A preschool, also known as nursery school, pre-primary school, play school or creche, is an educational establishment or learning space offering early childhood education to children before they begin compulsory education at primary school. It may be publicly or privately operated, and may be subsidized from public funds.
Terminology varies by country. In some European countries the term “kindergarten” refers to formal education of children classified as level 0 – with one or several years of such education being compulsory – before children start primary school at level 1.
The following terms may be used for educational institutions for this age group:
Preschools teach the basics to kids, giving them a strong foundation for the elementary years. This includes academic concepts of literacy and math, such as counting, coloring, and letter recognition and developing large and fine motor skills, such as walking in a line and using a pencil. It also includes social and school-readiness skills, such as making friends, sharing, and taking turns.
The preschool curriculum offered at one child’s preschool may vary significantly from what is offered at other schools. This is because preschools are not governed by the standards that apply to K-12 education.
So, individual schools and groups of schools have the freedom to teach what they please in the manner they prefer.3 For example, preschools located in religious institutions may include religious education in their curriculum. Montessori preschools use specific materials and activities to encourage children in hands-on learning.4
Teachers may also adjust their educational approaches to suit the needs of individual children in their classroom. While preschools don’t all adhere to the same educational guidelines, they’re intended to prepare students for kindergarten. That means most effective preschools work on key skill areas, which include math, science, and literacy skills.
Important concepts in the preschool curriculum include the following:
Preschool-age children are learning to master both gross motor skills (which involve large physical movements) and fine motor skills (such as manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination). Many preschools spend time actively engaged in working on these developmental skills.
Fine-motor activities, which are important for writing, grasping, and coordinating fine movements, include drawing, cutting, coloring, and gluing. Gross motor skills are often worked on during recess and may involve using playground equipment, running, skipping, jumping, and kicking or throwing a ball to a partner.