Preschool programs: why they’re good for children
Preschool helps children:
- build new knowledge and skills – for example, they start learning more about numbers, letters and words
- improve their communication and social skills through playing and interacting with other children and adults
- make new friends and develop new relationships with adults
- develop physical skills – for example, children learn to balance on play equipment and practise fine motor skills like drawing with a pencil and cutting with scissors
- develop problem-solving and creative thinking skills
- develop responsibility, independence, confidence and self-worth through doing things like looking after their own belongings and spending time away from home
- get ready for the transition to school.
Each Australian state or territory has a different approach to preschool. What preschool is called also varies from state to state – for example, in some states it might be called kindergarten. Find out more about preschool in your state or territory.
What happens in a preschool program?
Whether your child is finger painting, building a block castle, or singing with other children, preschool helps your child expand their experiences and develop their abilities and knowledge.
Preschool programs offer both indoor and outdoor learning experiences, as well as opportunities for solo and group play.
Indoor learning experiences often include:
- painting and drawing
- scribbling and early writing
- clay or playdough play
- puzzles and games
- construction – for example, with blocks or Lego
- sensory activities
- imaginative play.
Outdoor learning experiences often include:
- sand play
- play in the natural environment
- water play
- dramatic play
- swings and climbing equipment.
Group learning experiences often include:
- stories and poetry
- dancing and singing
- playing with musical instruments
- drama and acting
- show and tell.
When can children go to preschool?
In general, children can go to preschool when they’re 4 years old, or in the year they turn 4. Some preschools in some states and territories also offer programs for 3-year-olds.
Sometimes things can get in the way of children going to preschool. Play is a great way to support your child’s learning and development at home. You can encourage your child to try play activities that are like the activities they’d do at preschool – for example, playing with cardboard boxes, making a collage and reading together.
Where can children go to preschool?
You can find preschools in your area by asking friends, neighbours or your child and family health nurse.
You can also contact your local council or state or territory education department (by phone or via its website) to ask for a list of preschools in your area.
What kinds of preschools are there?
In Australia there are several different types of preschool programs and kindergartens. All preschool programs are run by qualified early childhood teachers:
- Sessional preschools: these offer programs ranging from 2½-7 hours a day, a few days a week.
- Long day preschools: these programs run for an entire day and include a lunch program.
- Preschool programs in long day care or child care centres: some centres offer preschool programs.
- Steiner, Montessori and Reggio Emilia preschools: these offer programs based on individual philosophies about children’s learning. The program models and hours vary.
- 3-year-old groups: these programs might include an activity group run by a trained coordinator or a qualified teacher at a kindergarten or preschool.
Most preschools operate in purpose-built facilities, although in more remote areas they can be mobile or online. Preschool programs might be managed by a volunteer parent committee, local government, state education department, independent school or private company.
The Australian Government provides funding to all states and territories to ensure all children have access to early childhood education, particularly in the year before they start school. There might still be a fee, and your local preschool can tell you about the fees it charges.