Preschool vs. Pre-Kindergarten

Preschool…Pre-Kindergarten…To-may-to…To-mah-to…

Is there really a difference between Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten? My child is attending an early childhood center before they enter kindergarten, does it really matter which one we call it?

The words Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten to some seem to be words that can be interchanged because they are both considered “schooling before kindergarten”. As true as that sounds, these two classrooms and learning environments couldn’t be more different.

For most Early Childhood Programs a Preschool classroom is for children who are 3-4 years old and experiencing their first classroom setting while a Pre-Kindergarten classroom is for children who are 4-5 years old and will be attending Kindergarten the following school year. Pre-Kindergarten is also known as a “kindergarten prep” class.

Okay, so depending on their age will determine which classroom they are in…..but is the curriculum and what they are learning really all that different?

YES! A Preschool classroom environment is set up with a simple and flexible schedule that offers many opportunities for unstructured play time. At this age, many of the children in this classroom have never been in a classroom environment, been away from home, and/or been surrounded by many other children their age.

Preschool is the perfect opportunity for children to interact and learn social skills with other 3-4 year olds, begin their academic journey by building their foundation skills in math, reading, and phonics, and gain independence while transitioning from a little kid to a big kid!

A Pre-Kindergarten classroom environment is set up with a more complex, structured schedule that still includes play time but also reflects and prepares a child for what they will encounter when attending Kindergarten. The children in this classroom will continue building on their foundational skills that they began working on in Preschool. These skills will be aligned with requirements the school districts request a child achieves before entering Kindergarten.

Will enrolling my child in a Preschool and/or Pre-Kindergarten program really benefit them before entering Kindergarten?

As a Pre-Kindergarten teacher I highly recommend that children be enrolled in a Preschool and/or Pre-Kindergarten classroom before entering Kindergarten.

Through my experience I have had numerous parents of my previous students come back to me and let me know that because their child was enrolled in an Early Childhood Center, they were more than prepared for what was to come in Kindergarten!

So in the end…is a “to-may-to” really the same as a “to-mah-to”?

Sources: “8 Differences Between Preschool and PreK” a YouTube video uploaded by Patel Vidhu