If you’re looking to enrol your child into a preschool in France, here’s a guide to preschool options in France from nurseries to kindergartens.
Kindergarten in France
Children are not required to attend formal schooling until the age of 6 but kindergarten (nursery school) is a popular option for French parents. Kindergarten is free of charge and available to children ages 3 and upward. If a child is approaching three, a kindergarten may accept them. Older children (aged 5) are also sometimes enrolled in the local elementary school if there is no kindergarten operating in the town.
How to enroll in a preschool in France
Parents register their children with French public schools at the local town hall. If parents are keen for their child to go to a public kindergarten outside the municipality it is possible to do so by requesting a waiver but the consent of both the local mayor and the mayor of the host community must be obtained. Enrolments at private kindergartens are directly with the school.
Registration must be no later than the June prior to the beginning of the school year. The registration period generally starts in March, although some municipalities begin registering as much as one year in advance.
Registration for your kindergarten at the town hall will require:
- Family book, identity card or a copy of the extract of the child’s birth certificate;
- Recent proof of residence;
- Documentary proof of the child’s mandatory vaccinations – diptheria, tetanus, polio.
Additional documents may also be necessary in relation to the kindergarten’s canteen or extra-curricular activities.
Where a municipality has more than one kindergarten the mayor will decide where your child will be enrolled, based on available capacity. Once the school has been finalized, you then receive a certificate of registration confirming the school. Don’t worry about renewing your child’s enrollment the following year; this is automatic.
The objective of nursery school is to help a child to become independent and to gain knowledge and skills to interact with other children and the world around them.
The typical school week is 24 hours and helps children to learn in several key areas:
- Language – both oral and written;
- Becoming a student, including working with and interacting with others;
- Using the body to move and communicate;
- Discovering the world around them;
- Perceiving, feeling and developing their imagination and creativity.
Activities include individual and group work, instruction, games, play, and workshops. Children’s progression is monitored according to objective standards and children with learning difficulties can avail of some individual assistance from teachers or in small groups.
By the time children finish kindergarten, they should be able to complete a range of activities including:
- Understanding others;
- Asking questions and expressing their point of view;
- Identifying the main features of writing and understanding texts read to them;
- Writing simple words using cursive;
- Cooperating with other students and understanding adult roles;
- Expressing emotions through gestures and movements;
- Recognizing objects including the human body, animals, and plant life
- Making simple plans;
- Memorizing and interpreting songs and rhymes.
How to prepare your child for their first day
Make a big fuss about the upcoming start day. Take them to the building to see where the school is and let them peek in the windows. You can talk about how your child is getting older and is a big kid now. Most importantly, be positive.
The first day can be overwhelming for both parent and child. Here are some tips on how to manage it:
- Start off with a good breakfast.
- Remind the child about how exciting it is to go to school (that they have visited, etc).
- Perhaps offer a present at the end of the day for good behavior.
- If your child is toilet-trained, make sure to show them the bathroom and explain who will take them while you are away.
- Reassure them that you will be there to collect them at the end of the playtime.
- Expect to leave at 9 am regardless of how your child is reacting – the teachers are trained to help kids settle in.
- Allow time on the first day to meet with the teachers to go over specific needs (e.g., dummy, favorite toy, toilet-training information).
- Label clothing and bags with your child’s name
- Take a fruit or snack along – some provide snacks and some don’t
- Take along a pair of soft indoor shoes for your child
- Come prepared with emergency and doctor contact information (you will complete a form on your first day)