I searched, it's been awhile since we had a thread just about preschools.
My oldest (nearly 6) is very 2E - SPD, possibly ADHD, possibly Asperger's, tested in the 99th % while crying under the table during half the test. She was always very academically inclined and thanks to much advice here it was easy to decide Montessori was a good fit for her, and she did GREAT in Montessori for the first 2 years. (In her third year she had a teacher who didn't believe in special needs, and needless to say, that didn't go well. Ironic, since Montessori was developed to fit the needs of kids with developmental delays.) She is currently in Kindergarten learning nothing at all but getting lots of free therapy during school hours.
Her brother, currently 26 months, is her polar opposite. She talked early and often; he has recently started stringing 3 or 4 semi-comprehensible words together, but even I can't tell what he's saying half the time. He currently attends the integrated preschool at our Early Intervention center as a community, non-therapy peer, so when I say he has no special needs, I can say that with the backing of several experts. He knows some letters--half or 2/3 maybe?--but isn't really into 'em. He may or may not be able to enumerate past 2. Which is to say he clearly isn't as academically inclined as his sister, who could enumerate to 20 and enjoyed having me spell words for her on the fridge at this age. He prefers to eat the letter magnets. He's very social. He's also an excellent problem solver (he can get into nearly anything he's not supposed to). He's good with toddler puzzles. The childcare lady at the YMCA claims he's vastly above average with puzzles, actually, but I'm not really seeing it myself. He loves to be read to and I think his comprehension of complicated stories is pretty good (ie, he loves stories like The Best Nest and Where the Wild Things Are, which I don't see his toddler friends paying too much attention to). I'm pretty sure his favorite parts of preschool at circle time and the gross motor room. I have NO idea if he's gifted like his sister. Given our family and his sister, I'd think so, but he just isn't a kid who radiates "smart" like his sister did.
I'm sure he'd be fine in Montessori, too, but given that I'm an unemployed student howadays Montessori is out of our budget. Next fall I'll be a student teacher so I need to find him a preschool with extended care hours.
What is/was your gifted toddler like and what sort of preschool worked for him/her? How do you pick one from the gazillions of random preschools out there?
I wanted to start by saying it's quite common for the second child to seem "less academic" than the first. Any sibling study you find shows a similar trend of first born high achiever, second born being described as "social" and "creative." That's not to say the opposite never happens but know that it's a common enough pattern and certainly one I've seen with my own children even though the kids actually test in the same percentile.
As for preschools, it was really a lot of luck that we found appropriate programs. Honestly, I didn't think about it until the last minute for DD and only sent her 2 mornings a week the year prior to kindergarten. It was a totally play-based program at the rec center where we swam as a family and she took dance and gym. She wasn't particularly academic when she started but she was reading novels and writing full page stories with correct spelling and grammar by the end (they didn't do this stuff in class... it was just timing.) Great experience and one I'm grateful for considering kindergarten was a mess and she ended up accelerating out of mid-year. Having one year of positive schooling under her belt made a big difference.
DS was similar to yours. He was clearly bright, highly social, loved puzzles and a great problem solver. In our case, he had a host of sensitivities, a motor oral problem and "spirited" (aka "difficult.") I was really struggling as a parent. I had no intention of sending him to preschool more than DD but he stumbled into this classroom at the community center and didn't want to leave it. I talked to the teachers, they seemed perfect and had a space. DD started just before his 3rd birthday 2 days a week and moved to 3 days a week the following year. Life improved dramatically for all of us. It was a fantastic school full of nature/science learning, outdoor play, lots of sensory opportunities (which he really needed) and teachers with the patience of saints lol. He had some random skills but no interest in developing them at all and it wasn't pushed at school.
So, I guess for me, I chose mainly on what "felt" right. In our case, it was play-based programs.