Preschool can be a scary idea for little ones, but the notion might even be more terrifying for their parents. Knowing what makes a good preschool program and how it can benefit a child’s development might ease the transition for both parent and child. • Arthur Brewton, head start-early head start director with Piedmont Community Action, said preschools should be busy, active spaces.

“One of the foundations of a good preschool is well-trained and caring staff,” he said. “That’s most important. Next is to have a good, research-based curriculum. In our programs (in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties), we are sensitive to the various cultures, backgrounds and experiences of the children. We try to incorporate that.”

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Brewton said parent engagement is critical in education, even at the preschool level. He said his local programs wanted a way to involve fathers. The “Daddy Reads” initiative became a huge success.

“We encourage the dads to come to the school once a month to read to the classes and interact with the kids,” he said. “We’ve had over 100 dads come and read this year.”

Movement, movement and more movement is the name of the game for little ones – and time in the classroom shouldn’t change that, Brewton said.

“In preschool, children should spend most of their time playing and with their peers,” he said. “We want them up and moving around to different centers.”

Classroom centers can include almost anything to engage children in imaginative play and discovery, such as music, water and sand, art, puzzles, housekeeping activities and more.

“We don’t want to walk into a room and see kids sitting,” he said. “You should see kids engaging in pretend play.”

TV and video time should be limited. Children may be engaged in small and large group activities, including individualized help in areas where they need it, Brewton said, but that should not be a large portion of the day.

“Kids should spend their day moving and interacting with their environment and with each other,” he said.

Time outdoors is also important.

“Kids love it and it’s a good part of their day,” Brewton said. “We want them outside and developing those large and small motor skills.”

Reading is important at school and at home. Brewton said just hearing more words helps with a child’s rapid brain development. He encourages parents to read to their children at home and to continuously engage them in conversation and in activities, like pointing out shapes in the grocery store and the words on street signs.

“The purpose is to turn the TV off and have more face-to-face interaction,” he said. “Those brains are developing quickly between birth and 4-years-old.”

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