There are a bevy of early childhood schools and education centers from which you can choose. Selecting the best school or learning center in which to enroll your young child is a big decision. Considering preschool vs. pre-k can raise many questions for parents. Is preschool the same as pre-k? What is pre-k? While the differences are marginal, there are a few factors to consider when placing your child in preschool or choosing to put him in pre-kindergarten.
The main difference between preschool and pre-k is the age at which the child can be enrolled. The emphasis in preschool tends to be more on playful learning, whereas a pre-k class will specifically engage a child in areas that will be taught in kindergarten.
What to Look for in a School
All children develop at their own pace. No matter whether you decide on a preschool or pre-k school or learning center for your child, you should consider the educational, emotional and physical needs of your child. A quality preschool or pre-k center will place relationships between teacher and students at the heart of the classroom setting. Students can thrive in safe environments where they will feel comfortable among the other students and can relate to the teacher or caregivers in the classroom who are there to assist. Each program should revolve around playful learning with age-appropriate practices and should provide room for the children to move so they will not be sitting for long periods of time, which is more than likely beyond their scope of capabilities at that young age.
Parameters of Preschool
Preschool is a safe environment where toddlers and older children can mix. The emphasis in preschool tends to be more on playful learning than kindergarten preparedness. However, any environment where basic education, interaction with other students of the approximate same age group and listening and language skills are emphasized will better prepare a child for school. Children who attend preschool as young as 3 years of age have shown better language and vocabulary skills, emotional readiness for classroom settings and an ability to interact with larger groups of people. It is the first step in preparing a child for the wonder of learning and exposes them to a wide variety of materials and situations that can spark their imagination.
A pre-kindergarten class will specifically engage a child in areas that will be taught in kindergarten. This will ready them for the classroom and assist them in engaging with the teacher and other students in an appropriate manner. They will learn to sit for relatively lengthier periods of time than they may be used to at home or in a day care environment. Pre-k will also assist them in working in groups, listening to instructions, moving from station to station and sitting in their seat rather than roaming the classroom. For this reason, pre-k is recommended for older children who can articulate and respond to directions rather than toddlers.
Preschool Age and Pre-K Age
The main difference between preschool and pre-k is the age at which the child can be enrolled. Preschool tends to have a much more flexible approach in allowing children of different ages into the learning institution. This is usually from between 2-and-a-half and 4-and a-half years of age. If a child can listen to direction and engage with others, preschool will prepare her for a classroom setting much more than a day care or home environment. The pre-kindergarten classes tend to be for children who are older in age and who have more developmental abilities, usually between 4 and 5 years old. Starting education before kindergarten has shown to increase a child’s vocabulary and language skills as well as emotional readiness for higher grades and classroom instruction.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.