When it comes to finding a great preschool, there are what seems like a million different factors to consider. But one of the toughest decisions parents are faced with when choosing a preschool is whether they want their child to attend an academic preschool or a play-based preschool. To help make this decision easier, let’s explore a few key differences between the two types of programs.
Play-based programs are more or less exactly what they sound like: they’re focused on playing and doing activities. When a child attends a play-based preschool, the majority of their day tends to consist of doing activities that they show interest in. These activities can vary from school to school and can consist of things like reading books, learning about science, and playing with blocks and other toys. All of these activities are designed to promote learning and development of important skills without spending all day poring over boring worksheets. Even though these programs seem like kids just sit around and play all day, they’re learning through interactive lessons and activities, which can sometimes be the better option for kids who aren’t ready for a totally structured environment yet. Teachers act as a facilitator of learning rather than more of a lecturer who gives instructions.
Unlike play-based preschool programs, academic programs are more structured and generally have more of a routine. When kids attend an academic preschool, they’ll participate in activities that their teacher has chosen for them and they’ll be guided through certain learning tasks. They’ll focus on learning things like colors, shapes, numbers, and handwriting. Academic programs ensure kids learn what they need to know before they go off to kindergarten by following a curriculum. Teachers will choose certain activities based on which skills their students need to learn and options for further enhancing skills. Many private preschools are academic based and with 30,861 private schools in the U.S., which serve 5.3 million PK-12 students, there are plenty of options when parents are finding a good preschool with an academic focus.
Both play-based and academic preschools are designed to enhance learning, promote skill development, and ensure kids are ready for kindergarten. Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to decide which type of program is best for their child.