Are There Childhood Curriculum Models Better Than Others?

There are many childhood curriculum models for preschool education. As a parent, it is difficult to make a choice. We've reviewed some of the main approaches for your review.
There are many childhood curriculum models for preschool education. As a parent, it is difficult to make a choice. We've reviewed some of the main approaches for your review.
There are many childhood curriculum models for preschool education. As a parent, it is difficult to make a choice. We've reviewed some of the main approaches for your review.

The term curriculum model relates to particular instructional methods and educational priorities. Choosing one specific model for your child seems challenging. You can make the right decision with the right knowledge.

As a parent, you want to make the best decision for your child. You’re looking for predictable and positive child outcomes. There are many differences in child development models and values. It is a daunting task. Each kid may need a different model and each model responsive teaching supports.

Your requirements can depend on your little one’s personality. Let’s have a look at some well-known childhood programs and their components.

The Montessori Method Or When Children Grow Their Own Capabilities

One of the most prevalent childhood curriculum models is Montessori. This model is named for its developer, the Italian physician Maria Montessori. In this model, teachers encourage a student-driven curriculum. A student-driven curriculum relies on the desires and needs of the child. If a child wants to learn to write at three, he or she would begin learning the most natural approach to writing. Since most three-year-old children do not wake up one day and ask to learn to read, encourage their interests and practices.

Take a child interested in playing with dinosaurs, for instance. This child shows an interest in dinosaurs: eating habits, growls, size. He or she learns proper names, diet, behaviors, life span, and other facts. The details and teaching are age-appropriate, and take that interests into account. They’re what drive a kid to learn. A child interested in a subject is far more likely to learn details than one who is indifferent. You can give texts or shown nature shows about dinosaurs to the child who’s passionate about them.

Maria Montessori thinks hands-on skills are the best way to develop abilities (1). For example, educators don’t pour drinks and serve foods. Children learn proper behaviors and techniques by themselves. They receive help in the beginning. They then get more autonomy than children in some other programs. They are also allowed to explore their interests during play and self-guided time. This model promotes the exploration of concrete materials. Children use various objects to explore cause and effect relationships.

This approach is popular in child care through preschool and some primary or elementary settings. It can be used throughout education. It is typically not taught beyond elementary schools in the United States. The Montessori Method relies on leadership skills and social and personal justice. Children are expected to behave in a way that is conducive to learning and leading their peers. When their conduct is unacceptable, there is blame. The educator gives them the chance to understand how their conduct affected the classroom. They also understand the consequences on their environment and their own growth. This opportunity helps them develop more refined leadership skills, as well.

children curriculum models

The Direct Instruction Model

The direct instruction model of early childhood education is controversial as it is a teacher-centered approach (2). Most childhood programs are student-centered. This approach places the curriculum in the hands of childhood teachers. In this case, children receive short lessons throughout the day. Math, science, writing, reading, or music are the main topics. Like in most public schools, children have little to no say about the books, lessons, or subjects they will study.

Some like this approach because it mimics elementary school classrooms. While this may be true, it can be difficult to get toddlers and preschoolers involved in learning. If they do not have a stake, they are disinterested and do not pay attention. You may hear that your child was not paying attention or was disruptive during lesson times. Not all children behave this way. Some kids thrive with a more rigid childhood curriculum model.

Take a child who is learning to read at home. Mom and Dad spend time reading with him or her and talking about letter sounds and blends. When he or she goes to preschool, their lessons are about letter sounds. It happens this child has already learned them. The child is more likely to become a disruption because he or she of boredom and lack of enthusiasm.

If your child struggles with typical development, letter sounds can be challenging. With this childhood curriculum model, the child is more likely to become a disruption because of frustration. Most children will fall into a typical category. Disruptions upset the flow of learning for the atypical kids.

High Scope For Children To Develop Their Own Learning

The High Scope childhood curriculum model puts the child-centered approach into the classroom. In this model, children are given some autonomy for their learning. This autonomy does not meet the same extent as Montessori practice in some cases. High Scope uses fifty-eight key experiences in ten areas for the preschool child to propel learning (2). Children are encouraged to create goals for learning and assisted in meeting them. Teachers take a less direct approach and more of a facilitation approach. They are there to help children meet their needs and guide their learning.

Teachers may allow children to decide what they will focus on next. Then they will design a lesson that allows them to scaffold a child’s development. Scaffolding involves beginning where a child is and adding on a little at a time to add more knowledge. For instance, a child learning to write is often scribbling and mimicking. Rather than a formal lesson on how to write the letter “A,” the teacher may guide the student in writing his or her name. As the child gets better at each letter, new letters are introduced.

This childhood curriculum model’s typical model is for the child to plan, execute, and review the learning. This plan is referred to as “plan-do-review” and is gaining popularity. Activities happen inside the classroom or on the playground. Play is the center of the day in these classrooms.

Reggio Emilia Or The Self-Guidance Curriculum

This childhood curriculum model was designed in Italy by the pedagogue Loris Malaguzzi in the 1970s. It is still gaining popularity. Like in other childhood curriculum models, the child-centered approach is crucial to learning here. Children learn through movement, listening, and hands-on approaches. They develop their autonomy by designing their own lessons. It can be through interests and exploration, much like other methods.

The focus of this model is creativity. Children are stimulated to explore their world creatively through art and other subjects. Reggio Emilia focuses on the multiple intelligence theory by Howard Gardner (ref). In this theory, Gardner argues that intelligence is more than academic. People showing a talent for dance, interpersonal communication, and musical expression develop intelligence that others may not have. This childhood curriculum model acknowledges the approach to learning can be different. Children who view the world through a creative lens foster positive attitudes.

Like other models, the teacher is less of an instructor and more of a facilitator. At times, the caregiver may also be invited to learn alongside the child. If a child is interested in a subject outside the current areas of expertise, the teacher can learn too. The role of the Reggio Emilia educator is to engage in observation and experimentation next application.

Bank Street Developmental-Interaction Model

This approach is named for the Bank Street College of Education. Bank Street is a teacher-centered childhood curriculum model with an emphasis on student interests. The approach encourages teachers to develop a curriculum from their observation of children. For instance, if children ask questions about the weather, color patterns, or shapes. They can develop a lesson to cover any of those topics.

It is not a strictly teacher-centered childhood curriculum model. The teacher is more a facilitator for the learning that the class is most interested in pursuing. This does not allow children to select their curriculum though. The teacher is still in charge. Many like this program quality because it takes the children’s opinion into consideration. Yet it leaves the curriculum responsibility in the teacher’s hands.

These classrooms may contain mixed ages and competencies. The material will be different from one child to another. The children receive one-on-one time. This time may allow the child to direct his or her awareness more than some other models. The teacher is still encouraged to take the reins.

Creative Curriculum

Many programs use a creative childhood curriculum model (ref). In this model, centers are promoted. This model is likely the one you are most familiar with. Teachers adapt to the environment when necessary to make the learning more challenging. For instance, a child putting together ten-piece puzzles will quickly grow tired of it. Adding twenty-five-piece puzzles to the mix will make the environment slightly more challenging.

The teacher is responsible for the whole or large group lessons. He or she is encouraged to be the facilitator and designer of the curriculum while considering the children’s needs. The classrooms may contain many developmental levels. Teachers keep the centers and areas open to all levels. Let’s the example of the puzzle area mentioned before. It might have infant or toddler appropriate puzzles. It also proposes challenging fifty-piece puzzles for advanced children. The teacher can keep more advanced puzzles in a cabinet. He or she can allow students to use them whenever they like.

Adults should engage and continue learning at home. Let’s say the children are reading books about animals. The parents can plan a trip to the nearest zoo or aquarium. It can foster a child’s learning outside the classroom.

Let’s Have A Look At Other Childhood Curriculum Models

A broad range of childhood curriculum models use parts of all these approaches together. Preschool programs serve for social development, motor skills, and many more pedagogical areas. I will cover some other approaches below.

Theme Based and Project Approaches

These are separate approaches, but they are similar in style. The teacher or students may seek to learn about something through a theme or project. They explore the theme or topic through many resources. The learning process can be more informal in many ways. Exploration begins with looking at bugs on the playground. Then the learning continues by talking more about the different types of bugs.

Religious Based

Many parents seek a religious-based program for their children. Religion or certain terms can be the focus of these programs. They often incorporate the tools from above. A Montessori program can be religious-based, as can a theme or project-based approach.

Co-Ops Approach

Parent co-ops are also popular with parents who need a flexible schedule. These co-ops allow parents to join so they take a turn in presenting the lessons or providing care. Like religious-based approaches, parent co-ops can incorporate a wide range of options.

The Kamii-DeVries Method

This curriculum approach is close to the High/ Scope model. It borrows from the theories of Jean Piaget (3). The physical environment encourages intellectual growth. It promotes children’s self-regulation, cognitive development, and respect for themselves. It is also called constructivist education (4). Interest areas are arranged for the children according to a certain routine. They can take initiative on their own learning plan. In Kamii-DeVries childhood classrooms, children explore learning independently with a teacher facilitator. The teachers steps in when needed.

It’s More About What You Do With The Curriculum

Childhood curriculum models vary almost as much as children. Each child may thrive in different learning programs. In practice, individuals may do well in one environment and break down in another. These teaching strategies are all theory-based and have elements in common such as free play and direct instruction. Check what curriculum implementations include parent education and technical assistance in their plans. The best effort a caregiver can make is to consider whether a teacher-centered or student-centered approach is best for their children.

Parents have to consider the role of a religious or academic curriculum should play in their child’s education.

In this diversity, there is no curriculum superior to another. The child outcomes rely on how you apply the learning strategies and circumstances. Quality programs and well-used systems will determine the curriculum components and long-term outcomes for children’s benefits. No one can decide for you, but the above approaches can make a difference in your child’s learning. Now that you have more clarity, you can make an informed decision.


1- Montessori Curriculum – “the Five Areas of Learning“. Five Curriculum Outlines. “Curricula and Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education and Care

3- “Piaget Four Stages of Cognitive Development

4- Lev Vygotsky. “Social Theory Of Cognitive Development