16 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Pre-Kindergarten Program


I’m an educator and literacy specialist of 38 years in public and private schools. Most recently, I’m at Berwick Academy in Southern Maine and previously the Carroll School in Massachusetts. I’ve dedicated a tremendous amount of time to students with a range of strengths, interests, and educational backgrounds. At Berwick, I have the joy of working with children ages 3-5 who are just starting out their educational journeys in our pre-kindergarten program.

When I think of young children – not only as an educator but as a mom and grandmother – choosing the right pre-kindergarten program in these early and crucial years of social-emotional and intellectual development is so important. Children need to feel safe, appropriately challenged, supported, and engaged in order to thrive and be the very best versions of themselves. We know that when children DO feel safe and known in school, they are poised to engage in the new, exciting worlds of kindergarten, elementary school, and beyond.

In a pre-kindergarten program, consider asking the following general questions:

  1. Is there space for outdoor learning and experiences in nature?
  2. Do they gear small group instruction towards a child’s interests and abilities?
  3. Do they mix the age groups?
  4. Are there educators who specialize in early childhood education?
  5. Is there a balance of lots of play with early academic skills?
  6. Are there extended day options?
  7. Is the parent/guardian community strong?
  8. Is there exposure to special subjects like music, art, science, and world languages?
  9. Are there lots of opportunities for play-based learning and social interactions?
  10. How do you build a sense of community at your school?
  11. In what ways does your school focus on social-emotional learning?
  12. How much – and what type of – time outdoors and in nature do your students have each day?
  13. How do you expect families to partner with you, and how do you partner with families?
  14. What does your school believe is most crucial for children during these early years?
  15. How do you balance teaching early literacy and math skills with the play-based, unstructured learning that children need?
  16. How will your school specifically support and challenge my child as they grow?

Young children are naturally curious!

I’ve come to understand that they love to learn and dig into the things that they’re most excited about. The right environment can nurture their natural curiosities in these early and transformational years, laying the foundation for a love of lifelong learning. 

Whether you have a newborn and are thinking a few years ahead, or are seeking pre-kindergarten placement for this upcoming school year, I encourage you to ask these questions as you research and visit the many options on the Seacoast. Check out this list of Seacoast preschools to get you started!

Ellie Summers has been the Lower School Academic Support Coordinator in Berwick’s Lower School for 10 years. She has an undergraduate degree from University of Maine in Early Childhood Environments. To learn more about Berwick’s Pre-K through Grade 4 experience, click here.
This post is sponsored by Berwick Academy. We are grateful to them for sharing their expertise.
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Allison’s mission in life is to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her commitment to see beyond what’s in front of her was fostered by her degree in Philosophy and Theology from Boston College. Allison’s a book nerd and credits her parents and inspiring English teachers for her love of reading and writing. She went on to earn her Master in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and then taught high school for several years, both in New England and San Francisco. After moving from San Francisco to Boston with her engineer husband, she began teaching yoga and working as a social media marketing consultant. Now a Portsmouth resident, she spends most of her days with her three daughters (she does not have enough arms) and does her best to find the bliss amidst the endless snacking, dance parties and tiaras. With all the beautiful chaos in her life, she’s grateful to have her partner-in-crime (husband Charlie) and fellow movie quote enthusiast alongside her. Her passion for writing first drew her to Seacoast Moms as a contributing writer, and her desire to connect moms of the Seacoast with businesses who serve and interest them led her to become SM’s owner. Being able to write about the ordinary grace present in motherhood, while interacting with incredible Seacoast business owners is a dream come true.