7 Types of Preschools and How they work in the Classroom

Activities  classroom  education  holistic  intelligence  methodology  Montessori  play-based  pre-school  teachers  tools  whole brain training 
Posted 6 years ago

7 Types of Preschool and How They Look in the Classroom

Montessori, Play-based, Whole Brain training, High Scope, Reggio Emilia, Theory of Multiple Intelligences or Waldorf Steiner? Some of these may sound familiar and you’ve probably read it from a preschool’s pamphlet or website.

Searching for the right preschool program is a serious undertaking but apart from location, costs and waiting lists, parents fundamentally want (should) understand that the type of approach each centre uses to educate children.

Here is a list of 7 preschool curricula, their philosophies and how they look in a classroom setting:

1 | Montessori

The Montessori was developed by Maria Montessori during the late 1800s and focuses on nurturing a child’s intrinsic desire to learn. The principle is that children are naturally eager to learn and an adult simply has to create a conducive environment that promote the learning.


Montessori is based on the following principles:

  1. Respect the child as a worthy individual who is capable of becoming more mature.
  2. Children absorb knowledge without effort and learning cannot be forced upon them.
  3. Children have phases of fascination where they develop various skills.
  4. Children should be allowed to move freely in an environment that has been designed for them for optimal development.
  5. Learning experience among children can happen naturally at the right moment for each child.

In the classroom: At a Montessori, teachers simply act as facilitators and children are allowed to move freely around the room. Students can go about the activities that interest them and can choose to work with their teacher, in a small group or by themselves. Montessori teachers simply interrupt when a situation endangers the students and when incorrect habits are developed. The outdoors is also an integral part in a Montessori school and students are given many opportunities to engage with the natural world.

2 | Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach was developed by Loris Malaguzzi along with the parents in the Reggio Emilia region in Northern Italy. This is a project-based community learning effort focused on the needs of the children and no two Reggio classrooms are the same.


The Reggio Emilia approach believes in the following principles:

  • A child should have control over their learning and the direction it takes.
  • A child is able to learn more through experiencing: touching, moving, listening and observing.
  • A child’s relationship with other children and material items are important in the learning process.
  • A child should be provided with various opportunities for expressing themselves.

In the classroom: In a Reggio-inspired classroom, teachers are not just the instructor but also a co-learner and collaborator with the child. Teachers plan and set up the activities and instead of simply sitting back and observing as the child learns, they engage with the child and ask questions for further learning.

3 | Play-based

The play-based approach is mostly taken from the theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky along other educational and developmental theories are also incorporated in it.


A play-based preschool setting believes that children are able to learn more when they are able to interact with the environment and their surroundings in a fun and interesting way.

In the classroom: The environment is set up in such a way that it encourages play among children. Tools and materials are being provided for children to play with and they are given time for both individual and shared play throughout the day.

4 | Theory of Multiple Intelligences

This educational approach was developed by American developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, in 1983 who believed that intelligence is multi-dimensional.


Howard Gardner believed that a person’s intelligence is composed of eight major areas:

  • Spatial, which allows children to interact with the space around them
  • Linguistic, which includes learning both spoken and written languages
  • Logical-Mathematical, which focuses on developing reasoning and other scientific capabilities
  • Body Kinaesthetic, which involves learning to control one’s body
  • Musical, which includes having awareness for sound, tone, rhythm and music
  • Interpersonal, or the way one relates with other people
  • Intra-personal, which involves understanding oneself
  • Naturalistic, which includes relating to the environment and the surroundings

In the classroom: Multiple intelligence schools often provide learning centres to represent each of the seven intelligences of a person. Students are given a short lecture and discussion about an aspect of the current theme and students, usually in groups of three or four, move around in order to learn about the theme in seven different ways.

5 | Waldorf Steiner

This preschool education approach is based on the view point of Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, who first set up a school for the children of the employees of Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory back in 1919.


Steiner believed that there are three major stages:

  1. Early childhood education focuses on hands-on activities and creative play;
  2. Elementary education focuses on artistic expression; and
  3. Secondary education focuses on developing critical reasoning and emphatic understanding.

In the classroom: In a Waldorf preschool setting, kids follow through a regular routine which includes free play, artistic activities, circle time for stories and games, outdoor recess and practical tasks such as cleaning, cooking and more. The classroom will basically resemble that of a home and the tools and toys are made from natural materials to encourage imaginative play. Television and media are highly discouraged in this setting.

6 | High Scope

The High Scope educational approach was developed by David Weikart, the Director of Special Services in the Public School District, in the 1960s. Its philosophies were drawn from the teachings of Jean Piaget, John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky.


High Scope learning considers a child’s interaction with their environment as crucial to their learning process.

In the classroom: Students in a High Scope program follow a “plan-do-review” day. First, they form a large group where they plan out what they will do for the day, with the teacher. They are then divided into small groups in order to work on their interest areas and have time for play. At the end of the day, everyone comes back to gather in the large group and review what they have done for the day.

7 | Whole Brain Learning

Whole brain teaching is considered a best practice method that seeks to empower students as learners.  In most classrooms today, teaching remains direct instruction by a teacher who is considered “more knowledgeable”, transferring knowledge through lectures, then leading to a test.  Whole brain teaching attempts to break away from this norm and empowers students as the “more knowledgeable ones” steering the teaching experience.


While our cerebral hemispheres processes information in different ways, the two work intimately together when it comes to just about every action we take. A research-based system that utilizes all areas of the brain, keeps children engaged throughout their lessons, and helps them retain much more information than the standard lecture-discussion model.

In the classroom: This approach is aimed at letting children learn in a holistic manner. Teaching to the whole brain includes establishing rituals and routines, stimulating emotions and allowing students to become active learners. 

We hope that the analysis above will help you decide on the most conducive and enjoyable environment for your child’s learning.

Written by the team at Kinderful.com


Simply Education commented 5 years ago
Thanks for sharing useful information!

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7 Types of Preschools and How they work in the Classroom

Montessori, Play-based, Whole Brain training, High Scope, Reggio Emilia, Theory of Multiple Intelligences or Waldorf Steiner? Some of these may sound familiar and you’ve probably read it from a preschool’s pamphlet or website. Learn the philosophy behind the curricula and how they work in a classroom setting.