12 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Preschool – Plus, a Free Checklist!

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So many preschools, so little time to research!

How do you find one that meets your standards, by providing the social, physical, emotional and intellectual development your child needs at the tender age of 3 or 4? We spoke to the experts at Garden International School (GIS) to find out the 12 key areas you should consider to help you decide – and don’t forget to download our handy checklist of questions to ask on a school tour (below):

Consideration #1: Curriculum

With different preschools offering different educational methods, it’s important to first understand the curriculum offered, and to find an approach that both stimulates and challenges your child. Whether it’s the UK Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, Montessori, Reggio Emilia or Waldorf approaches, faith-based teaching methods or locally-based curriculum, trust your instincts and choose a school that will ultimately help to prepare your kids for their primary years as well. 

You can read about the differences between some preschool philosophies here, to help you in the course of your research.

Ask to see an example of a weekly plan from the shortlisted schools of your choice, and check if there are opportunities given to widen students’ learning experience, outside of the usual teaching approach. Some schools, such as GIS, provide opportunities outside of the intended curriculum for children to thrive. One such example is through their nature-centric Jungle School Programme, inspired by Forest School principles, for an authentic learning-through-play experience.

It’s also worth asking if the school teaches an additional language, and what approach is used, if so. Students aged 3 to 5 at GIS’ Early Years Centre (EYC) are taught Mandarin in an engaging and immersive environment using fun-filled approaches such as music, art, storytelling and interactive dialogue sessions.

Consideration #2: School Fees

Preschool fees can vary greatly in Malaysia. Understand the school’s fee structure, and see if it fits into your family budget. It’s useful to check what exactly the fee encompasses (application fee, registration fee, uniforms, learning materials, insurance, meals etc).

Do also confirm the amounts to be paid for the deposit, and find out what the deposit refund policy is like. Are there discounts for siblings, if this is applicable in your situation? It’s important as well to clarify the amount of school terms there are in a year, and how often the fees will be raised. Ask about extra fees down the line for enrichment programmes, special activities, concert fees or field trips, and factor these into your budget too.

Before registering your child, make sure as well to look through the terms and conditions of their enrolment carefully, and pick up on anything you wish to clarify with the school beforehand.

Consideration #3: Location

The location of your child’s preschool is a highly important factor, as the daily journey for you and your child shouldn’t be a long and difficult one. Before signing up, have a feel of the traffic situation – to and from your school of choice, as well as during your child’s schooling hours – and try using a navigation app, such as WAZE, to provide some indication.

Consideration #4: Teachers

We all hope for educated, attentive and caring teachers for our kids – so remember to speak to preschools about this.

Ask about their teachers’ qualifications, number of years of teaching experience, and how long they’ve been with the school. All of GIS’ EYC teachers hold early childhood training qualifications, with 80% being from the expatriate community and having stayed with the school for more than 5 years.

The school remains committed to providing their teachers with ongoing professional development opportunities, tailored to each person’s developmental needs – and as a parent, it’s important to ensure that your child’s teacher is keeping abreast in regards to matters relating to child development, health, hygiene and safety. Find out as well about the school’s student-to-teacher ratio to gauge how much individual attention your child will be getting.

Consideration #5: Communication with Parents

A clear line of communication between preschools and parents is important for you to stay informed about your child’s wellbeing. Is there direct communication with your child’s teacher, be it through a designated app, or WhatsApp? Some schools keep parents informed about their child’s daily activities and progress, while others do not.

Ask about how your child’s progress will be monitored and tracked, and how regularly you will receive this information. Do also find out the main ways in which you can contact the school for any issues, outside of their regular updates.

At GIS, parents keep track of their child’s day via the Seesaw app, which serves as a digital portfolio of all their work. Updates are provided daily, so that parents can stay well-informed about the activities their children have been involved in for that day.

Consideration #6: Health and Safeguarding Policies

We know all too well the stresses that come with our little ones being sick! Enquire about the school’s standard operating procedures when it comes to an outbreak; for example, how they handle cases of COVID, influenza or HFMD. Check if the school does daily temperature checks, and how regularly they sanitise their surroundings as well.

It’s also important to enquire about the school’s safety aspects (related to the availability of CCTVs, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers), their policy when it comes to accidents or emergencies, and how the school manages pick-up and drop-off times.

Consideration #7: Conflict Resolution

There are numerous ways in which preschools might approach conflicts within the classroom. Find out how the school guides their students in navigating their big feelings, and how they might deal with more aggressive behaviour, such as biting or hitting.

Consideration #8: Half-Day or Full-Day Programme

Ask about the different programmes being offered at the school that might best suit your schedule. For working parents, full-day or after-school programmes might be preferable options. It’s also worth finding out if the school runs any holiday programmes for the little ones during the school break.

Consideration #9: Co-Curricular Activities

Besides a school’s core programme, find out if there are any extra classes available, which would encourage your child’s interests and help to nurture their talents. Whether it’s sports, dance, cooking, or arts and crafts, co-curricular activities  can help to build character and contribute to your child’s creative, social and intellectual development.

Consideration #10: Naptimes and Mealtimes

Most children during their early years still depend on a nap. Ask the school: what is the setting like during naptimes, and how do they encourage kids to settle down?

As for mealtimes, find out how many meals are provided, the type of foods that will be offered (including how often the school’s menu is rotated) and what the portion sizes are. Does the school have options for vegetarians, or do they serve halal food? Are you able to pack food for your child,  if that is preferred? It’s also worth finding out if there are any rules about party food and cakes during birthday celebrations, to avoid children being fed something they are allergic to.

Consideration #11: Diaper Care

It’s important that restrooms and changing areas in preschools are kept clean. Diapering areas should be safe and comfortable for young kids. Ask about the frequency of diaper changes, and if kids are washed or wiped. Does the school help with the potty training stage, if that is the phase your child is in?

Consideration #12: Planning a School Tour (with our Checklist!):

Visiting a school, either upon request or during their open day, is a very important step, as it allows you to see the school in person and get a feel of its environment. Look at how the teachers interact with the kids, and whether they seem happy and engaged. Observe the kids as well, to see if they are enjoying themselves and their surroundings.

Some schools provide trial classes to let you and your child access suitability, and ease into the experience. Explore all options, take your time, weigh between care and convenience, and ultimately, go with your gut.

We hope these pointers will help you in your decision-making process, #makchicmumsquad. And don’t forget to take our checklist of important questions along with you on your school tours!

By Hemala Devaraj

This is a sponsored post by Garden International School (GIS). 

Visit GIS’ Early Years Centre (EYC) Open Day on 3rd October 2023 to find out more about how the EYC can help nurture the talents of your 3 to 5-year-old with their play-based learning approach. A 100% waiver of the application fee in the sum of RM1,300 will be granted to those who sign up during the Open Day.

Sign-ups for Pre-Nursery (for kids turning 3) during the Open Day will be eligible for waivers on both the application fee of RM1,300, as well as the registration fee of RM10,000, if your child joins in Term 1 of 2023/2024. 

To arrange your personalised tour of GIS’ Early Years Centre (EYC), contact their friendly Admissions Team, or visit their website


From our team of purposeful, multi-faceted mummies. For editorial or general enquiries, email to us at hello@makchic.com.