First Classes that Make the Grade

Check Out the Teacher

When it comes to working with toddlers, degrees in early-childhood education are less important than experience with young children. "Our teachers run the gamut from former preschool instructors to mothers with a creative flair who simply love children," Teitelman says. Look for a warm, engaging person who has strong leadership skills and an aptitude for organizing lots of kids.

"Be sure to ask her what her goals are for the class," Lerner advises. "Having fun should be at the top of the list. If she says, 'Brain development,' I'd be dubious." A teacher should, however, be able to articulate what she's trying to accomplish, such as introducing the concepts of fast and slow in a music class.

She should also be able to handle a wide variety of typical toddler behaviors. If a child is reluctant to participate, for instance, she should let him spend some time watching from his parent's lap before he jumps in; cajoling a stubborn toddler into an activity is a surefire recipe for a meltdown.

Perhaps most important, teacher demonstration should be kept to a minimum. "Teachers should allow the children to find their own ways of tackling a task," says Lerner.

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