More than 60% of children above the age of four are enrolled in some kind of preschool program. For many families starting preschool is an important milestone for any child! 

Preschool programs provide a great opportunity for socialization and education all at the same time. That combination helps set your child up for success throughout their whole educational journey. 

But with so many options available, it's hard to know which types of preschool programs will be right for your child. Luckily, you've got us! We've outlined six popular choices to help narrow down your search.  

1. Micro-school

Many parents know they want their child to be in an educational setting and have very specific ideas of what they want that to look like. But after searching...sometimes they aren't able to find the exact fit!  

This is where a micro-school setup can work perfectly. A micro-school is essentially a homeschool environment but with multiple children. You can think of it kind of like a long playdate...but with more of an education focus. 

Several parents can pool together to make the micro-school and take turns being the teacher.This type of preschool program is ideal for parents who want their children to have a unique experience or a specific focus. There is much more room for parental input for curriculum and activities. 

A micro-school is also a great opportunity to take advantage of the activities and classes offered by a variety of hosts around your city. Searching for those opportunities can direct the way you run your class and what's being taught. 

2. Montessori 

In recent years a Montessori approach to preschool has become very popular on best preschool programs lists. 

The Montessori approach aims to tap into a child's natural curiosity and desire to learn. The teachers take a slight backseat role to allow the child to steer how the learning goes. 

A hallmark of Montessori is the increased play, which is how they are encouraged to learn. Montessori classrooms are set up in a very specific way to promote the children playing. Toys are displayed in a visual way to allow the child to see their options, which have been carefully chosen by the teacher to fit the educational goals. 

It's important to note that while this method is largely child-led, a Montessori teacher is highly trained to be able to best facilitate play and learning. 

Their training allows them to create an environment conducive to learning through play in a very effective way!

 

3. Forest school 

Forest school is a very exciting option but will only work in very specific areas. Essentially, if your child attends a forest school they spend all of their educational time outdoors! And no, a Brooklyn playground probably doesn’t count.

In a forest school, the children are encouraged to learn through play that takes place entirely outdoors. Though, it’s important to note that not all forest schools actually take place in the forest. Classes could meet at parks, a backyard, by the river, on a beach, or in the mountains — it really depends on your local surroundings. 

Education is done mostly through play, similar to a Montessori approach, but with much fewer objects and manipulative. Instead, the teacher will use examples from nature to teach and explain concepts to the children. 

 

4. Stem focused

A new trend throughout education in general is to have a STEM focus. STEM education centers on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Many parents and educators feel this is the best way to set students up for success since it's the way the job market is trending. Obviously, a STEM preschool won't be as intense as other programs and still incorporates play. 

But the play often starts a foundation for coding and building in a mathematical way. 

Starting a child's education with this type of focus can help them to be able to make those types of connections easier in the future. Coding classes are a popular option for summer camps and recreational activities, so many are incorporating that into preschool programs. 

5. Reggio Emilia 

Along the same lines as Montessori, Reggio Emilia preschool programs look to teach children in unique ways. This program focuses on project-based learning. 

Students work together to complete a project, like building a model. As they're completing the necessary tasks, the teacher is helping them to learn various lessons like counting or shapes. 

Many parents enjoy this type of learning because it's actively engaging with the children but also helps them apply what they're learning to real-life situations. 

Reggio Emilia programs are also similar to Montessori because they are more student-led than traditional teacher instruction. The whole group works at their own pace to complete the necessary learning tasks. 

 

6. Traditional

Of course, the simplest answer to the question of how to start preschool for your child is to find a traditional program. These preschools mimic the standard schooling system but with a slightly looser structure and more play. And of course, who doesn’t love to play?

In these settings, the teacher instructs in a more formal manner but that doesn't mean the children won't have fun. 

This is a great option if you've noticed that your child functions better with more structure than not. It's also a great choice if you have concerns about the child entering into the typical school setting at kindergarten. A traditional preschool will help students learn their ABCs, basic numbers, shapes, colors, and maybe some writing skills. 

 

Finding the right program for starting preschool

Every parent wants what's best for their child, that's why starting preschool is such a big deal! You want to make the right choice between all the different options. 

The good news is, there are opportunities and options that will fit most any educational needs, social preferences, and budgets. 

We're here to help parents easily see all of their options and discover activities and enrichment outside of the classroom.

Discover and book summer camps on Sawyer

STEMSportsArtPerformanceOutdoorAcademic