When it comes time to enroll in pre-school, not only are parents looking for a safe and nurturing environment for their little darling, they also need to think about school philosophy and classroom methods. In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy in regards to academic versus play-based pre-schools. So, what’s the difference?
The play-based classroom, also referred to as child-centered, is broken up into activity centers, such as, home or kitchen, science, reading, blocks, dress-up and so on. Kids are encouraged to play, building social and emotional skills.
The academic based classroom is teacher-directed. Teachers plan activities and then lead the children through the activities or lesson. The goal is to prepare kids for kindergarten with kids learning letters, shapes, colors and other skills.
Which Philosophy is Better?
Research shows pros and cons for both philosophies. Studies have found that play-based centers help to develop social skills and cooperation with others that leads to success later on in their academic careers. Other studies have shown that attention skills developed through an academic program are a great asset. As we’ve discussed before here on dsm4kids, it really comes down to what’s appropriate for your family and your child’s personality and aptitude.
To share a little bit of our experience. All of the pre-schools my son and daughter attended incorporated both play-based and academic curriculums. The kids participated in teacher lead activities for an hour or two a day and also had lots of opportunities for unstructured play-based learning, along with outside time. I feel like we got the best of both worlds and the kids were ready and eager to start Kindergarten, when the time came.
No matter what philosophy you choose, the end game is to instill a love of learning and that kids feel prepared and ready to learn. Not necessarily that they can read and write before Kindergarten.
What’s your experience with play-based or academic centered pre-schools? Please let us know whether you liked it and why or why not?