Your child develops and learns more in her first five years than at any other stage of life. Preschool can support and encourage your child’s amazing development – and it can be a lot of fun.
At preschool (also known as kindergarten) children socialise and learn through play – and they usually have a lot of fun!
- get new knowledge and skills through play and activities with other children – for example, they start learning more about numbers, letters and words
- improve their communication skills through interactions with others
- learn social skills like listening and respecting the ideas of others, sharing and handling conflicts with peers
- make new friends and develop new relationships with adults
- develop responsibility, independence, confidence and self-worth through doing things like looking after their own belongings and spending time away from home.
What happens at preschool?
Preschool is all about learning through open-ended play and structured play activities that allow children to develop at their own pace. Whether your child is finger painting, building a block castle, or singing with other kids, preschool helps your child increase her experiences, abilities and knowledge.
Most preschools offer both indoor and outdoor activities, as well as opportunities for solo and group play.
Indoor activities often include:
- painting and pasting
- clay or playdough play
- puzzles and games
- blocks and construction
- books and sensory activities.
Outdoor activities often include:
- play in the sandpit
- exploring a natural landscape
- water play
- dramatic play
- swings and climbing equipment.
Group times often include:
- stories and poetry
- dancing and singing
- playing with musical instruments
- drama and acting
- show and tell.
Preschool doesn’t usually involve teaching children specific academic skills. This starts happening at school.
When can children go to preschool?
Children can go to preschool when they’re four years old, or in the year they turn four. You don’t have to send your child to preschool but it’s great if you can.
Some preschools in some states also offer programs for three-year-olds – these are much shorter days than traditional four-year-old programs. Some long day care or child care centres offer preschool programs run by qualified early childhood teachers.
What kinds of preschools are there?
In Australia there are several different types of preschools and kindergartens:
Sessional preschools: these offer programs ranging from two-and-a-half hours to five hours a day, a few days a week. Programs are run by an early childhood teacher with the help of an assistant.
Long day preschools: these programs run for an entire day and include a lunch program.
Before-care and after-care programs: these are for parents who need child care support in the time before or after preschool usually starts.
Steiner, Montessori and Reggio Emilia preschools: these offer programs based on individual philosophies of children’s learning abilities. The program models and hours vary.
Three-year-old groups: these programs might include an activity group run by a trained coordinator or a kindergarten run by a qualified teacher.
Most preschools operate in purpose-built facilities and are managed by a volunteer parent committee. But other preschools are run within long day care centres, as part of a church group, or by local governments, state schools, independent schools or private companies.
There might be a fee for your child to go to preschool, because government funding doesn’t cover all the operating costs. Your local preschool will be able to tell you the fees you can expect to pay.