Guest contributor: Gene Pak, Mayor’s Office of Education intern

Enrollment is currently underway for PHLpreK, the City’s free, quality pre-K program. Seats are filling up fast, but if your child will be 3 or 4 by September 1 there is still time to enroll today. There are no income or job requirements. Pre-K is an important year for children academically and socially. We are so eager to see what this upcoming 2019-2020 year holds for everybody involved.

As you prepare to send your child for pre-K this year, read through this Q&A with PHLpreK Director of Operations Shante’ Brown to learn about why pre-K matters and how to prepare your child for this exciting year!

How can pre-K experiences impact my child’s school success?

Pre-K is a pivotal year for young learners! Your child will learn how to count, identify colors, and so much more. A recent study shows that pre-K students develop physical, emotional, and social skills. All of these things are important as they continue their education. Pre-K sets children up for long-term success.

Will my child’s participation in pre-K benefit my entire family? If so, how?

In addition to benefiting your child, pre-K benefits families in many ways. Pre-K allows parents time to go back to school and/or work. Research shows that preschool has positive effects on siblings and future generations. This usually happens because in addition to student engagement, pre-K programs such as Head Start, Pre-K Counts, and PHLpreK encourage parental instruction and engagement.

What does a “good” pre-K program look like?

The center should be more than a beautiful place with brand new toys. The following are a few recommendations to consider when visiting a pre-K program for your child:

  • A program should have staff that encourage children to take control of their own learning and behaviors.
  • Teacher(s) should have strategies to help students redirect their behavior and ask many open-ended questions to help children process their learning.
  • Look for children learning through play! Quality pre-K will be educational and fun at the same time.

What should I look for in pre-K staff, what makes a “good” pre-K teacher?

A good pre-K teacher allows young children to learn through play. Pre-K students love to ask questions, and the teacher should take time to listen and encourage conversations. Lessons should take into account students’ interests and values, and celebrate students’ differences. A great pre-K teacher should plan lessons that include the PA Early Learning Standards and individual goals for their students.

Teachers should also have open lines of communication with their parents. Parents should be able to visit, call, and/or email to discuss their child’s progress and growth during the school year. Lastly, pre-K teachers should use assessment data to not only guide their classroom activities, but also improve their teaching practices. They should maintain a safe environment and take the time to improve their teaching practices by reading books, attending conferences, and learning new strategies.

Looking for a career in pre-K? PHLpreK centers are hiring!

How do students in pre-K programs learn and what exactly are they learning?

Pre-K experiences are all about learning through play. The environment should be set up to include learning stations or centers where children can explore materials and interact with their peers and teachers. Activities that promote both gross and fine motor development should be happening frequently. Look for programs where children are encouraged to move, which supports large motor skill development. Using small materials – such as puzzles and playdough – with fingers and hands promote fine motor skills.

As a parent, how can I support my child’s pre-K program?

Volunteer! You can offer to read a story, assist with classroom activities or even help create an electronic newsletter. Programs are always in need of assistance. Also, make time to be an advocate! Talk about the benefits of pre-K with anyone who will listen. We encourage you to share your family’s pre-K experience with our team, and you can also write to your local newspaper, city council member or state representative sharing the benefits of your child’s program.

Visit to find a center near you and enroll your child today. PHLpreK is free, and has no income or work requirements.

Act fast; seats are filling up quickly! Go to or call 844-PHL-PREK to learn more and find a program near you!

Not sure what to look for when you visit a program? Find out what to ask during a pre-K visit.