Popular early childhood educational approaches

Bank Street

Less structured than some other programs, the Bank Street Development Interaction approach allows children to make their own choices in the classroom, while interacting with a wide variety of materials, ideas and people. This helps a child discover things in her own way, at her own pace.

The curriculum is based on the idea that children make sense of the world by actively studying it. Teachers encourage questioning and exploration as children start to make connections between their ideas and the surrounding environment.

Creative Curriculum

The Creative Curriculum balances both teacher-directed and child-initiated learning, with an emphasis on responding to children’s learning styles and building on their strengths and interests. Play is considered children’s “work,” which prepares them for future academic learning. Teachers support active thinking and experimenting as children explore the world.

High Scope

Designed for children who need more individualized attention, the High Scope program implements a cognitive approach to learning, and values the working relationship between teachers and children. It stresses the idea that children need active hands-on experiences with people, materials, ideas and events in order to thrive. The curriculum is built around five main content areas: language, literacy and communication, social and emotional growth, physical development, health and well-being, and arts and sciences.


The Montessori method encourages child independence and self-direction.

The teacher acts as an active observer, preparing the classroom to best suit the individual student’s needs. Children value diversity and practice respect for self, others and the world around them.

Self-esteem is nurtured as children master skills and move on to the next developmental level in their work. In addition to language arts, mathematics, science, and cultural studies, the Montessori Method emphasizes sensorial and practical life work.

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach is a collaborative effort, involving teachers, students, parents, and community members. It emphasizes children’s symbolic relationships.

Teachers develop a project-based curricula based on students’ interests, and support learning through observation, dialogue, and documentation of children’s work. Learning is an ongoing process as children build relationships with others while making connections between ideas and their environment.


The Waldorf approach embraces the whole child — body, mind and soul. Early childhood educators model appropriate behavior, and children are encouraged to imitate what they see. Teachers also support physical, emotional, intellectual, and artistic growth by designing curriculum based on children’s stages of development and offering many opportunities for creative and imaginative play.