Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
Just stop it. Really. You do NOT need to worry about where your unborn baby is going to go to preschool. Even if you live in New York or San Francisco, where getting into the “right” school is a blood sport for some parents, figuring this out while you’re still pregnant is not a priority. Most schools – rightly – do not accept applications from unborn children and, honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to send my child to a school that does!
Most of the true difficulties I’ve heard about re: not being able to get a child into a preschool are because the family has relocated and are trying to find a space at the last minute. You may or may not be able to avoid that issue, depending on where you are in a few years, but you will handle it when you get there either way. I promise. There’s no solving that one right now, especially not by raising your blood pressure worrying about it this week!
If you’re really wigged out by all the comments from “helpful” co-workers and friends about how hard it is to get into your school of choice, sure, spend a couple of hours looking around to see which schools are close to your home or work* and make a list for later. If you’re really worked up, track down the application timelines and school fees and note them next to the address of the places on your list. Set a reminder in Outlook for when your baby is 6-12 months old to spend a nap time making a plan.** Then put your list in a drawer. You’re done for now.
*All the sane parents I know say that the #1 criterion for a good preschool is that it’s close to your home or your office. But keep in mind that you may not live or work where you do now by the time Alloycius is ready for preschool, so don’t get too attached to one place too early.
**In San Francisco, there are a couple of good resources to get you started that can take the edge off your anxiety if it’s getting the better of you. Day One offers a Finding a Preschool class that provides a basic overview of philosophies and the process. Also, Parent’s Place hosts a Preschool Preview Night every fall, that’s like a college fair: tables for most SF schools with info and representatives from each.
When I attended the Day One class, it was taught by Irene Byrne, the director of Phoebe A. Hearst preschool. Her approach was a little too competitive for me, but the info was still helpful, and her newly-published book sounds comprehensive and is obviously current, so if you feel you MUST start your search now, you might start with that resource. Let me know if it’s any good!