What is a play-based preschool?

The main features and benefits of play-based preschools

Find a list of schools

Most preschools aim to prepare your child for the school years, by teaching them social and academic skills. While preschools sometimes are sometimes similar to nursery schools, daycares, and even kindergartens, they often have a different approach than these other options. Read more


List of play-based preschools

 
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Waterloo Region (Breslau), Ontario — SJK offers an enriched environment of exploration and experiential learning. Through its IB curriculum, SJK provides exciting experiences and guides students to discover their talents and passions. Go beyond at SJK. View School Profile.

SJK offers an enriched environment of exploration and experiential learning. Through its IB curriculum, SJK provides exciting experiences and guides students to discover their talents and passions. Go beyond at SJK.

  • Accredited IB World Continuum School
  • Experienced, passionate, professional teachers
  • Project-based, design-thinking experiential learning
  • Extensive co-curricular programmes in athletics, arts, leadership and community service
  • Outdoor experiential learning
Grades:
JK to 12 (Coed)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$19,720 to $73,700
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
470
Avg. Class:
10 to 17
St. John's-Kilmarnock School 19720 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Montcrest is a welcoming community that specializes in cultivating incredible young people. With small class sizes and unparalleled student-teacher relationships, Montcrest helps children become who they’re meant to be. View School Profile.

Montcrest is a welcoming community that specializes in cultivating incredible young people. With small class sizes and unparalleled student-teacher relationships, Montcrest helps children become who they’re meant to be.

  • Founded in 1961
  • Small class sizes
  • 21st century skills - inquiry, technology & critical thinking
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Visual & performing arts programs (music, drama & dance)
Grades:
JK to 8 (Coed)
Type:
Progressive
Tuition:
$28,150 to $35,185
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
340
Avg. Class:
8 to 18
Montcrest School 28150 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Havergal has been preparing young women to make a difference since 1894 through its innovative curriculum and future-ready programming with a focus on wellness and student agency. View School Profile.

Havergal has been preparing young women to make a difference since 1894 through its innovative curriculum and future-ready programming with a focus on wellness and student agency.

  • Beautiful 22-acre campus in the heart of Toronto.
  • Innovative curriculum and future-ready programming for students.
  • Small class sizes with a focus on wellness and student agency.
  • Award-winning Art, Music and Drama departments.
  • More than 80 co-curricular athletic teams.
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts
Tuition:
$36,950 to $68,540
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
1000
Avg. Class:
18 to 22
Havergal College 36950 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
 
 

Belleville, Ontario — At Albert College, every student is an 'A' student. From Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 our students experience all 5 of the Albert 'A’ s; Academics, Arts, Athletics, Active Citizenship and Adventure programming. View School Profile.

At Albert College, every student is an 'A' student. From Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 our students experience all 5 of the Albert 'A’ s; Academics, Arts, Athletics, Active Citizenship and Adventure programming.

  • Over 160 years of experience
  • Scholarships, bursaries and financial assistance available
  • Live-in, full time boarding staff
  • International student body from 20+ countries
  • Inclusive, welcoming and supportive family environment
Grades:
PS to 12 (Coed)
Type:
Traditional
Tuition:
$18,700 to $75,400
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
303
Avg. Class:
15
Albert College 18700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age. View School Profile.

Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age.

  • 13-acre downtown campus
  • Athletics and Wellness Centre
  • IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Boarding starting in Grade 7
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$37,130 to $75,020
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
960
Avg. Class:
16 to 22
Branksome Hall 37130 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Located in the heart of Toronto, UCC provides transformational learning experiences with exceptional day and boarding programs. Our highly sought-after graduates are awarded International Baccalaureate and OSSD diplomas. View School Profile.

Located in the heart of Toronto, UCC provides transformational learning experiences with exceptional day and boarding programs. Our highly sought-after graduates are awarded International Baccalaureate and OSSD diplomas.

  • High-achieving, all-round students
  • Challenging but rewarding IB program
  • First rate academics, athletics and arts
  • 19 different sports and 80+ clubs
  • Boutique urban boarding program
Grades:
SK to 12 (Boys)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$36,750 to $71,875
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
1200
Avg. Class:
20 to 25
Upper Canada College 36750 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Boys
  • Toronto, Ontario
    York Mills/Leslie
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $19,725 to $28,200

Learning is not one to many. It's many to one. From the teachers to the principal to the coaches and beyond, learning at WillowWood is a team approach.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
WillowWood School 19725 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Baie-D'Urfé, Montreal, Quebec
    rue Victoria/rue Normandy
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $9,950 to $12,350

The Alexander von Humboldt German International School Montreal is a multilingual (German, English and French), private, co-educational school serving students from preschool to grade 12.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Alexander von Humboldt German International School 9950 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    Crowchild Trail/Flanders Ave
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $12,800 to $14,800

Choose to Succeed, at Banbury Crossroads School. We offer a truly unique learning experience, with self-directed, collaborative, tutorial-style classrooms that average 8:1 students per teacher.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Banbury Crossroads School 12800 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    QEW/Erin Mills Parkway
  • SK to 8 Coed
  • $19,500 to $36,900

GlenOak Academy offers an educational experience as EXTRAORDINARY as your child! Our innovative, engaging approach to teaching and learning focuses on positive relationships, character development and academic success.

  • eSchool/Day
  • Progressive
GlenOak Academy 19500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools eSchool Day Coed
  • Oakville, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • $12,600 to $31,065

Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Grade 12 since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School 12600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $18,860 to $72,555

St. Margaret's School offers inter-disciplinary and experiential learning from JK3 to Grade 12. Confidence, leadership and academic rigor lead to student success.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Traditional
St. Margaret's School 18860 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Erin Mills Parkway/Turner Valley Road
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $21,099 to $71,799

A special needs education private school in Mississauga offering programs using the Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based (DIR®) Model. Theme-based DIR® March/Summer Camps are also available.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Oakwood Academy 21099 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    York Mills Road/Bayview Avenue
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $23,500 to $40,000

Junior Academy offers programs for students from Toddler to Grade Eight, in midtown Toronto. The average class size is 10 to 14 students and it caters to many types of students with different learning profiles.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Junior Academy 23500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 7 Coed
  • $16,000 to $19,000

HongDe School provides K-Grade 7 students a Chinese (Mandarin) bilingual education in a safe and supportive learning environment that recognizes the individual needs of each student.

  • Day
  • Traditional
HongDe Elementary School 16000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Buena Vista Road/Springfield Road
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • $16,160 to $30,900

Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from PreK to Gr. 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Elmwood School 16160 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Hamilton, Ontario
    Garth Street/Fennell Avenue West
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $8,500 to $52,000

Established in 1901, Hillfield Strathallan College is one of Canada’s leading co-educational independent schools, offering academic programs from Montessori Toddler and Pre-K to Grade 12, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

  • Homestay/Day
  • Traditional
  • Montessori
Hillfield Strathallan College 8500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Avenue Rd/Bloor St W
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $26,480

RDS is a downtown co-ed school that fosters future-ready leaders by honouring the unique character and potential of each child. We offer small class sizes and access to top-tier facilities like UoT, the ROM and the AGO.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Rosedale Day School 26480 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $29,900 to $30,900

Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School is a centre of excellence in developmentally informed instruction that empowers children with learning disabilities in a passionate, progressive and inspiring learning environment.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School 29900 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Iris St/Woodroffe Ave
  • JK to 8 Girls
  • $16,600

In our all-girls environment, academic achievement in both official languages is the norm. A Joan of Arc Academy bilingual education prepares the women leaders for the challenges of tomorrow. Come and see the difference.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Academie Jeanne d'Arc 16600 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Bloor/Shaver
  • PS to 5 Coed
  • $6,600 to $12,000

Kingsley's small classes and personal approach help students reach their unique potential. Each child is seen, heard, and respected. French, music, and phys-ed round out a program which includes plenty of time outdoors.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
Kingsley Primary School 6600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Davenport/Dupont
  • JK to 6 Coed
  • $29,895

The Mabin School offers programs from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 in Toronto. Its average class size is 20 students.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Mabin School 29895 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Yonge/St. Clair
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $21,050 to $28,350

The Linden School's transformative teaching and socially-progressive values inspire academic excellence, wellness, and civic engagement, empowering students to become changemakers ready to take on complex global issues.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Linden School 21050 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Wilson Avenue/Avenue Road
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $12,750 to $28,500

Glen Briar Academy provides hands on programs and student centered teaching strategies that shape life long learners.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Glen Briar Academy 12750 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Westmount, Quebec
    Mount Pleasant Avenue/Cedar Avenue
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $19,750 to $23,950

Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School offers a Tier 1 education for girls from K-11, located in Westmount, Qc. We develop bold leaders and creative thinkers — equipping each girl to be the entrepreneur of her own future.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School 19750 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • West Vancouver, British Columbia
    Upper Levels Highway/Cypress Bowl exit
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $25,000 to $28,000

By inspiring excellence – the continuous pursuit of personal best - in education and life, Mulgrave strives to equip lifelong learners to thrive in a diverse and interdependent world.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Mulgrave School 25000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Duncan, British Columbia
    Brownsey Avenue/Government Street
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $14,413 to $69,313

Queen Margaret's School is a gender inclusive independent day/boarding university preparatory school in Duncan, BC that focuses on preparing young trailblazers...no two journeys are the same.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Progressive
Queen Margaret's School 14413 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Brantford, Ontario
    North Park/Fairview
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $7,900 to $12,600

Central Baptist Academy began as a ministry of Central Baptist Church Brantford in 1978. It's purpose is to provide a regular academic course of study for students, with instruction from a definite Christian world view.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Central Baptist Academy 7900 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Maple Ridge, British Columbia
    240th Street/Dewdney Trunk Road
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $25,925 to $35,925

Meadowridge is an IB Continuum World School that supports the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and challenging environment.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Meadowridge School 25925 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $22,600 to $25,100

Brockton School is an independent, co-ed, non-denominational, IB World School inspiring the growth of outstanding humans, from JK to Grade 12.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Brockton School 22600 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Kirkwood/Laperriere
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $15,250

Revel Academy is a learner-driven micro-school that utilizes adaptive and mastery-based technology, Socratic discussions, hands-on projects, and real-world apprenticeships in an innovative, character-forging community.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Revel Academy 15250 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Fisher Ave/Baseline Rd
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $20,350 to $22,350

Turnbull School is dedicated to academic excellence in a caring environment. We offer highly qualified teachers, small class sizes, well rounded and enriching programming, and variety in athletics, science and the arts.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Turnbull School 20350 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • North York, Ontario
    Bathurst/Wilson
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $20,000 to $26,000

Magnificent Minds Inc. caters to students whose needs are not being met in traditional school environments, pursuing personal best through a balanced approach to education.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Magnificent Minds 20000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Vaughan Street/Bertrand Street
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $3,250 to $14,950

Ottawa’s Fern Hill School offers Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary Grades, including Core & Advanced French. Tuition starts at $3,250.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Fern Hill School - Ottawa 3250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Rigaud, Quebec
    Rue Saint-Pierre/Rue Bourget
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $4,700 to $35,000

Collège Bourget is a day & boarding school situated between Montreal & Ottawa. The school offers Quebec's french program from Grade 7 till Grade 11 and english program from Grade 10 till Grade 12.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Traditional
College Bourget 4700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    17th Ave SW/Richmond Road SW
  • K to 12 Girls/Boys/Coed
  • $8,000 to $15,500

In addition to academics, our focus on mentorship, hands-on learning in and outside the classroom, and character development, will allow our students to thrive academically and personally as they discover who they are.

  • Day
  • Progressive
North Point School 8000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Girls Boys Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
    Cambie/Nelson
  • K to 8 Coed
  • $19,855

Claren Academy is a future-focused independent school located in the heart of Vancouver. We give students the tools to be creative, competent, and happy in their changing world.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Claren Academy 19855 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed

The Study  

  • Westmount, Quebec
    The Boulevard/Place Braeside
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $24,460 to $27,610

The Study, founded in 1915, is one of Canada's premier all-girls' schools. Dedicated teachers offer a warm and stimulating bilingual mother-tongue environment from Kindergarten to Grade 11. The World Needs Great Women.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Study 24460 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • PS to 9 Coed
  • $9,605 to $18,700

GIST is the only full-time German school in Toronto offering high-quality education that empowers students to excel as global citizens. Our Character framework strengthens and promotes the best in every student.

  • Day
  • Progressive
German International School Toronto 9605 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $20,000 to $23,000

Our rigorous, personalized programme and strong teacher-student relationships enable us to cultivate each student's talents, helping them build on strengths and discover the joy of learning.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
Alcuin College 20000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Don Mill Rd/York Mills Rd
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $19,850 to $29,450

Bayview Glen is co-ed, multi-denominational and diverse. Our student, faculty and staff community mirror the diversity of our city. We have a culture of balance and openness that includes valuing different perspectives.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Bayview Glen 19850 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    17 Avenue SW/69 Street SW
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $15,250 to $20,450

Rundle students enter their post-secondary schools of choice thanks to our enriched academics and character, leadership, and wellness pillars. We proudly live by our values, Together: Be Kind, Be Curious, Be Well.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Rundle College 15250 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $27,200

With over 120 years of excellence in all-girls’ education, our rigorous academic program is complemented by strong arts, design technology and athletic programs. Financial assistance is available.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Crofton House School 27200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • St Catharines, Ontario
    Ontario St./Welland Ave.
  • NS to 12 Coed/Girls
  • $350 to $5,200

Heuristic & autodidactic, inspired by Sudbury & democratic models. Students are self-directed, holistically empowered. Voluntary attendance, year-round calendar, agency, & consent inspire free learning.

  • Day/eSchool/Boarding/Homestay
  • Progressive
Agate Private School 350 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day eSchool Boarding eSchool Homestay Coed Girls
  • Montreal, Quebec
    Av de Monkland/Boul Cavendish
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $19,425 to $25,970

Lower Canada College is a gender-inclusive, K-12 university preparatory school, committed to excellence in teaching and learning. It is the only high school in Quebec offering both the IB MYP and DP.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
Lower Canada College 19425 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Sheppard Ave W/Bathurst St
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $8,500 to $19,950

Heschel provides a progressive, academically innovative, interdisciplinary Jewish education in a warm, nurturing environment. Students develop habits of mind, body, heart and soul that enable them to make a difference.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
The Toronto Heschel School 8500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Kitchener, Ontario
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $2,730 to $4,615

Carmel New Church School provides a loving, peaceful place with indoor and outdoor classrooms where students are taught to become productive and caring people, both in this life and the next.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
  • Waldorf
Carmel New Church School 2730 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Burnhamthorpe Road/Kipling Avenue
  • JK to 5 Coed
  • $7,280 to $12,220

At Olivet School, we focus on building the "whole child". We create a warm, caring environment for our students through small class sizes and integrating Christian values and character development into all that we do.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Olivet School 7280 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $15,625 to $20,300

Academy is strengths-based and remediation-focused. Collegiate is for those learning at or above grade-level. Blended+ is for Grades 9-12 to learn their own way, including online, at home, and off-campus.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Calgary Academy & Calgary Collegiate 15625 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Summerland, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $12,945 to $56,500

UNISUS was founded by the leaders of the top Private Schools in BC. Based on IB Education/Innovation/Technology, Entrepreneurship/ Outdoor Education. Boarding, Athletics and Global Partnerships/Opportunities.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Unisus School 12945 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Ellesmere Rd/Warden Ave
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $8,300

The Sathya Sai School promotes human excellence through a value-based curriculum. The integration of academic excellence and character development lays the foundation for socially responsible future leaders.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Sathya Sai School of Toronto 8300 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • JK to 12 Boys/Girls/Coed
  • $13,820 to $19,360

With a global network of schools around the world, a rich and proud history, and a strong and unique set of core values, Sacred Heart offers not just an education but an experience that is unparalleled in Nova Scotia.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Sacred Heart School of Halifax 13820 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Boys Girls Coed

Play-based preschools and daycares

Play-based preschools (also called "play school") are based on the belief that young children learn best through play. They offer mostly open-ended activities, with minimal structure. They aim to develop your child’s social and emotional skills, and to promote a love of learning in an interactive environment.

Play-based preschools, like other preschool programs, tend to be child-centred. They mostly let children choose their own activities. They rarely follow a set curriculum, though they usually have a daily schedule.

In these preschools, classrooms are set up to promote interaction, socialization, problem solving, and discovery learning. Often, there are different stations in class where kids can engage in a wide range of activities. For instance there might be a kitchen, building, reading, and sensory area. This allows kids to pursue their interests and learn and interact in different ways.

Play-based preschools typically don’t offer much direct instruction. Teachers rarely, if ever, provide whole-class lectures. They also don’t normally follow a strict curriculum, at least compared to academic preschools. To learn about the differences between play-based and academic preschools, read our guide.

That said, children can learn important skills in a play-based preschool, including social, emotional, and problem-solving skills. They also may acquire knowledge in some core subjects, such as math, reading, and writing (among others).

As Maureen Myers, executive director at Sprouts, a preschool in Toronto, Ontario, says "We don't sit down and teach by rote or repetition, but the ideas and concepts of letter recognition, language, math, and sciences are learned by very hands-on activities."

Play-based preschools normally have lots of indoor and outdoor physical activity. Boys and girls run around a lot, dance, play hide-and-seek, sports, and other fun activities. They might also play board games and do jigsaw puzzles. And they'll likely do lots of arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, and colouring.

An example of a play-based preschool is Waldorf. While Waldorf preschools provide some focused work time, they also allot plenty of time for free play and play-based learning. They also place a big focus on pretend or imaginative play.

Play-based preschools have some appealing features.

Benefits of play-based preschools

To learn about the differences between play-based and academic preschools, read our guide. You can also read articles comparing different preschool approaches: Montessori to WaldorfMontessori to Reggio EmiliaWaldorf to Reggio EmiliaMontessori to academic, and Montessori to play-based preschools. If you want to compare specific schools one-to-one, visit our compare hub.

 

Preschool questions (read our in-depth answers)

 

Answers to the question “What is a play-based preschool?” from school officials

“There have been numerous studies that conclude young students learn best through play. Children develop a good sense of self in an environment rich in language, play experiences, music, and gross motor development. They learn independence by developing their self-help skills and self-regulation. The many social interactions in a preschool environment help develop important emotional skills and foster a child’s larger perspective of the world.

Play is what makes learning meaningful and fun. A vibrant and successful classroom is rooted in daily activities that develop critical thinking through problem solving as children explore, predict, and investigate elements in the world around them.” Corina Gill, assistant head of the lower school at Bayview Glen Independent School, in Toronto, Ontario

“Play is how children learn—it is inquiry for young children. Learning in preschool is through play. There should be large blocks of uninterrupted time for children to play in the preschool’s schedule. There is a spectrum of play. Some play can be directed by the teacher with specific learning expectations in mind. Some play should be representative of the children’s own interests, with limited teacher interference. Some play should be completely unstructured and freely directed by the students.

Albert Einstein said that ‘play is the highest form of research.’ Young children also benefit from small increments of teacher-directed instruction. A balance of play-based learning and teacher-directed activities is ideal, with the emphasis being on play. ” Vanessa Sjerven, teacher at Elmwood School (the early years program), in Ottawa, Ontario

“We emphasize the importance of child-initiated play. Children play with natural, open-ended materials. A safe, secure, and gentle space is created where they can explore and evolve with their play, with as little interference from the teacher as possible. The teacher will only interfere when necessary in the free play of the child. In this way, the child is the master of their own activity, promoting feelings of confidence and trust in their own abilities.” Jennifer Deathe, head of admission at Waldorf Academy, in Toronto, Ontario

“Children learn more in one day of play than many of us learn in a week of hard work. When presented with the proper, enriched environment and opportunities for learning, your child can flourish. We do not expect any child to learn classroom material/content in a standard, regimented form. Our educators are there to help guide and lead your child to his or her best sense of self.” Paula Carrasco, director of Kendelhurst Academy, in Mississauga, Ontario

“My point of view: children can play and learn in preschool. One does not preclude the other. Play is an integral part of learning ‘academics.’ Through play, children investigate the world through their inquisitiveness and sense of discovery and develop a positive self-image. They also develop intellectually, socially, physically, emotionally, and acquire self-management skills.” Nora Ibrahim, preschool teacher and IB PYP (Primary Years Programme) coordinator at Académie de la Capitale, in Ottawa, Ontario

Series: Preschools

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