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Welcome to Our Kids

What is a play-based preschool?

The main features and benefits of play-based preschools

Find a list of schools

Most preschools aim to prepare your child for the school years, by teaching them social and academic skills. While preschools sometimes are sometimes similar to nursery schools, daycares, and even kindergartens, they often have a different approach than these other options. Read more


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List of play-based preschools

 
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Toronto, Ontario — Havergal has been preparing young women to make a difference since 1894 through its innovative curriculum and future-ready programming with a focus on wellness and student agency. View School Profile.


  • Beautiful 22-acre campus in the heart of Toronto.
  • Innovative curriculum and future-ready programming for students.
  • Small class sizes with a focus on wellness and student agency.
  • Award-winning Art, Music and Drama departments.
  • More than 80 co-curricular athletic teams.
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts
Tuition:
$35,700 to $65,280
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
1000
Avg. Class:
18 to 22
Havergal College 35700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
 
 

Ottawa, Ontario — Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from PreK to Gr. 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential. View School Profile.


  • Recognized for academic excellence
  • Welcoming, inclusive and diverse community
  • International Baccalaureate World School (PYP, MYP, DP)
  • Round Square and Apple Distinguished school
  • Merit- and need-based scholarships available
Grades:
PS to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$15,540 to $29,700
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
370
Avg. Class:
15 to 17
Elmwood School 15540 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
 
 

Waterloo Region (Breslau), Ontario — St. John's-Kilmarnock School offers enriched educational programming for students from Junior Kindergarten – Grade 12 through its accredited International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Discover the possibilities. View School Profile.


  • Accredited IB World Continuum School
  • Beautiful 36-acre natural campus
  • Extensive co-curricular opportunities
  • Tech-free dining builds community in Founders' Hall
  • Outdoor experiential learning from Junior Kindergarten onwards
Grades:
JK to 12 (Coed)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$18,980 to $71,620
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
425
Avg. Class:
10 to 18
St. John's-Kilmarnock School 18980 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
 
 

Oakville, Ontario — Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Grade 12 since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything. View School Profile.


  • Signature Programs in Global Studies, STEM & Robotics, Active Healthy Living, Arts & Design
  • Professional Internship Customized for Each Girl (Grade 11)
  • Enriched curriculum, Advanced Placement, DELF
  • Focus on whole girl and student wellbeing
Grades:
PS to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Progressive, Reggio Emilia
Tuition:
$20,000 to $30,160
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
550
Avg. Class:
Varies
St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School 20000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Located in the heart of Toronto, Upper Canada College is the oldest independent boys' school in Ontario. Our IB graduates are highly regarded by top universities and post-secondary institutions worldwide. View School Profile.


  • High-achieving, all-round boys
  • Challenging but rewarding IB program
  • First rate academics, athletics and arts
  • 19 different sports and 65+ clubs
  • Boutique urban boarding program
Grades:
SK to 12 (Boys)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$35,000 to $68,450
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
1200
Avg. Class:
20 to 25
Upper Canada College 35000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Boys
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age. View School Profile.


  • 13-acre downtown campus
  • Athletics and Wellness Centre
  • IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Boarding starting in Grade 7
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$35,700 to $72,500
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
964
Avg. Class:
12 to 22
Branksome Hall 35700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Erin Mills Parkway/Turner Valley Road
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $20,685 to $70,585

A special education private school in Mississauga offering programs using the Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based (DIR®) Model. Theme-based DIR® March/Summer Camps are also available.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Oakwood Academy 20685 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 7 Coed
  • $12,000

HongDe School provides K-Grade 7 students a Chinese (Mandarin) bilingual education in a safe and supportive learning environment that recognizes the individual needs of each student.

  • Day
  • Traditional
HongDe Elementary School 12000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    QEW/Erin Mills Parkway
  • SK to 8 Coed
  • $18,500 to $23,700

GlenOak Academy offers an educational experience as EXTRAORDINARY as your child! Our innovative, engaging approach to teaching and learning focuses on positive relationships, character development and academic success.

  • eSchool/Day
  • Progressive
GlenOak Academy 18500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools eSchool Day Coed
  • Belleville, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $17,800 to $71,500

At Albert College, every student is an 'A' student. From Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 our students experience all 5 of the Albert 'A’ s; Academics, Arts, Athletics, Active Citizenship and Adventure programming.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Traditional
Albert College 17800 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    York Mills Road/Bayview Avenue
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $23,500 to $40,000

Junior Academy offers programs for students from Toddler to Grade Eight, in midtown Toronto. The average class size is 10 to 14 students and it caters to many types of students with different learning profiles.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Junior Academy 23500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Hamilton, Ontario
    Garth Street/Fennell Avenue West
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $8,500 to $52,000

Established in 1901, Hillfield Strathallan College is one of Canada’s leading co-educational independent schools, offering academic programs from Montessori Toddler and Pre-K to Grade 12, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

  • Day/Homestay
  • Traditional
  • Montessori
Hillfield Strathallan College 8500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Homestay Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Kipling/Evans
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $15,000 to $65,000

New Haven is a leading private school and non-profit centre supporting individuals with ASD and their families year-round. Our focus centres on growing potential and changing the lives of those with ASD to SOAR.

  • Day
  • Progressive
New Haven Learning Centre 15000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Maple Ridge, British Columbia
    240th Street/Dewdney Trunk Road
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $24,500 to $34,500

Meadowridge is an IB Continuum World School that supports the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and challenging environment.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Meadowridge School 24500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $17,200 to $69,100

St. Margaret's School offers inter-disciplinary and experiential learning from JK3 to Grade 12. Confidence, leadership and academic rigor lead to student success. At SMS, 'She Can'!

  • Day/Boarding
  • Traditional
St. Margaret's School 17200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Danforth Ave/Broadview Ave
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $27,150 to $34,185

Montcrest is a welcoming community that specializes in cultivating incredible young people. With small class sizes and unparalleled student-teacher relationships, Montcrest helps children become who they’re meant to be.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Montcrest School 27150 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Leslie/York Mills
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $12,500 to $26,800

La Citadelle's Excellence in Bilingual Education and academically advanced curriculum develop successful global citizens through IB & AP programs and a holistic approach where students achieve their highest potential.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
La Citadelle International Academy of Arts & Science 12500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
    Leslie/16th Ave
  • K to 8 Coed
  • $12,000 to $25,000

ABA based curriculum provides instructional and learning opportunities for students with autism or learning disabilities using the latest evidence-based educational practices.

  • Day
  • Progressive
AIM Without Limits 12000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Avenue Rd/Bloor St W
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $25,100

Co-ed Day School in the heart of downtown Toronto. Discover a progressive learning environment that promotes authentic and real-world learning experiences.Our goal is to tap into the natural curiosity and inspire success

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Rosedale Day School 25100 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $26,900 to $27,900

Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School is a centre of excellence in developmentally informed instruction that empowers children with learning disabilities in a passionate, progressive and inspiring learning environment.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School 26900 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $26,200

With over 120 years of excellence in all-girls’ education, our rigorous academic program is complemented by strong arts, design technology and athletic programs. Financial assistance is available.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Crofton House School 26200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Yonge/St. Clair
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $19,550 to $26,350

The Linden School is a socially progressive community where innovative, research-based practices in girls’ education promote and strengthen personal well-being, academic excellence, and civic engagement.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Linden School 19550 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Vaughan, Ontario
  • K to 1 Coed
  • $35,000

The only Kindergarten that will prepare your child with special needs to grade one,we are using the Miller Method and DIR/FloorTime.our ratio is 1:4 student.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Waldorf
ACK-Autism Centre for kids 35000 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    17 Avenue SW/69 Street SW
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $14,250 to $20,830

Rundle students enter into their post-secondary schools of choice thanks to our enriched academics and character, leadership, and wellness pillars. We proudly stand by our values, Together: Be Kind, Be Curious, Be Well.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Rundle College 14250 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Davenport/Dupont
  • JK to 6 Coed
  • $28,450

The Mabin School offers programs from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 in Toronto. Its average class size is 20 students.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Mabin School 28450 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $14,600 to $18,980

Our programs: Kindergarten, Academy, a strengths-based, remediation-focused program. Collegiate, for those at or above grade-level. Blended+, the best of online, in-person, & off-campus learning for independent learners.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Calgary Academy & Calgary Collegiate 14600 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • North York, Ontario
    Dufferin/Lawrence
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $20,000 to $26,000

Magnificent Minds Inc. caters to students whose needs are not being met in traditional school environments, pursuing personal best through a balanced approach to education.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Magnificent Minds 20000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    Crowchild Trail/Flanders Ave. SW
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $7,900 to $16,000

A Catholic school that goes beyond academics to help our students realize and use their talents to their fullest potential, in order to become all that God has created them to be. Open to families of all faiths.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
  • Montessori
Clear Water Academy 7900 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Don Mill Rd/York Mills Rd
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $19,050 to $28,300

Bayview Glen is co-ed, multi-denominational and diverse. Our student, faculty and staff community mirror the diversity of our city. We have a culture of balance and openness that includes valuing different perspectives.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Bayview Glen 19050 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Westmount, Quebec
  • K to 11 Boys
  • $20,850 to $26,990

Selwyn House School provides a well-rounded education of exceptional depth and scope for boys from Kindergarten to Grade 11. It is located in Westmount, Quebec.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
Selwyn House School 20850 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boys
  • West Vancouver, British Columbia
    Upper Levels Highway/Cypress Bowl exit
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $20,000 to $25,000

Mulgrave School offers programmes from Preschool to Grade 12 in West Vancouver to all genders. Its average class size is 20 students with teacher to student ratios of 1:8.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Mulgrave School 20000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
    Cambie/Nelson
  • K to 6 Coed
  • $16,580

Claren Academy is a future-focused independent school located in the heart of Vancouver. We give students the tools to be creative, competent, and happy in their changing world.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Claren Academy 16580 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Summerland, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $11,275 to $53,500

UNISUS was founded by the leaders of the top Private Schools in BC. Based on IB Education/Innovation/Technology, Entrepreneurship/ Outdoor Education. Boarding, Sports Academies and Global Partnerships/Opportunities.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Unisus School 11275 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Sheppard Ave W/Bathurst St
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $16,295 to $19,355

Heschel provides a progressive, academically innovative, interdisciplinary Jewish education in a warm, nurturing environment. Students develop habits of mind, body, heart and soul that enable them to make a difference.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
The Toronto Heschel School 16295 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
    Crowchild Trail/Flanders Ave
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $9,000 to $10,000

At Banbury, we teach and mentor each child individually. Students are happy and engaged in learning. We believe in small class sizes with multi-aged groups. 98% of our grads continue with post-secondary education.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Banbury Crossroads School 9000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Bloor/Shaver
  • PS to 5 Coed
  • $6,600 to $12,000

Kingsley's small classes and personal approach help students reach their unique potential. Each child is seen, heard, and respected. French, music, and phys-ed round out a program which includes plenty of time outdoors.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
Kingsley Primary School 6600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Duncan, British Columbia
    Brownsey Avenue/Government Street
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $5,450 to $52,330

Queen Margaret's School is a gender inclusive independent day/boarding university preparatory school in Duncan, BC that focuses on preparing young trailblazers...no two journeys are the same.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Progressive
Queen Margaret's School 5450 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Baie-D'Urfé, Montreal, Quebec
    rue Victoria/rue Normandy
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $8,000 to $12,275

The Alexander von Humboldt German International School Montreal is a multilingual (German, English and French), private, co-educational school serving students from preschool to grade 12.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Alexander von Humboldt German International School 8000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed

The Study  

  • Westmount, Quebec
    The Boulevard/Place Braeside
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $22,860 to $25,810

The Study, founded in 1915, is one of Canada's premier all-girls' schools. Dedicated teachers offer a warm and stimulating bilingual mother-tongue environment from kindergarten to grade 11. The World Needs Great Women.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Study 22860 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Rigaud, Quebec
    Rue Saint-Pierre/Rue Bourget
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $4,700 to $35,000

Collège Bourget is a day & boarding school situated between Montreal & Ottawa. The school offers Quebec's french program from Grade 7 till Grade 11 and english program from Grade 10 till Grade 12.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Traditional
College Bourget 4700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed
  • Montreal, Quebec
    Av de Monkland/Boul Cavendish
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $18,070 to $24,155

Lower Canada College is a coed, K-12 university preparatory school, committed to excellence in teaching and learning. It is the only high school in Quebec offering both the IB MYP and DP.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
Lower Canada College 18070 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Wilson Avenue/Avenue Road
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $10,750 to $14,750

Glen Briar Academy provides hands on programs and student centered teaching strategies that shape life long learners.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Glen Briar Academy 10750 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Iris St/Woodroffe Ave
  • JK to 8 Girls
  • $16,500

In our all-girls environment, academic achievement in both official languages is the norm. A Joan of Arc Academy bilingual education prepares the women leaders for the challenges of tomorrow. Come and see the difference.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Academie Jeanne d'Arc 16500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Vaughan Street/Bertrand Street
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $3,250 to $14,950

Ottawa’s Fern Hill School offers Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary Grades, including Core & Advanced French. Tuition starts at $3,250.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Fern Hill School - Ottawa 3250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • JK to 12 Coed/Girls/Boys
  • $13,290 to $18,620

With a global network of schools around the world, a rich and proud history, and a strong and unique set of core values, Sacred Heart offers not just an education but an experience that is unparalleled in Nova Scotia.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Sacred Heart School of Halifax 13290 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Coed Girls Boys
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Dufferin/Eglinton
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $18,300 to $20,900

By proposing the learning excellence of the French Ministry of Education strongly anchored in Toronto life and Canadian culture, our school offers students the best of both cultures.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Lycée Français de Toronto 18300 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Westmount, Quebec
    Mount Pleasant Avenue/Cedar Avenue
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $19,525 to $23,000

Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School offers a Tier 1 education for girls from K-11, located in Westmount, Qc. We develop bold leaders and creative thinkers — equipping each girl to be the entrepreneur of her own future.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School 19525 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $22,600 to $25,100

Brockton School is an independent, co-ed, non-denominational, IB World School. Brockton hosts an Early Learning Years program, a Junior School, and a Senior School, with students from Junior Kindergarten to grade 12.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Brockton School 22600 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Burnhamthorpe Road/Kipling Avenue
  • JK to 5 Coed
  • $7,070 to $11,860

Founded in 1893, Olivet School is a Christian private school in Etobicoke that offers kindergarten to grade 5. It combines quality teaching with individual attention to help each child achieve their personal potential.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Olivet School 7070 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $7,490 to $14,310

As western Canada's leader in French immersion education, Calgary French & International School students are active leaders and global citizens, graduating with a foundation for life long success.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Calgary French & International School 7490 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 12 Coed
  • $18,500 to $23,000

Our rigorous, personalized programme and strong teacher-student relationships enable us to cultivate each student's talents, helping them build on strengths and discover the joy of learning.

  • Day
  • Liberal Arts
Alcuin College 18500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • St Catharines, Ontario
    Ontario St./Welland Ave.
  • NS to 12 Coed/Girls
  • $350 to $5,200

Heuristic & autodidactic, inspired by Sudbury & democratic models. Students are self-directed, holistically empowered. Voluntary attendance, year-round calendar, agency, & consent inspire free learning.

  • eSchool/Homestay/Boarding/Day
  • Progressive
Agate Private School 350 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools eSchool eSchool Homestay Boarding Day Coed Girls
  • Calgary, Alberta
    17th Ave SW/Richmond Road SW
  • K to 11 Boys
  • $13,000 to $15,000

North Point School for Boys is a Kindergarten to Grade 11 independent school in which curious and energetic boys are challenged and motivated, developing into young men of integrity with a genuine love of learning.

  • Day
  • Progressive
North Point School For Boys 13000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boys
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Fisher Ave/Baseline Rd
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • $19,900 to $21,900

Turnbull School is dedicated to academic excellence in a caring environment. We offer highly qualified teachers, small class sizes, well rounded and enriching programming, and variety in athletics, science and the arts.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Turnbull School 19900 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed

Play-based preschools and daycares

Play-based preschools (also called "play school") are based on the belief that young children learn best through play. They offer mostly open-ended activities, with minimal structure. They aim to develop your child’s social and emotional skills, and to promote a love of learning in an interactive environment.

Play-based preschools, like other preschool programs, tend to be child-centred. They mostly let children choose their own activities. They rarely follow a set curriculum, though they usually have a daily schedule.

In these preschools, classrooms are set up to promote interaction, socialization, problem solving, and discovery learning. Often, there are different stations in class where kids can engage in a wide range of activities. For instance there might be a kitchen, building, reading, and sensory area. This allows kids to pursue their interests and learn and interact in different ways.

Play-based preschools typically don’t offer much direct instruction. Teachers rarely, if ever, provide whole-class lectures. They also don’t normally follow a strict curriculum, at least compared to academic preschools. To learn about the differences between play-based and academic preschools, read our guide.

That said, children can learn important skills in a play-based preschool, including social, emotional, and problem-solving skills. They also may acquire knowledge in some core subjects, such as math, reading, and writing (among others).

As Maureen Myers, executive director at Sprouts, a preschool in Toronto, Ontario, says "We don't sit down and teach by rote or repetition, but the ideas and concepts of letter recognition, language, math, and sciences are learned by very hands-on activities."

Play-based preschools normally have lots of indoor and outdoor physical activity. Boys and girls run around a lot, dance, play hide-and-seek, sports, and other fun activities. They might also play board games and do jigsaw puzzles. And they'll likely do lots of arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, and colouring.

An example of a play-based preschool is Waldorf. While Waldorf preschools provide some focused work time, they also allot plenty of time for free play and play-based learning. They also place a big focus on pretend or imaginative play.

Play-based preschools have some appealing features.

Benefits of play-based preschools

To learn about the differences between play-based and academic preschools, read our guide. You can also read articles comparing different preschool approaches: Montessori to WaldorfMontessori to Reggio EmiliaWaldorf to Reggio EmiliaMontessori to academic, and Montessori to play-based preschools. If you want to compare specific schools one-to-one, visit our compare hub.

 

Preschool questions (read our in-depth answers)

 

Answers to the question “What is a play-based preschool?” from school officials

“There have been numerous studies that conclude young students learn best through play. Children develop a good sense of self in an environment rich in language, play experiences, music, and gross motor development. They learn independence by developing their self-help skills and self-regulation. The many social interactions in a preschool environment help develop important emotional skills and foster a child’s larger perspective of the world.

Play is what makes learning meaningful and fun. A vibrant and successful classroom is rooted in daily activities that develop critical thinking through problem solving as children explore, predict, and investigate elements in the world around them.” Corina Gill, assistant head of the lower school at Bayview Glen Independent School, in Toronto, Ontario

“Play is how children learn—it is inquiry for young children. Learning in preschool is through play. There should be large blocks of uninterrupted time for children to play in the preschool’s schedule. There is a spectrum of play. Some play can be directed by the teacher with specific learning expectations in mind. Some play should be representative of the children’s own interests, with limited teacher interference. Some play should be completely unstructured and freely directed by the students.

Albert Einstein said that ‘play is the highest form of research.’ Young children also benefit from small increments of teacher-directed instruction. A balance of play-based learning and teacher-directed activities is ideal, with the emphasis being on play. ” Vanessa Sjerven, teacher at Elmwood School (the early years program), in Ottawa, Ontario

“We emphasize the importance of child-initiated play. Children play with natural, open-ended materials. A safe, secure, and gentle space is created where they can explore and evolve with their play, with as little interference from the teacher as possible. The teacher will only interfere when necessary in the free play of the child. In this way, the child is the master of their own activity, promoting feelings of confidence and trust in their own abilities.” Jennifer Deathe, head of admission at Waldorf Academy, in Toronto, Ontario

“Children learn more in one day of play than many of us learn in a week of hard work. When presented with the proper, enriched environment and opportunities for learning, your child can flourish. We do not expect any child to learn classroom material/content in a standard, regimented form. Our educators are there to help guide and lead your child to his or her best sense of self.” Paula Carrasco, director of Kendelhurst Academy, in Mississauga, Ontario

“My point of view: children can play and learn in preschool. One does not preclude the other. Play is an integral part of learning ‘academics.’ Through play, children investigate the world through their inquisitiveness and sense of discovery and develop a positive self-image. They also develop intellectually, socially, physically, emotionally, and acquire self-management skills.” Nora Ibrahim, preschool teacher and IB PYP (Primary Years Programme) coordinator at Académie de la Capitale, in Ottawa, Ontario

Series: Preschools

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