Types of Preschool Programs

All educators have their own unique philosophies when it comes to early childhood education, and the methodology they use vary wildly. For parents who are trying to choose the right type of preschool program for their child, the task of selecting the best teaching approach can be overwhelming.

In this week’s blog post, we take a look at five of the most common educational childcare philosophies. Read more here about the different child care approaches.

1. Traditional Approach

The traditional day school approach is a more basic method designed to prepare kids for school. Educators who follow this philosophy take a structured approach to ensure young children are ready for the rigors of kindergarten and beyond from an early age. With the traditional approach, classroom learning is devoted to developing essential skills in children, including color identification, measuring time, problem-solving and other basic writing, reading and math skills.

Pros: Each day is well-structured, consistent and predictable, helping children become used to the demands of full-day school.

Cons: Free play time typically only takes place during outdoor recess time; This approach does not focus on other areas critical to development such as social and emotional skills.

2. Montessori

This approach to childcare was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the slums of Rome in the early 1900s. Her research focused on low income children with learning disabilities to help them develop real-life skills. From this research, the Montessori approach emerged: Play was believed to be a child’s work, and students learn best at their own pace, with freedom of movement and activity within the limits set by their environment.

Pros: This type of preschool program approach helps children to gain independence, discipline and everyday life skills. The Montessori method is also suited to multiple age groups.

Cons: In Montessori classrooms, the emergent learning changes daily with the interests of the children in mind. Children are not dictated what they play with or focus on.

3. Emergent/Play Based

The emergent approach to early childhood education comes out of various early learning theorists such as Dewy, Piaget, Bronfenbrenner and Vygotsky. Emergent or play-based curriculum focuses on the process of learning, not the product. With both structured and unstructured periods, children are able to learn at their own rate. In this approach, there is no right or wrong way to do something, allowing children to be confident and take risks.

Pros: Meaningful play can happen when students learn through their own efforts and choices. Children continue to gain knowledge as they build upon what they have already learned and expand it.

Cons: Educators are less likely to say “no” to a child in order to steer them in a different direction.

4. Reggio Emilia

Based on schools that were formed in the Reggio Emilia area of Italy after WWII, this approach is modelled after methods used by these communities to help children become better citizens. Preschools that follow the Reggio Emilia style believe that children learn by using different channels to express their thoughts and feelings, such as drama, art, language and music. Educators, parents, communities and students all work together as co-constructors of knowledge.

Pros: There is an emphasis on artistic expression and creativity; The environment acts as a third teacher with natural materials and real-life toys.

Cons: It can be difficult for educators to find a balance between the interests of all students, families and the community.

5. Waldorf

The first Waldorf school was founded by Rudolf Steiner in Germany in 1919. Waldorf education aims to teach children how to think rather than what to think. Steiner believed that children have a natural curiosity and appetite for learning, and should be encouraged to learn within an environment that stimulates all five senses.

Pros: Children in Waldorf preschool programs are encouraged to be self-directed free thinkers; Students develop a close relationship with their educators as they remain with the same teacher throughout school age.

Cons: Not many Waldorf schools exist today; Since it does not believe in traditional grading, it can be difficult for children to make the transition into a regular school.


No matter which type of preschool program a parent ends up choosing for their child, a child care app like HiMama allows them to stay up to date with their child’s progress. To learn more about how your child care center can integrate HiMama into your daily routine, contact us today!

Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *