Different preschool philosophies

If you’re looking for a preschool for Baby, of course you’re looking for one that will help them start to get used to schoolroom routines, get to know a big group of their peers as well as lay a solid foundation for their future education.

When you’re in an area where there is a wide range of preschools, the options can feel overwhelming. One clue that can help you figure out which school is right for your family is to look at the school’s underlying philosophy, and try to work out how that philosophy will work for your little one’s specific personality.


Developed by Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori system of education is designed to adapt to the child’s stages of development, rather than the other way around.

Preschoolers are encouraged to think creatively, to work independently, and to figure things out on their own. Montessori preschools work towards these goals by providing toys, activities, and opportunities to encourage this kind of thinking. Learning through play, especially at this age, is one of the main tenets of this philosophy.

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is named after the city in Italy where the educational system began. In the Reggio Emilia system, the central idea is that the child is at the center of the learning experience, though both parents and teachers are also important. Parents and teachers are also equally as important as each other.

Another important part of a Reggio Emilia education is social interactions between children. Children are social people, the Reggio Emilia school of thought says, and they should have lots of chances to work out how to interact with each other and have fun together. They’re also encouraged to express what they think and how they feel in whatever way they’re drawn to, whether that means verbally, musically, through art, or through physical activity.


The Waldorf school of thought is based on anthroposophy – a spiritual science that is developed by Rudolf Steiner. The Waldorf system of education focuses on developing the “head, heart, hands” of a child through hands-on practical, imaginative, and artistic activities.

Since kids imitate what they see all the time, Waldorf teachers are meant to be positive examples that kids will want to be like. What’s unique about the Waldorf system is that a teacher will stay with a specific class for a number of years. This way, teachers can build relationships with their classes where they know their strengths, weaknesses, and needs.


Previously known as the ‘Cognitive Oriented Curriculum’, HighScope’s goal is to bring up children who aim high (“high”) and dream big (“scope”). David Weikart, who developed HighScope, was inspired by Jean Piaget’s child development theories. But instead of strictly following Piaget’s theories, he believed that the views of the teachers should be incorporated to HighScope’s approach. The purpose of this is to achieve a well-balanced system for the child that promotes curiosity, independence, and creativity to name a few.

Bank Street

Founded by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street is a progressive educational system. Bank Street schools are designed around the idea that children learn best through sensory experience and play. Students are given the chance to explore the world around them through a series of field trips, science, and art classes.

There’s no one right way to find the right educational environment for your child – it depends on Baby’s needs, the way they react to the new setting, the way you feel about dropping them off for the day there, and more practical concerns like cost and distance from your home. Some preschools offer free trial classes, which can be a great way for a toddler to test-drive a new environment.

  • “Bank Street College of Education.” Bank Street. Bank Street. Retrieved February 15 2018. https://www.bankstreet.edu/.
  • “HighScope.” HighScope. HighScope Educational Research Foundation. Retrieved February 15 2018. https://highscope.org/preschool.
  • “Montessori education.” AMI Global. Association Montessori Global. Retrieved February 15 2018. https://ami-global.org/montessori/montessori-education.
  • “North American Reggio Emilia Alliance.” Reggio Alliance. NAREA. Retrieved February 15 2018. https://www.reggioalliance.org/narea/.

“What is Waldorf education?” Waldorf Answers. Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall. Retrieved February 15 2018. http://www.waldorfanswers.org/Waldorf.htm.

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