Child Development

Academic versus Play Based San Diego Preschools

Academic vs Play Based: The Difference Between the Two San Diego Preschools

When you’re the new parent of a preschooler, it can feel like every decision is the biggest decision of your child’s life.

academic play versus creative play

Image from Elizabeth Knowles LinkedIn

What should I feed them?

How much and how often?

What time should they go to bed?

How young is too young to consider kindergarten?

The answer to that last question is that it is never too early to begin thinking about your child’s future.

However, your child’s future in kindergarten is due largely to their success in preschool.

For this reason, many of the decisions you face in your preschooler’s life will have a direct impact on their future.

Of these decisions?

The choice between an academically-based preschool or a play-based one.

Though both encourage your child’s future in kindergarten and beyond, both differ in many ways.

The key is in asking what you personally hope for you child to get out of their preschool program.

Take a look at the difference between the two programs, both of which are offered at various San Diego preschools throughout the county.

Academically-Based Preschool

What It Means

Perhaps considered the more traditional approach to teaching, academically-based preschool programs also called skill-based

creative play versus academic play

Image from NAEYC

programs, rely on the didactic directed method of teaching. Here, we see the teachers direct and manage their classroom, creating and sticking closely to a lesson plan that is meant to foster structure in the children. Here, although creative play is encouraged, it is second to the learning of sounds, letters, numbers, shapes, and other, more academically challenging pillars of learning to better prepare them for academia in their later years. In recent years, the Montessori method has become a popular choice for academically based San Diego preschool programs.

What To Keep In Mind

  •  More Structured: Academic-based programs tend to follow a more rigid schedule than that of play based programs. However, activities, creativity, and exercise are still encouraged to stimulate the child’s growth.
  •  Teacher Guidance Is Encouraged: In academic programs, teachers are intricately involved in creating a fulfilling atmosphere for the child. This means that they interact to help your child fully understand and immerse themselves into the subject being studied. In contrast, play-based school sees children exploring and interacting with each other and by themselves to draw conclusions about the world around them on their own.
  • Academia Is the Primary Focus: Yes, your preschooler will engage in art projects, music, story time, and play while in an academic setting. However, the primary focus will be on things like mathematics, reading, alphabets, sounds, and shapes. This is not to deter creativity, but instead to encourage a stronger ability in school-related subjects for the future.

Play-Based Preschool

What It Means

Also referred to as “child centered” programs, play-based programs are given the chance to choose their “area of study” based on their current interests. In contrast to the academic-style program wherein the teacher adheres to a routine and lesson plan, play

academic play versus creative play

Image from Scoop It!

based allows children to have flexibility and control over their environment. Instead of following a routine set by their teacher, preschoolers are able to move between stations in the classroom, finding that they’d like to work on for the day. This means that the room is often separated into sections for art, reading, music, sensory, kitchen, house, blocks, and more to encourage the creativity of the child. The belief behind play based San Diego preschool programs is that the freedom provided by the curriculum will make children more refreshed and ready to enter kindergarten classrooms.

  •  Less Structured: As mentioned above, child centered programs do not rely on the steady structure provided by academic ones. For this reason, if you’re uncomfortable with your preschooler “running the show” so to speak, then you may find that the more traditional, academically based school is for you.
  •  Individuality Is Encouraged: In play-based models, your preschooler is encouraged to do what works for them at that moment in time. This means that they will be able to work at their own pace and show an interest in what makes them tick early on.
  •  Self Regulation Is the Primary Focus: The less rigid structure of a play-based preschool program stimulates a child’s ability to control their impulses, a factor that researches believe is one of the most important factors in future success. By allowing preschoolers early opportunities to control the world around them, they become more capable of regulating themselves.
    In either sense, the choice between a play- or academically-based preschool is up to you and what you would like to see happen with your children. Both versions of San Diego preschools will encourage a stronger future for your child.

What version of San Diego preschools do you find more intriguing?

Comment below with what you think is the biggest difference between both schools of thought!

Want To Learn More?

Check out PBS’s Choosing Preschool Philosophies now!

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