All About Preschool Curriculum—What Kids Learn and How They Learn It

What does my child learn in preschool?

preschool curriculum
Preschool curriculum is the entire set of lessons that your child will be learning in an academic year. Sean Justice

Preschool curriculum, or what your child learns inside of a preschool classroom, is basically the entire span of lessons and teachings that your child will be taught during the course of a preschool year. Depending on the preschool that you choose and the early childhood education philosophy that they follow, academic and social-based lessons can include (but not be limited to):

  • letters
  • numbers
  • shapes
  • colors
  • cutting
  • coloring
  • writing letters and numbers
  • sorting objects
  • drawing
  • gluing
  • sharing
  • cooperation
  • taking turns
  • transitioning from one activity to another
  • calendar -- (learning the seasons, months of the year, etc.)
  • physical activity (includes a host of activities such as running, jumping, skipping, hopping on one foot, etc.)

Preschool curriculum, no matter where your child attends school, covers a wide variety of academic, social, physical, and emotional lessons and usually vary from school to school and teaching method to teaching method (both formal teaching methods and philosophies and with individual teachers and schools). Of course there are basics that most preschoolers will learn, but since there are no set standards in place nationwide, what your child learns will depend on which school you send him or her to, and which philosophy the school you choose follows.

So, simply put, curriculum as it relates to preschool is simply the content of a child's day.

Not so simply, the curriculum sets the tone for the entire school year and is basically a road map to what your child will be learning for the entire academic year. But anyone who has taught or has had a child attend preschool, knows that curriculum is an imperative, complex concept that includes a host of activities and learning experiences.

Preschool curriculum encompasses everything that a child learns in the preschool classroom, including but not limited to:

  • daily activities -- circle time, song time, calendar time, active play time, story time, craft time, etc.
  • the transitional period that exists between activities (learning how to walk in a line with peers, learning how to clean up toys and supplies, etc.)
  • any everyday activity and routine that the children participate in and know to expect
  • special activities not necessarily taught by the primary preschool teacher, but a special teacher such as art, music, library and physical education
  • preschool curriculum can also encompass homework given to the child to reinforce what was learned in the preschool classroom 
  • any field trips that are designed to enhance a lesson -- for example a trip to the post office to learn about mail or a trip to the grocery store to learn about choosing healthy foods
  • special guest speakers who are brought in to provide more details to a lesson (a police officer to talk about safety, or a dentist to talk about teeth care for example)

While it may look like a preschooler is simply playing in the preschool classroom all day, that is not the case (although those kids are most definitely having a lot of fun!).

Play is so much more than a child having fun. Play, especially when it involves interacting with other children, teaching young children how to:

  • form friendships
  • take turns
  • learn how to cooperate 
  • try out different ways of problem solving
  • use their imaginations
  • think creatively 

Different types of play, including both structured and unstructured, allow for children to practice different skills in different ways. 

Preschool curriculum, no matter what the philosophy (Bank Street, Reggio Emilia, High/Scope, etc.) that the preschool your school follows, should promote learning while helping children meet various language, social, physical, and cognitive goals.

In an ideal situation, a quality preschool's curriculum will be taught be certified teachers and be based on the most up-to-date childhood education research.

Depending upon the school and the preschool philosophy employed by the preschool, the preschool curriculum can be developed by administrators, teachers, and even parents. If you ever have a question about the curriculum or anything that might be going on at your child's preschool, reach out to the teacher or preschool administrator. 

Related: What to Ask at a Preschool Interview

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