Bank Street - New York’s Bank Street College of Education has been the leader in early childhood education for more than 80 years emphasizing a child centered, developmental approach and learning through experience. You will hear a lot about “Bank St.” in elementary school. Many of the best local administrators and teachers studied there. It is a child centered approach which appreciates that children learn at different rates in different ways. They believe that learning should include several subjects at once and occur in collaborative groups. Children study the human world to make sense of what they encounter. Like Montessori and High/Scope it is less structured, leaving a lot of discretion to teachers and children. Play with toys and materials that depend a lot on their imagination.

Coop Preschool - a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the parents of the students. A qualified teacher directs the preschool educational program with parents contributing time and talent. Members elect officers to handle all or some of the administration of the school. Varying degrees of work required and some schools offer a “buy out” option. Good for families to develop community ties, opportunities for play dates and support. It is often cost effective.

High/Scope Approach - based on the theory that children need active involvement with people, materials, ideas, and events. It is a “shared control” curriculum in which adults and children learn together. Like Montessori the children pursue their personal goals, but they are encouraged to make their own choices about materials and activities. Originally created for at risk urban kids, it was used successfully in conjunction with Head Start programs. Especially good for any child who needs individual attention, as well as kids with developmental delays and learning disabilities, because it is tailored to each child’s level and pace.

Montessori Preschool – a method of educating young children that stresses development of a child’s own initiative, independence and natural abilities, especially through practical play. Based on the work of Maria Montessori, a Physician and Developmental Theorist.  The teacher’s role is a passive one. They watch and provide for each child’s particular needs and state of readiness. Leaning should be consistently positive and hands on. No two schools are a like. Montessori is not trademarked; anyone can call themselves a Montessori school. Check to see if the staff is associated with any of the professional Montessori organizations. Strives to develop independent exploration, self-discipline, self-esteem and courtesy.Especially good for kids who want hands on learning suited to their needs.

Play Based, Child Centered - a developmental approach, not necessarily an unstructured one. Children are encouraged to learn through activities that are appropriate to their ages and individual stages of development. They incorporate individual play with group activities such as stories, songs, or other “circle time" activities.

PreKindergarten (PreK) - the fours year. Nursery/Preschools "fours" year may be called "prek". Many public schools have a prek class. It is a free program for children who turn four between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 in the calendar year that the student would attend school. It is not a mandated grade and there are often not enough seats for all zoned families. There is a lottery process throught the Dept. of Education for these seats.

Preschool/Nursery School vs. Daycare - they are licensed and regulated by the same agencies. In NYC preschools and daycare centers are licensed by The NYC Dept. of Health, Bureau of Day Care.

Preschools (or Nursery School) usually offer shorter hours than daycare. They often have more age appropriate activities and some preschools have a more academic focus. They begin at age two or three and end at kindergarten or first grade. Accreditation isn’t a guarantee that a preschool is right for your child, if you find one with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) stamp of approval, it’s a pretty reliable sign of quality. They have a searchable database online.

Daycare can begin at infancy. Children come and go according to the parents needs rather than a specific class and curriculum.

Project Based Preschool - children learn by experimentation, exploration and collaboration. They play with materials that inspire exploration and pretend play, such as blocks and art supplies and take lots of community field trips.

Reggio Emilia - began in the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy after WWII. Children must have control over the direction of their learning. They learn through their senses. They must have a relationship with other children and they must be allowed to explore. Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators, and advocates for their children. Parents often volunteer in the school. They use long term projects as vehicles for learning. The projects are often integrated into the curriculum in many creative ways.

Religious Preschool - You don’t have to be a member of the church or synagogue to take advantage of these long established neighborhood programs that are surprisingly diverse. Occasionally membership in the sponsoring institution with give applicants priority and a discount in tuition. The main curricula is often similar to the other neighborhood preschools with the addition of  some age appropriate religious instruction. The day and the school year seems to be shorter in some. They are sometimes overlooked in the search and occasionally more affordable.

 UPK - Universal Pre-Kindergarten for children that turn four years within the calendar year they would attend the program. These are government funded programs. The public school classes are free and available to everyone, but it doesn't mean that there are spaces for everyone. Private preschools can receive UPK funds and it usually means that there is a slight discount in the "Fours" tuition.

Waldorf Preschool - a method developed by Rudolf Steiner to stimulate kid’s bodies, spirits and souls in a homelike environment that stimulates all five senses. Creative play with a lot of teamwork and togetherness. The teacher will stay with the class as they grow so the child’s needs will be thoroughly understood. More group oriented and a stronger sense of routine than Montessori programs. Child centered education in a warm and familiar environment. Especially good for kids that thrive on order and rhythmic repetition.