Is there a Proper Preschool Curriculum?

You may wonder, as you begin to research preschools, what your child is actually supposed to be learning at this age and from this experience. It may surprise you to know that you determine the answer to that question by voting with your preschool fees. There is no real system of accreditation for preschools in the United States. Most certifications have to do with preschool health and safety rather than preschool academics. In addition, the basic curriculum of most preschools is actually taken from kindergarten curriculums.

The two types of school cover the same basic material simply because not all children are required to go to preschool and it would be a problem if they missed out on the material due to changes in kindergarten curricula. This means that preschools are free to bend to the whims of the market and offer some unique educational options.

The Basics of Preschool Learning

The basics of what you can expect a preschool child to learn are broken down by age and level of development.

For two your olds, preschool is a social and physical experience rather than an academic one. At this age:

  • Children learn to interact together
  • Children learn to talk and follow cycles of conversation respectfully
  • Children develop muscle control and motor skills by drawing and painting
  • Children work towards independent toilet behaviors
  • Children learn to share
  • Children develop their language skills
  • Children are exposed to written material

Three year olds in preschool spend time developing during unstructured play and learning more building block skills. At this age:

  • Children learn to make friends
  • Children continue to work on writing
  • Children are learning to pick out word sounds and rhymes in preparation for reading
  • Children learn to use numbers for everyday counting
  • Children learn to take out their own toys and supplies and pick up after themselves


Four year olds are revving up for kindergarten and future academic success. At this age:

  • Children are continuing to make progress towards reading skill
  • Children are introduced to handwriting concepts and can visualize letters
  • Children are learning to follow class rules
  • Children are learning to pay attention in class
  • Children are learning to follow directions
  • Children are displaying increased empathy
  • Children are engaging in complex, well thought out play

That is a lot to learn in just three years in a preschool classroom, but it's really just the tip of the academic iceberg. You can find preschools that offer focused academic work designed to give your child a leg up on their education as well as preschools that focus their attention on language acquisition and immersion. If you want to expose your child to the family faith, then there are preschools that cater to religious education. Whatever you want your child to learn, there is a preschool that will offer that curriculum at an age appropriate level. For most parents the limiting factor isn't academics, but price.

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