It goes without saying that you want the best for your kids. And when it comes to their education, even the sky is too limiting for how high you want your child to soar.
You might be among the many parents who are searching “best preschool Austin” on Google in the hopes of finding (and getting your child accepted to) the best preschools. But it’s worth noting that research has shown there’s no difference between elementary children who attend preschool and those who don’t. Still, many parents go so far as to hire preschool admissions coaches. (Seriously, it’s a thing.)
If you’re determined to find the best preschool in Austin for your little one, this guide just might get you off to a good start. But first, let’s review a few of the most common terms when it comes to preschool. After all, finding the right school for your kid isn’t exactly child’s play.
What’s the Difference Between Preschool, Pre-K, Day Care, and Child Care?
Before we go any further, let’s start with the basics. Terms like preschool, day care, and child care are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences among them. While all must be licensed by the state (in this case, Texas), each program varies to some degree. Here’s what you need to know.
As its name implies, preschool precedes elementary school, and it’s a type of early childhood education for young children who are usually 3-4 years old. Preschools aim to offer a nurturing learning environment, but it’s not just centered on ABC’s and 123’s. There’s also a heavy emphasis on developing social skills as the kids interact with teachers and classmates. That said, preschool and pre-K are often considered the same thing, depending on the school and its philosophy.
While preschools tend to focus on playful learning, pre-K is designed to offer early education programs that explicitly prepare young children for kindergarten. As such, there are planned lessons and activities with specific goals in mind to develop the child’s skills before elementary school. Like preschool, kids in pre-K typically range in age from 3 years old to 4 years old (and sometimes 5, depending on the child’s date of birth).
Day Care and Child Care
Unlike most preschools where you’d be enrolling your 3- or 4-year-old, day care is available to children spanning a much wider age range — from as young as six weeks old to beyond elementary school age. Although day care is synonymous with”child care,” the latter term is considered more accurate and inclusive since this type of supervision can take place during the day or in the evenings, depending on the parent’s work schedule. Oftentimes, child care centers offer after-school supervision as well. Day care centers can be operated in homes, schools, or other approved locations.
A Starting List of the Top Preschools in Austin
Now that you have a handle on the basic differences and similarities among preschool, pre-K, and child care, it’s time to review a few options for your “best preschool Austin” search. You can check out each school’s website to learn more about the programs, costs, and other essential information.
Austin STEM Academy
Austin’s first STEM preschool, Austin STEM Academy (ASA) states that it offers a playful curriculum and problem-based learning approach that incorporates scientific, tech, engineering, and math assignments. ASA is open for children 18 months-5 years old, with three different preschool programs available in English or Spanish.
Located in the Northwest Austin neighborhood of Cedar Park, Rising Stars is a year-round school that provides “differentiated instruction for every child.” To encourage creativity, all classes include music and movement, and art and sensory activities. Parents can choose from the toddler program (18 months-3 years old) and a preschool program for kids who are 3-5 years old.
Highland Montessori School
This preschool for kids ages 2-6 weaves the Montessori philosophy of encouraging “each child’s natural desire for knowledge, understanding, and respect” into its curriculum and activities. Along with supporting a sense of autonomy, Highland Montessori School offers art and music education, Spanish lessons, and gardening. According to the school’s site, its multi-age class is comprised of 25 or fewer children with 3 teachers to highlight the “connection between the children and their teachers and friends.”
Good Earth Farm School
Located on a farm about 26 miles from the Austin area, Good Earth Farm School aims to give children a “high-quality, nature-based education” in a home-like setting. The curriculum adheres to the Waldorf philosophy that takes a holistic view of learning by engaging all the senses and connecting with the rhythms of nature. Programming includes domestic, creative, nurturing, and social arts, and children are grouped according to age — 18 months-3 years old, 3-5 years old, and 4-6 years old.
Olas Spanish Immersion School
It’s a lot easier to learn a second language as a child than it is once you’re an adult. And the Olas Spanish Immersion School is a popular Austin preschool that provides this opportunity with teachers who come from Latin America. But it’s not just for preschoolers. Olas offers a variety of educational programs that extend before and after preschool — from Mommy and Me to Toddlers to Adult One-on-One.
Abacus School of Austin
With a location in Cedar Park and another in Leander, Abacus School of Austin is rooted in the belief that education should be exciting for children. Along with the in-house school setting, there are regular outings and two field trips per month. There are a number of programs from infant and toddler care to young preschool (2-3 years old), preschool (3-4 years old), and pre-K (4-5 years old). Abacus also now has kindergarten campuses at Crystal Falls and Avery Ranch (one of the best areas to live in Austin).
Learn and Laugh Preschool
Dedicated to the philosophy that learning should be fun, Laugh and Learn Preschool features a student-directed curriculum that encourages teachers to customize lessons around individual student needs. Located in Bee Cave about 12 miles from Austin, this privately owned facility caters to children from 6 weeks old to pre-K. Parents can access online webcams to check on their kids throughout the day, and meals can accommodate different dietary restrictions. Part-time and full-time child care is available, as is potty-training assistance. There’s even the occasional Parents’ Night Out to give parents a little break from trying to find a babysitter.
Corazon Neighborhood Preschool
A home-based preschool in the South Austin area, Corazon Neighborhood Preschool is open to children from 3 1/2-5 years old. There are indoor and outdoor areas for both structured and free-form activities, and the Reggio Emilia-style curriculum emphasizes the importance of play and social, emotional learning. Along with English, there are Spanish and American Sign Language options as well as summer camp.
School’s in Session at the Best Preschools in Austin
Whether it’s preschool, pre-K, child care, or some combination of these programs, the bottom line is that choosing a school for your child can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, Austin‘s neighborhoods are home to numerous top-notch schools that will nurture, teach, and inspire your children to develop a life-long love of learning.