Are Preschool and Pre-k the Same?

Preschool vs Pre-k

Different types of childhood education is something that all parents of young children look into when they start to think about a first classroom setting for their child. It’s hard to know how best to prepare children for school, especially as a new parent with minimal experience with pre kindergarten education.

Both Preschool and pre k are programs that come up when parents first start looking into early childhood education.

While both preschool and pre-k are offered at many early childhood centers, they are in fact not the same thing and offer very different services and curriculum for your child.

It’s important for you, as a parent, to understand the differences of preschool vs pre k, so that you can know which program is the right choice for your child and family.

Pre kindergarten

Pre k focuses mainly on school readiness, kindergarten prep and academy skills for children ages 4 and 5. Pre-k programs are more focused, intentional academic experiences, such as learning letters and numbers with a structured daily schedule with specific learning outcomes for school readiness.

Pre kindergarten programs are designed to promote the academic and social- emotional skills needed for children to be successful in kindergarten and elementary school.

A pre kindergarten classroom would look very similar to a kindergarten classroom setting. This kind of classroom environment has more direct teaching and is perfect for pre kindergarten education.

If your child is ready for more advanced learning in areas such as math activities, problem solving skills and language skills then pre kindergarten is the right place for them.


Preschool is often focused on play-based experiences for 2 to 4 year olds. These play based preschool programs are driven by the children’s interests and may be more similar to a day care setting.

In a preschool setting it is more common to see working parents only drop their kids off for half a day if that’s what works best for their schedule. Preschool offers more flexibility than pre kindergarten and can work around the different needs of parents as children continue building skills in the classroom – however long they can be there for.

In preschool, children learn through play in the classroom and in learning centers. Learning activities that you would normally find in preschool classrooms include the basics such as letters, numbers, colors and shapes.

Preschool is what you would typically think of when you hear the word “daycare.” It provides your children with a playful learning environment where they can develop social skills and basic problem solving skills.

The impact on early childhood education

For a parent, it’s important to know which environment their child should be in based on what kind of skill level and age they are at.

Preschool and pre kindergarten may seem the same on the surface, but in reality offer very different experiences for your child. The main difference that parents should be aware of when comparing different types of programs is whether they foster more advanced learning instead of playful learning.

Both options provide high quality early childhood education but have different outcomes for the children.

Read more here to learn about the importance of early childhood education, preschool and pre kindergarten.