Choosing the Right Type of Preschool

McHenry County Preschools

If the thought of finding the right preschool has you feeling completely overwhelmed with all of the choices out there know that you are not alone. Preschool is a very important part of your child’s development. It will provide the foundation for their learning in kindergarten, and also teaches valuable social skills. But deciding on which type is right for your child can feel like trying to put together a puzzle with no idea what the final image looks like. As a mom of four I know that choosing the right preschool can feel really hard, but being informed on the different types of preschool environments out there is the best way to start the process.

Choosing the Right Preschool

The question is, with so many different types of preschools out there, how do you know which one is the best for your child? The secret lies in really looking at your own child, and deciding what kind of learner he or she is. Deciding what values are important to you and your family is a significant factor in choosing the right school as well. Basics like hours of operation, program times available and cost also come into play in the decision making process. Overall, the decision about which preschool to send your child may take some time, but being well informed will help you make the right choice.

There are several types of preschools that you will encounter in your search. The teaching philosophy name, as well as a brief description of each, will help you get a better picture of what is out there.

types of preschools, play-based preschools mchenry county

What is a Play-Based Preschool?

A play-based preschool has a philosophy that learning is best done through play. It is often also called a child-centered curriculum. This is usually the most popular type of preschool as it offers structured activities as well as unstructured playtime.  Gaining important social skills is an important element of this type of preschool.

Is this best for my child/our family?

If your child has a lot of energy, enjoys interacting with other children and isn’t distracted by other children playing, this may be the right preschool for you.

Play-based preschools in McHenry County:

  • Barlina House, Crystal Lake
  • Kiddie Academy, Algonquin
  • Little Garden School, Fox River Grove
types of preschools, mchenry county preschools

What is a Co-op Preschool?

The Co-Op preschools offer a unique experience that allows for parents to be directly involved with their child’s preschool experience. Usually, parents have a very active role in the preschool by taking roles on committees, helping in the classroom, and working with the teachers to provide a fun environment and encourage learning. Because parents are in the classroom and part of the educational experience Co-op Preschools can be a cheaper option.

Is this best for my child/our family?

The Co-op preschool gives you and your child extra time to bond and be together while learning and growing. This choice involves a heavy parental commitment, so that must weigh into your decision more so than the other choices.

types of preschools, montessori preschools mchenry county

What is Montessori School?

The Montessori philosophy is that children will learn at their own level and pace.  It’s defined as a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children. Each child is respected as an individual and encouraged to make their own choices. The ages in the classrooms are usually mixed, and the children are really independent in the classroom and their learning process. Teachers usually take the lead from the child in this school setting, and learning is usually based on connections to real life.

Is this best for my child/our family?

If your child enjoys playing independently, can follow directions well and has a long attention span, Montessori may be right for you. Families who want their kids to have a “hands-on” approach to learning will enjoy this type of preschool. These school can also be ideal for children that are easily overwhelmed by noise, chaos, and disorder as Montessori rooms tend to be calm, quiet and organized.

Montessori Preschools in McHenry County:

  • Montessori Children’s House of North Barrington
  • Montessori Pathways School, Crystal Lake
  • Nature Walk Montessori, Round Lake
types of preschools, preschools in mchenry county

What is a Faith-Based Preschool?

A faith-based preschool most likely resembles the play-based philosophy of teaching, but also fits in faith teachings and lessons. Most likely, the students in this type of preschool will have a part of their day dedicated to faith teachings and the teachings will weave throughout their academic lessons as well. They may attend church as a class and discuss religious holidays, customs and traditions. These preschools tend to focus on instilling a strong moral foundation in their students as well.

Is this best for my child/our family?

If faith is a big part of your family, this may be the right preschool for your child. Children who fit the play-based philosophy also do well in this type of preschool. These schools may also offer smaller class sizes that are beneficial to children with separation anxiety or social issues.

Faith-Based Preschools in McHenry County:

types of preschools, waldorf school mchenry county

What is a Waldorf School?

Waldorf teachers try to create a comfortable environment where children are encouraged to take part in creative play. They are immersed in a nurturing environment in an effort to get them to use all five senses and actively engage themselves in the classroom and life in general.  This philosophy focuses on stimulating the spirit, soul, and body through activity. Arts are integrated into all academic disciplines.

Is this best for my child/family?

If your child seems to respond to a gentle, nurturing approach to learning and loves to use their imagination, this may be a good fit for them. Also a great option for creative children and families who value arts education.

Waldorf Preschools in McHenry County:

types of preschools

What is Reggio Emilia Preschool?

This type of preschool is a project-based philosophy. This means that all the activities of the preschool day revolve around a theme and a common project. This type of preschool is teacher-directed, in direct contrast to the Montessori and Waldorf approaches. The teacher will focus on Math and Reading skills, as well as social-emotional literacy, while working on a class project.

Is this best for my child/family?

If your child enjoys working and playing with other children, this may be a good fit. Children who like to be creative and work together to achieve a common result will also flourish in this type of program.

types of ppreschools

What is a Community Preschool?

A community preschool strives to meet the developmental needs of the children it serves. This type of preschool changes the way it teaches based on the needs of the students. This preschool may closely resemble a play-based preschool as it encourages free play, structured time and emphasizes early Math and Reading skills.

Is this best for my child/family?

This preschool is the most widely found in most communities, appearing in park districts, community centers, and small independent schools. It is usually inexpensive and will most likely accommodate any learner.

Besides finding the teaching philosophy that best fits your child, there are other things to think about when choosing a preschool. Once you find a few preschools that you may be interested in, follow these steps to make sure you are making the right choice:

  • Visit and observe the preschool during school hours so you can see how the teachers interact with the children, what the expectations are, and how the preschool runs in general. Most preschools are very accommodating of parents coming in to do this-just call ahead.
  • Listen to referrals from other parents. Many parents can be helpful with information about their experiences. Just make sure you follow up on things so you can see for yourself as well.
  • Be informed of procedures at the school. Ask to see their handbook with the rules and expectations spelled out. Also, check on their safety precautions and procedures to make sure you are comfortable with them.
  • Meet the teachers. You can be comfortable with the teaching style, but you must be comfortable with the teachers as well. When you come in to observe, talk to the teachers as well and get to know them.
  • ∙Start early! Many preschools start registering students in January and February before school starts.

We created a printable checklist for you to help you remember everything you want to ask and make note of your choices.

Whatever you decide, enjoy this experience with your child. Preschool is a fun adventure for children and a big milestone for them…and for you.

Find your perfect preschool in our Lake County Preschools guide. Organized by city our standard listings make it easy to find the type of preschool you are looking for!

Choosing the Right Type of Preschool


  1. Thank you for informing me that there are actually many different teaching styles of preschools, such as the Co-op which really focuses on getting the parents involved with the class and community. I had no idea that there were so many different classifications. but it does seem very important that a parent finds the kind of school that fits their parenting style and their kid’s needs. My sister was talking to me yesterday about how she is worried about sending her daughter to preschool because she is so shy. I wonder if they could find what will fit best for them.

  2. Thanks for mentioning that it can be a good idea to try and visit the preschools that you are considering to see how the teachers work with the children. My husband and I are trying to find the right year-round preschool for our 3-year-old daughter. I think that visiting potential schools would help make sure that we could choose one that we would be comfortable with and that would help our daughter the most.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.