Types of Preschools and How to Choose

Preschools - types and choosing tips

Preschool already? Time does fly, and before you know it you are registering your toddler (or waitlisting them).

There are a number of different types of preschools, which follow slightly different philosophies. Each with its own set of methodology, rules, curriculum, and even toys. While all focus on the child’s learning and development, it really helps to learn about the different approaches, and see what fits best with your ideals.

Types of preschools and choosing a preschool

Types of Preschools

Here we discuss the 5 types of preschool approaches (though there may be others), these are the most common ones we see offered.


Main Concept: The focus is to let children learn at their own pace, where younger and older kids (3 to 5) are in the same setting, allowing the older kids to be role models. The teachers provide guidance to allow the kids to develop senses, academic ability as well as practical life skills and focuses on the child moving freely around the class  (through various hands-on activities) and learning hands-on individually.

Who this best suits: Those who want or are able to play independently while also being okay with them being taught to be responsible for their own clean-up, tasks, and belongings.


Main Concept:  The focus is a dependable routine which follows a rhythm and structured daily or weekly schedule. This methodology emphasizes creative learning through natural toys, a home-like environment, and using acting, singing, reading. Schools of this nature require teachers to be accredited under the Waldorf name. While it fosters creativity and predictability, it also teaches cooperation.

Who this best suits: Those who want a more routine and known set of activities, more natural play items, and thrive on having predictability in their day.

Reggio Emilia

Main Concept: A more project-based and explorative approach to learning. The philosophy is to have it more student-focused and the curriculum becomes based on student interest, while framed by a teacher. The idea is to foster the spontaneous curiosity of children and have them learn through the experience, making mistakes vs. being just told.

Who this best suits:  Those interested in having a more explorative learning experience through problem-solving and cooperation with others, while also being okay with documenting this learning process.


Main Concept: The focus in primarily promoting participation and age-appropriate activities. Things like group story-time, themed activities and hands-on playtimes make up the curriculum. The emphasis is learning through playing and having some drawn concepts and academic content from other philosophies occasionally.

Who this best suits: Those who want to have a looser and less structured environment to learn hands-on through play.

Parent Participation Preschool

Main Concept: The school can follow any philosophy but the main point is that parents are playing a significant role at the school and there with the child the whole time. The school fosters cooperation and play, and the parents also often help run the course of the day and work with the teachers.

Who this best suits: Parents who want to be a part of the preschool experience with their child, and helping their children (and offer a hand in the classroom as well).

How Do I Choose a Type?

After learning about the different models, you can better decide what works best with your parenting approach and own opinions. However, the other important thing to consider is your child’s personality.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to focus on in terms of his/her needs?
  • Do they need more individualism or would benefit from learning from others or not ready to be on their own?
  • What types of environments do they thrive in and would this be a fit?

Looking at your goals, your child’s needs and each methodology in conjunction will help to identify the best type of preschool.

How Do I Narrow My Choices?

Once you choose a methodology, you may find there are a number of preschools in your area (or area you are willing to travel to) that offer this method. While that is excellent news, there are still other options you must consider which will help you hone in on the right school.

  • Budget – does the cost of tuition fit into your finances?
  • Class Availability – does the class have space for the term you want to start?
  • Ratio – are you comfortable with the teacher to child ratio?
  • Schedule – does the morning or afternoon sessions, part-time and full-time session times work for you?

Next Steps

Call and schedule consultations and meet with the schools and teachers, often they will ask you to bring your toddler as well. Let the toddler discover the classroom and talk with the teacher. Come prepared with questions such as:

  • Does the child need to be potty trained and how do they deal with that?
  • Are snacks/lunches provided?
  • What are the drop-off and pick-up times?
  • What are policies surrounding discipline?

Once you have your meeting, sit down with your partner and decide what checks all your boxes and is feasible for your family.

Once you reach your decision, do not hesitate to register to secure your spot.

Good luck!


*Images courtesy of ShutterStock


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