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Play Based Preschool Versus Academic Based Preschool

What Suits Your Kid Best: Play or Academic Based Preschools?

"Do you want a play based atmosphere or a more structured academic program?" This is a question frequently posed to preschool searching parents, but many do not have a clue on how to answer it. The differences can be many but as far as rating them, it truly is a personal decision.

Play based preschools typically offer children a fun learning environment where they can focus on socializing and making friends. They can also pick up and master motor skills that are important to their development. For many play based preschools, the goal is not necessarily to teach the pupils how to read. Rather they want the tots to love learning, which will eventually get them reading. On the flip side, many hesitate to do an all play based program, as they fear the child will be academically under prepared for kindergarten.

To see what we have to say about academic based preschools,


For fans of learning the ABCs sooner rather than later, an academic based program may suit them better. Young students are encouraged to read earlier and start solving math problems before their fifth birthday. These type of institutions typically offer more structure and less down time. On the upside, the alumni of academic based preschools often love school so much that they beg for homework in kindergarten. The negative aspect is that they tend to bore easily when they enter elementary school as they have already mastered the curriculum.


As a former first grade teacher, I've seen the positives and negatives of both. What style of preschool do you prefer for your child?

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polkadots567 polkadots567 8 years
i vauguely remember my pre-school, and i think its the kind i would like to put my kid in. there was nothing special, it was just learning colors, abc's, count to 20, spelling your name, basic animals, storytime, a naptime, and playtime. that would be ideal, giving them a few things to learn and chew over, but giving them plenty of time to just be a kid!
Sarana Sarana 8 years
For me preschool is about play, they have enough years of sitting still and studying ahead. Let them be kids a little longer. Not sure what Chrstne means by it won't get them into kindergarten. Where I'm from kindergartens don't have demands. You turn 4 and you're accepted into kindergarten.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
play based. it's been proven that child led activities are best for early learners, that means play rather than flash cards and memorizing. little kids will find some activities, like letter of the week, or calendar time, fun in limited quantities.
mrtruman mrtruman 8 years
It totally depends on the individual child, so making blanket statements about either approach isn't going to help parents decide which style of preschool is best for their child/children. Many preschools now offer a "balanced approach" which incorporates a potty training curriculum, lots of play yet has age-appropriate academics such as a letter of the week, learning centers and brief circle time to get kids used to what things will be like in kindergarten.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
I am firmly on the side of developmental (play-based) preschools. There have been multiple studies that have shown that kids who go to academic preschools are not ahead of kids who went to play-based schools by 3rd or 4th grade, and they actually have more anxiety and are less creative and independent. 3 and 4-year-olds learn through play like banging on drums and playing house. I would be horrified if I visited a preschool and saw kids doing a bunch of worksheets for most of the day. Kids (and adults!) have SO many years to be desk drones, and I think it's important to create a foundation for education that is based on playing and socializing rather than drills and flash cards.
Chrstne Chrstne 8 years
When I was in college going for my teaching degree, I briefly spent a semester off teaching in pre school. This particular school had play times, but it also had education time and a curriculum, obviously. My experience watching the children was confusing. This particular group had no interest in sitting still to listen to stories...they wanted to bang on drums, play house, and scream and fight and be rough constantly. I thought it was a disaster. Hence why I will never send my kid to pre-k. I honestly believe a more formal academic setting with some play time, is the best way to go. Make learning fun, but playing all the time is not going to get your kid into kindergarten. When I was in pre-K, we did a lot of arts and crafts, and simple math, and learning colors and letters and writing. I could spell my name and read simple books when I was 2-3 years old! We played after nap time. I had the BEST time. Playing all the time would not have suited me at all. I can't even think about it anymore. I had the worst experience witnessing these children go about things willy-nilly, because the higher ups wanted that. It was not my style.
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