Early Childhood Program Types

Discover the foundational approaches to early childhood education. Each philosophy detailed here offers a unique framework aimed at nurturing and enhancing young children's developmental stages.

Understanding Different Educational Philosophies

As you explore these educational philosophies, consider your child's unique personality, learning style, and interests. This guide is designed to help you make an informed decision about which educational path could be the most beneficial for your child’s early learning experience.

Each educational philosophy represents a distinct approach to teaching and learning. From the structured environments of Montessori to the playful, child-led settings of Play-Based Learning, these philosophies are crafted to harness the innate potential of every child. Discover how each philosophy shapes the educational landscape and helps young minds blossom.

Use this information as a starting point to further explore and engage with educational communities. Discuss these philosophies with educators, visit local schools, and observe classes to see these approaches in action. Understanding these methods in practice can greatly assist in selecting the best educational fit for your child.


Emphasizes independence and respect for a child’s natural psychological development.

  • Holistic Development: Physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth is nurtured, fostering a natural desire for knowledge and respect.
  • Prepared Environment: Classrooms are arranged to encourage independence, featuring special learning materials for hands-on exploration.
  • Role of Teachers: Teachers observe and adapt activities to individual needs, promoting learning through self-discovery.
  • Multi-Age Classrooms: Mixed-age settings enhance social interactions and mentoring, with older students teaching younger ones.
  • Self-Directed Learning: Children choose their activities, boosting engagement and building intrinsic motivation and self-discipline.
Learn More About Montessori

Emphasizes a nurturing and creative environment, integrating artistic expression, practical skills, and intellectual exploration to foster a well-rounded child.

  • Developmental Approach: Focuses on nurturing the child's body, soul, and spirit through developmentally appropriate activities.
  • Arts Integration: Creatively integrates arts in all academic disciplines to enrich learning and enhance intellectual development.
  • Teacher's Role: Educators are dedicated to sparking an inner enthusiasm for learning, creating a supportive and non-competitive environment.
  • Cultural Richness: Emphasizes music, dance, and theater to cultivate students' intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capacities.
  • Connection with Nature: Encourages outdoor education and experiences that connect students with the natural world.
Learn More About Waldorf
Reggio Emilia

Empowers children to take ownership of their learning, exploring interests and curiosities through project-based inquiry, collaboration, and self-directed discovery.

  • Child-Centered Approach: Recognizes children as strong, capable, and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
  • The Hundred Languages: Children use many ways to express themselves, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music, each of which is a language through which they can express ideas.
  • Collaborative Environment: Learning is a collaborative process; the role of the educator is to facilitate growth by planning activities and lessons based on the children's interests, asking questions to further understanding, and actively engaging in the activities alongside the children.
  • Project-Based: The curriculum involves long-term, in-depth projects that emerge from children's interests. These projects provide opportunities for creative exploration and intensive study, leading to deeper knowledge and skills in various areas.
  • Environment as Educator: The setup of physical space encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. The environment is viewed as the third teacher and is thoughtfully arranged to be aesthetically pleasing and to encourage exploration.
Learn More About Reggio Emilia

Centers on children as active participants in their own learning. Uses a plan-do-review process that promotes independence and decision-making skills. It's a research-based approach.

  • Active Participatory Learning: Children engage in active learning by making choices about what they will explore and how to use materials, thereby developing a range of skills through their activities.
  • Social-Emotional Support: Focuses on building a supportive community where children develop confidence, social skills, and are emotionally secure.
  • Consistent Daily Routine: Employs a predictable sequence of events that encourages children to plan, do, and reflect on their learning, fostering independence and critical thinking.
  • Adult-Child Interaction: Teachers partner with children in learning, guiding their explorations to deepen understanding and enhance development.
  • Family Engagement: High/Scope recognizes the crucial role of families in early education and actively involves them in the learning process.
Learn More About High/Scope
IB Primary Years

Focuses on nurturing inquiry and curiosity in young learners through a transdisciplinary framework. Encourages exploration and discovery in a globally engaged learning environment.

  • Inquiry-Based Learning: Children are encouraged to ask questions and explore concepts through their own curiosity, fostering a deeper understanding of the world around them.
  • Social and Cultural Awareness: Promotes understanding and appreciation of various cultures and perspectives, helping children develop empathy and global awareness.
  • Emotional and Physical Well-being: Supports the holistic development of each child, including physical, emotional, and social growth, to build confidence and resilience.
  • Collaborative Learning: Children learn collaboratively through structured activities and play, enhancing communication skills and teamwork.
  • Family and Community Engagement: IB emphasizes active participation and engagement of families and community in the educational process, recognizing their integral role in holistic development.
Learn More About IB Primary Years
Play-Based Learning

Encourages children to learn through activities that are not only enjoyable but also educational, allowing for natural exploration.

  • Exploratory Learning: Children learn by engaging with the world around them, using play to explore and understand their environment.
  • Social Interaction: Play-based settings encourage interaction among children, fostering social skills through group activities and collaborative play.
  • Emotional Growth: Through play, children express their emotions and learn to manage feelings, helping them build emotional intelligence.
  • Cognitive Development: Play stimulates cognitive development through problem-solving, experimentation, and exploration.
  • Natural Learning: The curriculum is adapted to each child’s interests and developmental stage, allowing them to follow their natural curiosities and drives.
Cognitive-Based Philosophy
Cognitive-Based Philosophy (Constructivism)
Cognitive-Based Philosophy

Based on the belief that children learn best through play and exploration.

This approach builds on the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, encouraging environments that foster exploration and problem solving.

  • Active Learning: Emphasizes that children actively construct their own knowledge and understanding by connecting new information with existing knowledge.
  • Discovery-Based: Supports a curriculum that encourages exploration and discovery, facilitating learning through experiences rather than passive reception.
  • Interactive Teaching: Teachers guide learning by posing questions and problems, allowing children to discuss and explore answers.
  • Adaptive Understanding: Recognizes that as children integrate new information, they need to adjust their cognitive structures to accommodate it, fostering deeper understanding.
  • Intrinsic Motivation: Views motivation to learn as largely intrinsic, driven by the learner's desire to make sense of their own experiences.