out each classroom.

Right now, you might be most interested in the infant room, but a few years down the road, the preschool classroom will be important, too. Get a feel for it all! Pop into each room and speak with each teacher.

Look for stand-out qualities.

Do you see separate areas dedicated to enriching activities, such as art, music, and yoga? Do the classrooms have materials in foreign languages? Does the playground have a garden area full of seasonal vegetables and herbs? Keep your eyes peeled for interesting center features.

Keep track of everything.

You’re going to see and hear many different things throughout the short open house period — things you’ll want to remember later! Bring something to take notes with, such as a paper and pen or a phone or iPad. The center might also allow you to take pictures, which can help you keep track of the details, like what the playground and enrichment areas look like, how the classrooms are set up, and more.

Choosing a child care center is a big decision, but attending an open house event can help make your choice a bit easier.

Editor’s Note: Find a center or preschool open house near you!

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Mom and son at a preschool open house event