T ypically, preschools describe themselves as either “play-based” (also known as child-centered and developmentally appropriate) or “academic” (also known as teacher-directed and traditional). Most early education philosophies fall into one of these two categories. What’s the difference and which one’s better?
Child-Centered / Play-based / Developmentally Appropriate
The most common teaching philosophy is child-centered and based on play, whereby children do activities of their choosing. In a fairly unstructured program, children learn at their own pace. They can select from several activities and can play alone or in small groups. The whole group often comes together for songs, stories, or other “circle time” activities. Doing activities based on children’s interests develops their love for school, builds creativity, and increases motivation to try new things. Play-based programs have a lot of unstructured hands-on play, group story-time, and themed activities. This approach typically helps children develop their social skills including communication, sharing, empathy, and listening. I’ve discussed examples of specific child-centered philosophies in my earlier post here.