Comparing Early Childhood Programs

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Child Care

Main Features

  • Provides comprehensive health, social, and education services.
  • Program quality determined by each program.
  • Each program has its own curriculum

Teacher's Role

  • Provides care and education for the whole child.
  • Provides a safe and secure environment.
  • Collaborates with and involve families.


Main Features

  • Theory is based on Piaget, constructivism, Dewey, and Vygotsky.
  • Plan-do-review is the teaching-learning cycle.
  • Emergent curriculum is not planned in advance.
  • Children help determine curriculum.
  • Key experiences guide the curriculum in promoting children's active learning.

Teacher's Role

  • Plans activities based on children's interests.
  • Facilitates learning through encouragement.*
  • Engages in positive adult-child interaction strategies.*


Main Features

  • Theoretical basis is the philosophy and beliefs of Maria Montessori.
  • Prepared environment supports, invites, and enables learning.
  • Children educate themselves- self-directed learning.
  • Has a set of curriculum regarding what children should learn. Montessorians try to stay as close to Montessori's ideas as possible.
  • Children are grouped in multiage environments.
  • Children learn by manipulating materials and working with others.
  • Learning takes place through the senses.

Teacher's Role

  • Follows the child's interests and needs.
  • Prepares an environment that is educationally interesting and safe.*
  • Directs unobtrusively as children individually or in small groups engage in self-directed activity.*
  • Observes, analyzes, and provides materials and activities appropriate for the child's sensitive periods of learning.*
  • Maintains regular communications with the parent.

Reggio Emilia

Main Features

  • Theory is based on Piaget, constructivism, Vygotsky, and Dewey.
  • Emergent curriculum is not planned in advance.
  • Curriculum is based on children's interests and experiences.
  • Curriculum is project oriented.
  • Hundred Languages of Children represents the symbolic representation of children's work and learning.
  • Learning is active.
  • Atelierista- a special teacher is trained in the arts.
  • Atelier- an art/design studio is used by children and teachers.

Teacher's Role

  • Works collaboratively with other teachers.
  • Organizes environments rich in possibilities and provocations.*
  • Acts as recorder for the children, helping them trace and revisit their words and actions.*


Main Features

  • Theoretical basis is the philosophy and beliefs of Rudolf Steiner.
  • The whole child- head, heart, and hands- is educated.
  • The arts are integrated into all curriculum areas.
  • Study of myths, lores, and fairy tales promotes the imagination and multiculturalism.
  • Main-lesson teacher stays with the same class from childhood to adolescence.
  • Learning is by doing-making and doing.
  • Learning is noncompetitive.
  • The developmental phases of each child are followed.

Teacher's role

  • Acts as a role model exhibiting the values of the Waldorf school.
  • Provides an intimate classroom atmosphere full of themes about caring for the community and for the natural and living world.*
  • Encourages children's natural sense of wonder, belief in goodness, and love of beauty.*
  • Creates a love of learning in each child.

Head Start

Main Features

  • Federally sponsored and funded early childhood program.
  • Programs must comply with federal performance standards and standards of learning.
  • Comprehensive approach to educating the whole child.
  • Comprehensive services approach including health and nutrition.
  • Comprehensive program designed to strengthen families.
  • Involves families and the community in delivery of program.

Teacher's Role

  • Teach to and provide for all children's developmental areas- social, emotional physical, and cognitive.
  • Provide programs for children that support their socioeconomic, cultural, and individual needs in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • Involve families and the community in all parts of the program.

*Information from C. Edwards, "Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia," Early Childhood Research & Practice 4, 1, 2002,

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