Whenever you see a preschool classroom on TV or in a movie, you'll usually see kids coloring at a table or maybe sitting down for story time.
In reality, though, there are actually tons of different preschool programs that focus on anything from nature to science. Depending on the school, you might also see a difference in the way that children are exposed to these subjects.
As a parent, it's up to you to decide what kind of learning experience would be best for your kid. Before you enroll your child in preschool, the first step is to figure out what you want them to learn and how you want them to learn it.
Here's a rundown of the six preschool programs from Parents magazine that you should know about:
In a Montessori classroom, the teacher sets up a learning environment with materials that will help stimulate the students' senses. Then, the teacher watches and guides while the children are set free to go and experience whatever they are most drawn to.
The American Montessori Society says that one key element of the Montessori method is grouping kids of different ages to let the younger students learn from the older ones. "This arrangement also mirrors the real world, where individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions," the society's website says.
The combination of independent learning and working with peers is meant to teach students how to think critically, build character and teach practical life skills.
WaldorfEducation.org says that a Waldorf path starts off the same as a Montessori program, but has big differences when it comes to philosophy. Teachers set up a similar multi-sensory environment, but they play a more active role in guiding activities and telling the students when they should be working together instead of on their own.
On a Waldorf track, students aren't exposed to actual academics until first grade. Instead, they focus on imagination, art, music and building social skills first. Also, instead of learning with students of different ages, everyone in the classroom is the same age.
This method is meant to inspire a self-motivated desire to learn and help kids bring out their full potential by helping them develop their unique skills and personalities.
Reggio Emilia is an approach that lets students discover interesting topics on their own and then explore them through class projects. PBS.org uses a flower as an example. Your child might see a flower out in the play area and ask the teacher a question about it. From there, the teacher might have the class work together to create a garden so they can learn through the whole experience.
This method is meant to help children become better citizens and focuses on the importance of community and self-expression.
HighScope programs focus on direct, hands-on learning with people, objects, events and ideas. The children get to choose what they want to learn about, and then teachers and parents offer the physical and intellectual support they need to figure it out. The goal is to help them develop their own creative problem-solving skills.
In the classroom, teachers give the students access to curriculum content with social, intellectual and physical building blocks. Each day, the kids follow a daily plan-do-review sequence that lets them plan what to learn, learn it, and then go through a review to make sure they understand what they learned.
This method is meant to support learning through consistent daily routines and highly organized classrooms.
Verywell family says learning through a Bank Street program usually includes more than one subject in a group setting. With this method, kids learn about the world through active experiences like playing with building blocks, puzzles and clay. Teachers help expand your kid's knowledge of certain topics while they're in the process of playing with related objects.
This method is meant to help children become life-long learners by interacting with the world around them and then gaining an understanding of what they've experienced.
In a co-op environment, parents have a chance to play a more direct role in the way their children learn. You might help the kids with activities or assist the professional teacher in the classroom. The students get a chance to learn with children their own age and experience creative arts, music, science and literature.
This method is meant to allow parents and children to learn together in a nurturing environment focused on teaching kids how to cooperate and resolve conflicts.