Pick a Balanced Preschool
Look for a program that provides a mix of play and academics, suggests Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D., author of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Yourself. Don't take the director's word for it, though -- check out the classrooms. Is there lots of kids' artwork hanging up, or are the wall displays limited to letters, shapes, and numbers? You should see plenty of props to promote imaginative play, such as sand tables, dress-up clothes, and puppets. If possible, watch a teacher in action. Rather than directing every activity, she should give the children "choice time," when they can pick their own. And instead of handing out worksheets, she should make learning more fun by having kids practice "writing" letters in sand or even in shaving cream.