Understanding The Different Early Childhood Education Programs

When looking for a childcare center, especially one that includes preschool activities, you will need to decide on the type of educational program that you want for your family. There are many different philosophies, and every childcare center should be willing to share their educational philosophy with prospective families. The following list will introduce you to some common programs and philosophies so you can make an informed choice. 

Standard Pre-K

A standard Pre-K classroom looks a lot like a kindergarten classroom. The room is often set up with student work groups and with a main focus on the teacher in the room. The teacher leads most educational projects and everything is generally scheduled pretty rigidly, down to playtime, naps, and breaks. The academic work is not at the same level as a kindergartener, though, with much more time dedicated to guided play and group activities. This is a good choice if you prefer to get your child used to the standard public education model at a young age.


This method was created by educator Maria Montessori, who implemented it as child-centered learning. The children are generally provided with work centers, which contain activities and manipulatives designed to teach the young children necessary skills at their level. These items are often beautiful, too, with manipulatives being made of wood and other sturdy materials. Montessori methods are often chosen by parents who want their children to develop leadership and confidence skills since the method depends on empowering children to master their own educational goals at a young age. Contact a local program, such as Montessori Of Woodridge, for further assistance.

Reggio Emilia

This method comes from Italy and is also sometimes known as project-based learning. The teachers follow the interests of the students to locate an interest. Once an interest is discovered, say in dinosaurs, the teacher will provide materials to inspire projects, such as books and toys about dinosaurs. The teacher will then help the kids come up with projects about this interest and then create documentation to show the children's progress on the project. If you want a focus on cooperation and teamwork, as well as the development of your child's inquisitive skills, this may be the program for you.


The Waldorf/Steiner school methods are usually known as a play and art based learning philosophy. Preschool students are placed in mixed age classrooms. Each class has an established routine so the children know what to expect. Creative learning using natural materials is the key – drawing, painting, acting, and singing are done heavily in these classrooms. Choose Waldorf if you want to raise a creative child that is confident in their individuality.