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7 Popular Types of Preschool: Which One Fits Your Child?

Preschool is a time for your little one to fall in love with education. The right preschool program should help your child grow and learn in ways that best suit their unique mind.

But how do you know which one is right?

There’s an exciting range of preschool options available today, and every approach slightly varies in the way it supports a student’s creativity, memory, and understanding of the world around them.

The main preschool approaches today are:

  1. Montessori
  2. Reggio Emilia
  3. Waldorf
  4. High Scope
  5. Bank Street
  6. Parent Co-ops
  7. Religious

How do you choose the best school for your preschooler? Let’s break down their history, philosophy and a bit about their daily routine.


An Italian-inspired education approach, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this popular pedagogy over 100 years ago. Teachers and group leaders gently guide student-driven learning in Montessori classrooms. Within this structure, students choose which activities speak to their interests and move at the pace that fits their own learning preferences. This approach is believed to promote independence, accountability, and a natural passion for education.

Many Montessori schools offer infant through adolescent education, including early childhood programming for preschool-aged students. These young classrooms encourage hands-on learning with moldable materials to explore new concepts, skills, and passions. Classrooms at this age rarely include desks. They also offer uninterrupted periods of time each day for children to explore their favorite activity at their own pace.

Montessori also offers what they call “education for peace” approach. This method incorporates social justice and global leadership as well as the promotion of constructive conflict resolution.

Peace, Love, and Chores: Why Montessori Works for My Family

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia approaches the young student holistically, taking the full child’s intellectual and emotional potential into account. The school’s student-driven style focuses on the freedom to express and explore ideas using movement, active listening, and hands-on activities. Collaborative classroom activities foster relationships with others and the world around them.

Loris Malaguzzi developed the approach in the 1970s. Twenty years later, the Reggio Emilia organization formed in Italy to recognize and spread his work throughout the world. According to the Reggio organization, the curriculum bases its structure around, “the participation of families, the collegial work of all the personnel, the importance of the educational environment, the presence of the atelier [creative space] and the figure of the atelierista [artistic teacher], the in-school kitchen, and the pedagogical coordinating team.”

Expression through creativity and emotion – especially with the use of the “atelier” mentioned above – deepen the lessons learned both in preschool and into adulthood.


Waldorf early childhood curriculum lays a foundation of lifelong learning for the inquisitive child. Activities focus on building trust for the role of the educator with the use of mindfulness practice, artistic activities, and a warm and healthy classroom environment.

Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner developed this educational approach in the early 20th century after World War I. Waldorf education aims to see the potential in each child as a fully rounded individual. Their self-driven learning builds a passion for education through artistic activities in all academic subjects. Lessons are experiential, not just studied, encouraging a student’s creativity, independence, and deep understanding of every topic they explore.


With over 50 years of early childhood education, HighScope bases its curriculum on a series of key development indicators (KDI) to design an encouraging classroom for every student. These KDIs guide teachers in choosing activities and projects appropriate for every age. They also help teachers understand and interpret young students’ needs and questions to best guide their learning.

The act of play is at the center of all lessons. Teachers act as a partner to the child, encouraging development, problem-solving tactics, and conflict-resolution skills through hands-on projects.

The HighScope organization reiterates that the “play-do-review sequence” sits at the center of every school day. Students choose their desired activity or projects, make a plan for reaching their goal and then work with adults in their classroom to analyze the results.

Bank Street

Originally developed in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Lucy Sprague Mitchell set out to develop an approach to education that focuses on the whole child’s development. A team of specialists built a classroom that fosters the unique emotional, physical, social and intellectual facets of each student. The curriculum takes the emotional and intellectual changes that occur at each age and incorporate these into how they approach every lesson. With an interdisciplinary approach to all subjects, students learn to engage in education in an emotional and meaningful way.

The classroom mixes ages, and students work together no matter their stage of development. This discourages any competition among the group when exploring their play-based lessons. Students then decide if they’d rather learn through observation or by taking a hands-on approach to experiential projects. Kids receive one-on-one attention as the day goes on, but the child’s passions direct the lesson of the day.

Parent Co-ops

A group of like-minded parents can have a direct hand in melding their child’s education by forming a parent co-op preschool. In this setup, a collection of parents hires a professional teacher that fits their learning style. Parents and teachers work in tandem, typically with parents managing all administrative aspects of the school and rotating in and out of the classroom to observe and assist with lessons. Not only does this allow parents to remain in their young child’s early education, but it also builds a tight-knit community of parent educators in the area.


Many local religious organizations offer faith-based preschool programs as well. The level of religious focus depends on the school itself, though many allow talk of god and religion without restraint. The curriculum may not focus on developing the spiritual beliefs of the child but remain open to incorporating church values and stories into their lessons.

Find religious preschools in your area

The Bottom Line

Preschools across the board aim to inspire young students in the classroom. They incorporate art, hands-on learning and experiential exercises to tap into a young student’s energy and creativity. When choosing the best preschool or your child, visit your favorite programs to see if the teaching style meshes with you and your little one’s passion for learning and exploration.

Find great preschools in your area

Author: Ginny Bartolone

Ginny is a freelance writer and actress based in Montclair, NJ. She regularly contributes to a range of wedding, lifestyle and spirituality websites, as well as in her own blog, She is also currently completing a book about her two hikes across Spain.