Which Is Better? Child-Centered vS Academic-Based Preschool

If your youngster is ready for preschool, you may be wondering what type of preschool is best for him. While you will want one that is clean and safe and meets all your state and local regulations, that isn't enough information to choose a preschool. You will need to considered the preschool's philosophy, too. There are basically two opposing preschool philosophies: child-centered and academic. Consider the benefits and pitfalls of each philosophy before you choose a preschool for your child.

What is a child-centered preschool?

Child-centered preschools may be described as developmentally-appropriate preschools or play-based preschools. These preschools subscribe to the belief that children learn through play and that developing social skills is the most important part of a preschool program. Although there is ample room for children to learn basic academic skills, such as pre-reading and pre-math skills via play, the center's primary focus is to allow children to learn at their own pace.

The preschool typically contains play centers, such as a play kitchen, a dress up area, block or construction centers, sand and water tables and a variety of educational play centers to encourage children to explore and learn as they play. Children choose activities that interest them and are not restricted to short periods of play in each center. Staff guides and oversees children, encouraging exploration and the development of good social skills, such as sharing, taking turns and waiting for their turn.

While children in child-centered preschools learn to follow routines and a daily schedule, these are typically less rigid than those in an academic-based preschool. Children are afforded more time for free play with less structure to the day.

What is an academic-based preschool?

Academic-based preschools focus primarily on building academic skills to prepare children for academic success in school. Staff members typically direct children's activities with each activity designed specifically to build certain academic skills, such as reading and math skills. Learning colors, shapes and letters is generally done through structured activities that each child is expected to participate in. This may include art projects, worksheets or group activities.

While academic preschools also contain activity centers they are often referred to a learning centers. Children may be required to spend a specific amount of time in each learning center and complete specific tasks, such as sorting, sequencing and counting manipulatives.  Academic preschools provide tasks that are geared toward academic success, instead of social and emotional growth.

Do any preschools do both?

Yes. Many preschools work to combine both the child-centered and academic-based philosophies. They may provide ample time for free play, allow children to choose their own activities and encourage social and emotional growth for portions or the day and focus on academic skills during group or reading time. This approach helps to build both academic and social skills.

Which is better, child-centered or academic based preschools?

There are both good and bad aspects to both philosophies. For example, many children who are pushed academically at a young age lose interest and motivation in learning and experience more behavioral problems. However, they also score higher on standardized testing for the first two years of school. Likewise, children who attend child-centered preschools may be well-balanced emotionally and socially, but lag behind in pre-reading and math skills when they enter kindergarten.

A preschool combines both philosophies and provides some academic tasks, such as

  • story time where the teacher encourages children to predict what happens next, asks children to retell the story, and asks open ended question
  • math activities that encourage sorting, stacking and counting
  • science activities like water and sand tables

Understanding the philosophy of different preschools will help you decide on one that works best for your child. Discover more on the web or by contacting local preschools.

About Me

Understanding Early Childhood Education

Hello, my name is Derrick. Welcome to my site about early child education courses. When I was raising my two young kids, I learned all about the importance of early child education. I helped my kids learn how to read and do arithmetic by the age of four. With my support, my kids developed a deep love for learning that has benefited them throughout life. On this site, I will talk about all of the different approaches you can use to help your own children embrace learning from an early age. With some luck and hard work, your kids will have a life-long love of learning.