Preschool (also referred to as nursery school, early childhood education (ECE), day-care, and childcare) is an educational option for parents in Canada that is not mandatory.
As the name suggests, preschool is for children who are too young to attend junior-kindergarten or kindergarten school programs, which usually start at age 4 or 5, depending on the province in which you live.
Children can usually start preschool around the age of 2.5 years old, and may need to be toilet-trained, depending on the school’s policy. The government does not usually fund preschool, so often parents must choose a private preschool option.
Benefits of preschool
Why should children attend school at such an early age, especially if your provincial Ministry of Education does not offer it?
According to The Early Years Study, a report authored by Margaret McCain, Dr. Fraser Mustard and Kerry McCuaig, “early education results in improved school readiness, graduation levels, future earnings and health” (November, 2011).
The benefits of attending preschool go much deeper than simply better school performance. Experts say that early education promotes a lifelong love of learning. Other benefits of preschool include (each of these has the potential for a link out to a stand-alone article):
Increased social interaction
Improved social skills and manners
Opportunity to learn through play
A jump-start on basic knowledge like reading, writing, math and concepts like seasons and telling time
Developing character skills including independence and self-reliance
Introduction to activities like music, dance and sport
A structured routine which can help children flourish
Easier transitions - exposure to the routine of school early on helps children transition into the school environment when they are older
Interaction with children of different age groups. Buddy systems help students learn from each other and model the behaviour of older students
Types of preschool
There are a number of types of private preschool in Canada, each having its own philosophy and approach to education. A few of these types include:
Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs - Early childhood programs are usually programs for children under the age of normal schooling (usually five years old) and generally focuses on learning through play.
Montessori Casa programs - A Montessori program aimed at children ages 3 - 6 years old where the classroom is usually organized into 5 main curriculum areas - these are Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture.
Waldorf - The early years of a Waldorf education usually focuses on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play.
Reggio Emillia - This educational philosophy focuses on preschool and primary grades and is based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum that teaches the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment.
Community preschool programs - Programs for children between the ages of 2.5 and 5, depending on the location. In Canada preschool precedes Kindergarten and the normal primary school system.
Religious programs - There are a number of programs for children of preschool age that are created and run by churches, or by religious schools of a number of different faiths and denominations.
Teacher:Student - Preschool ratios
It’s important to note that one common denominator between the abovementioned types of preschools is that they are all mandated by the Ministry of Education to ensure a specific teacher-student ratio is maintained. This ratio will change depending on where you live and the age of your child.
These ratios are enforced to ensure that your young child is properly cared for. Whether you’re looking at a private preschool, not-for-profit preschool or home care by a licensed childcare provider you should ensure that these ratios are maintained.
How to choose a preschool
Children aged two and a half (and sometimes as young as two) are often ready for preschool. But how do you know if a preschool program is right for your child?
Children naturally learn through play. In fact, between two and 20 per cent of a young child’s time is typically spent playing. If your child knows what it’s like to play then they are likely ready for preschool.
Additionally, toddlers who excel verbally, socially, cognitively and creatively are probably ready for preschool.
Although separation anxiety is common in young children, if your child needs personal attention and acts out when you leave them then they may not be ready for preschool.
Ultimately, sending your child to preschool is a personal choice. The first step is to determine if your child is ready. No one knows your child like you do.
The next step is to start doing your research:
Understand what is typically included in preschool programming
Get a sense of what a day at a preschool is like
Explore the learning philosophy of your school and compare these with your own family values and aspirations for your child. This process will help you narrow down the type of preschool you should focus on
Once you've done your research, you're ready to narrow down your choices:
Visit the school’s open house, arrange a tour, meet the teacher and sit in on a class. Ask lots of questions (link to questions to ask when searching for a preschool)
Bring your child in for a visit. Watch them interact with other students, see how they like the environment, teachers and peers
Ensure that the preschool is reputable and registered with the Ministry of Education
Trust your instinct. You know your child better than anyone and by visiting the school, talking with the teachers and staff and seeing your child in the environment you’ll get a feeling for if this preschool is the right fit
Maria Montessori once noted that “play is children’s work.” The brain develops with stimulation, and play provides that stimulation at every stage of a child’s life. Preschoolers love pretend play and through pretending form symbols, use language, and interact with others. They begin to play simple games with predictable rules, which help children build an understanding of complex social interactions (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry Educational Psychology).
When it comes to approaching learning, there are a number of different philosophies and approaches for preschoolers. A few of these include (link out to a new page for each):
Play-based learning – programming is built around uninterrupted blocks of play time
Theme-based learning – programming is based on weekly themes (ie. animals, colours, seasons)
Curriculum-based learning – programming is focused on academic skills
Use our advanced search to find preschools in your area, within your budget.
Many parents are surprised to learn that the cost of preschool at a private school is affordable in comparison to childcare elsewhere.
According to the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators, the average Montessori school costs between $750 and $1,000 a month.
Private schools like Halifax Christian Academy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Halton Waldorf in Burlington, Ontario and St-Laurent Academy in Ottawa, Ontario all have preschool programs with monthly tuition costs between $487 and $1,100 a month.
Of course, the actual cost of preschool will vary greatly depending on your location.
Preschools by location
We invite you to investigate each school listed below in order to learn more about their preschool program.
List of Private Preschools
Like our articles and advice? Get insider tips about private schools and summer camps, for free.
Disclaimer: Information presented on this page may be paid advertising provided by the [advertisers/schools] and is not warranted or guaranteed by OurKids.net or its associated websites. See Terms and Conditions.