Exploring Childcare Philosophies and Curricula: A Guide to Defining Your School's Approach

Nupur Mittal

Nupur Mittal

Published 1st Mar 2023

Offering the right childcare is a tedious job, and if you’re not sure what you or your care center brings to the table, parents won’t be tempted to trust you with their children. That’s why having a well-defined childcare philosophy becomes essential.


But how do you draft your philosophy? This article will help you with that by sharing 7 major philosophies and giving a step-by-step breakdown of creating your own.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s understand the basics

Table of Contents

What is child care and education philosophy?

It’s a written statement that reflects your center’s principles regarding the childcare you offer. It also puts forth your center’s core beliefs, values, goals, and how you contribute to a child’s positive growth and development. Childcare philosophy is also known as curriculum, preschool curriculum, preschool programs, preschool education approaches, etc. An example of one of the childcare philosophies of Syracuse University’s early childhood care center is –

Respect for each child’s individualized pattern and timing of growth, as well as individual personality, learning style, interests, culture, logic and family background are central to the fabric of daily interactions and the direction the curriculum follows.

5 Education philosophies and curriculum you need to know

There are ample early childcare curricula emphasizing a child’s all-around growth. We’ve hand-picked our 7 favorite philosophies that foster a child’s mental and physical development during each stage.

1. Play-based child care philosophy: Waldorf method


The Waldorf method emphasizes a child’s development through play. The school encourages creative thinking and problem-solving skills and fosters social skills through free imaginative play. This philosophy is at the core of the Chicago Waldorf School, and Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher, social innovator, and artist, paved the foundation for this philosophy. 

How does it help in childcare?

It’s a known fact that children love to play, which is an integral part of their development phase. Learning becomes more fun when playing is promoted within the curriculum, and children develop their creative thinking and decision-making skills. The Waldorf school integrates play time for a fixed hour, meaning children can build and form different shapes and structures.

Activities included

Activities in Waldorf early education vary depending on the age-specific development of children. As per IASWECE, in the first three, physical activities are encouraged; imaginative play becomes more paramount in the middle year of early child development. Then, after a child enters school, the cognitive approach becomes more focused.

To summarize, here are some major activities:

  • Artistic activities include clay modeling, building blocks, painting, and sketching.
  • Practical works such as gardening, plantation, baking, etc.
  • Involvement in seasonal activities and festivals.

2. Self-directed discovery philosophy: The Montessori method


Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, introduced this method of childcare curriculum. This curriculum is based on the belief that children have an innate desire to self-learn. So, when you offer them the right equipment and place them in a growth environment, they tend to grow faster and quicker. Montessori Academy in Dubai, The Montessori Children’s Garden in UAE are some of the prominent schools teaching through this method.

How does it help in childcare?

Montessori’s method of education is based on self-learning, and every module within this curriculum works to enhance a child’s ability to self-learn. This method helps children grow with a strong sense of self, the ability to connect with others and be more productive. The method is often adopted early (birth through age 6) as it lays down the foundation during the early year of a child’s development.

Activities included

As the Montessori method is all about the concept of learning by self-doing, here are some common activities you can use:

  • Pouring and scooping
  • Solving puzzle maps
  • Learn through classification cars: country classifications, animal classifications, etc.
  • Using different dressing frames to learn how to dress.

3. Self-directed approach: Reggio Emilia method


Reggio Emilia’s educational method is student centric constructivist self-guided curriculum which focuses on learning through collaboration, team projects, and interactions. With the child at the center, the teacher considers herself as a co-learner and collaborator rather than an authoritative instructor.

At the heart of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is the Emergent Curriculum, which emphasizes the importance of observing and listening to children to understand their interests and theories. Educators ask open-ended questions to encourage children to share their thoughts and ideas, and based on their ongoing observations, plan activities that take the form of long-term projects. Through these projects, children have the opportunity to explore and develop new skills and knowledge, while also deepening their understanding of the world around them.

How does it help in childcare?

This curriculum is based on a community-oriented approach, meaning children are encouraged to connect with other children. Such a community-based approach fosters social skills and exposes children to developing new experiences. Children tend to engage in playful activities and help each other, and learning becomes even more enjoyable.

Activities included

  • Engage children in clay modeling activities
  • Develop a scavenger hunt and divide children into teams.
  • Try the ‘pass the hoop’ team-building activity.

4. Bank street learning approach


Lucy Sprague Mitchell developed the Bank Street method of child care in the early 1950s. The bank street approach, also known as the development-interaction approach, uses an interdisciplinary approach to learning with a major emphasis on social studies. The philosophy focuses on a child’s overall development – emotional, social, physical, and mental. This approach also highlights the importance of democracy in the classroom – every student must have a voice.

How does it help in childcare?

As this method covers a child’s overall development, teachers can easily assess the room for improvement. For example, if a child is physically active but not able to retain information for a long time, they can adjust the curriculum to focus on that area. A child grows in every aspect which boosts their self-esteem, confidence and social interaction skills.

Activities included:

  • Get students familiar with each other’s family culture and background.
  • Teach community-oriented words, such as social justice, equality, etc.
  • Pick an activity such as soup making and extract the learnings from different subjects (math, social studies, science, etc.)

5. Cognitive-based learning


The cognitive development curriculum enhances a child’s ability to understand and grasp information faster. Child development research considers that a child develops a few intellectual abilities as they grow from an infant to a toddler to a preschooler. For example, a child between 2-4 years can categorize items and remember past events.

How does it help in childcare?

This curriculum works on the ability of a brain to function properly and utilize its maximum potential. Some ways this curriculum can be helpful are as follows:

  • Helps in the later stage of life by paving the foundation for an independent and functioning citizen.
  • Enhance the ability to grasp and retain information for a longer time.

Activities included

Infant and toddler

  • Play what-if games with the child. Ex: I wonder how this board will look if I paint it with this color.
  • Read books and encourage children to imitate the characters with sounds and movements.


  • Teach them a song, rhyme, or poem to enhance their language skills.
  • Mix different colors to create a new one.
  • Outdoor sketching
  • Object sorting based on color, size, type, etc.

School-aged children

  • Encourage partner reading to enhance learning via communicating with others.
  • Host a book discussion and encourage children to share one of their learnings.
  • Promote outdoor activities like bird nesting, tree plantation, etc.

Why is a childcare philosophy important?

Having the right childcare philosophy is how you differentiate your care center from others and feel confident in what you offer. Here are some other benefits of having the right preschool curriculum:

Simplify decision-making regarding admissions.

A child goes through different development, and a childcare philosophy offers an overview of how your center will support children in their growth. A well-defined curriculum also makes parents decide whether they want a child to be admitted to a particular curriculum. So, that’s how a childcare philosophy facilitates easy decision-making.

Facilitate clear communication with parents.

Parents want their children to feel safe and supported in a childcare center. By defining your philosophy, you can communicate your approach to parents. It also reduces the chances of misinterpretation of information.

Hire staff that aligns with your philosophy.

A clearly-defined philosophy also makes the hiring process easier. You can vet applicants based on their alignments with your center’s philosophy.

How to write your child care center philosophy?

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of drafting your center’s childcare philosophy:

Step 1: Jot down your beliefs.

In this step, jot down the core beliefs you want your center to uphold. These beliefs and values will be unique to your center. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself while drafting your philosophies:

  1. What are learning experiences important during different stages of a child’s growth?
  2. How do you want children to learn: Via indoor activities, outdoor activities, or both?
  3. What assessment criteria will you use to ensure that children have met objectives?
  4. What would be the priority: teacher-led activities or student led-activities?
  5. What would be your center’s policy for handling conflicts among children?
  6. How would your center ensure a suitable environment for every child?
  7. What would be the role of teachers/caregivers at your center? 
  8. What should be your center’s role in a child’s development?
  9. What kind of classroom would your center have?

Here’s an example of your statement if you try to answer one or many of the above questions: 

What would be the role of teachers/caregivers at your center? 

Philosophy: “We believe teachers are responsible for the well-being, care, safety, and development of a child. To encourage positive growth, teachers indulge students in different activities based on the curriculum and assess their results. Their role also extends to offering guidance to parents in selecting the right curriculum, mentorship to students, and coming up with new activity ideas.”

Step 2: Partner with the community and parents.

Community and parents have a stake in a child’s positive growth and development. So, consider their point of view and questions while drafting your philosophy. A few questions to begin with:

  1. How will your center ensure parents are adequately involved in a child’s development?
  2. How open is your community to interacting with children and participating in some activities?
  3. How will your center’s community contribute to the child’s care and development?
  4. What activities do parents encourage, and which ones do they discourage?
  5. How can you help children interact with community members?

Questions: How will your center ensure parents are adequately involved in a child’s development?? 

Philosophy: “Our center respects parent’s expectations and aims to stand upto them. We encourage parents’ involvement through group activities and cooperative learning projects. We also conduct monthly meet-ups with parents to talk about their child’s growth and share our feedback. Our aim is to be as transparent with the child’s parents and share all they need to know to strengthen their faith in us.”

Step 3: Think about your curriculum’s priorities.

Based on the values and beliefs collected in steps 1 and 2, set down to prepare a curriculum. Some questions to ask:

  1. What amount of outdoor activity should be optimal for children in different growth stages?
  2. Do you want to develop a more play-based learning or an academic approach?
  3. How can you balance academics and play in a child’s development?
  4. How can you best convey the curriculum to parents?

Step 4: Draft your philosophy.

Once you have everything, start preparing your philosophy. Some best practices to follow while drafting your philosophy:

  1. Ensure every message and principle is clear and doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation.
  2. Support your curriculum with images so parents can visualize the activities.
  3. Use a design that parents can associate with your center.
  4. Be transparent about all the terms and conditions.

How to select the right philosophy for childcare

We’ve covered some major childcare programs, but which one is best for you? We have jotted down tips to help you decide which curriculum would serve you the best.

For parents

  • Understand your child’s needs: As a child will learn in that curriculum, it must meet their needs and requirements. Don’t choose any philosophy, no matter how useful it sounds, if it’s not what your child demands.
  • Consult with a professional caregiver: If you’re not able to make a decision, consult a caregiver and let them help you.
  • Opt For a curriculum that promotes all-around growth: The child grows exponentially in the early years, and the curriculum must support every aspect of their growth – physical, mental, auditory, and sensory.

For child care center

  • Understand parents’ requirements: Talk to parents and understand their expectations from a childcare curriculum. Conduct interviews, send surveys or questionnaires to collect their response, and use this information to make a wise choice.

Consult with professional childcare: Schools can also take advice and help from professional care providers to choose the best curriculum for their center. This will help in the profitability of the preschool in longterm. 

Books to read to develop an effective childcare philosophy

Understanding child psychology and development is crucial for childcare providers seeking to shape a strong philosophy for their homes or schools. While there are many excellent books available on this topic, finding the right one can be challenging for the teachers. To make things easier, we have compiled a list of 11 essential books on preschool curriculum. These books provide deep insights into child development phases and offer practical advice on developmentally appropriate practices. By reading these books, childcare providers can develop a solid foundation for their philosophy and implement effective strategies to support the growth and development of the children in their care.




The Absorbent Mind

  Maria Montessori


  The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children

 Anca Gheaus - Gideon Calder - Jurgen De Wispelaere


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish


Effective Practices in Early Childhood Education: Building a Foundation (3rd Edition)

Dr. Sue Bredekamp


The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson


Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (2nd Edition)

Elena Bodrova and Deorah J. Leong


The Importance of Being Little

Erika Christakis


Handbook of Early Childhood Education

Robert C. Pianta


Curriculum in Early Childhood Education

Nancy File


The New Childcare: Progressive Childcare Philosophy and Practice for Caregivers

Khadija Anderson

Illumine: A one-stop Solution for Curriculum Management and Student Assessment

Illumine’s teacher’s app features a dedicated Learning module that empowers teachers to effortlessly upload curriculum, establish clear milestones, and develop lesson plans that align with their education philosophy. By fostering collaboration between teachers and directors, this platform enables the creation of effective learning objectives and student assessments that accurately track progress. 

Convey your core values and commitment to the child’s parents with our daycare reporting feature. From the child’s attendance to growth analysis, parents will get an overview in real-time. Besides, share live photos and videos of children playing and indulging in group activities and make their parents a part of their development phase.

Talk to an Illumine expert today , to learn how Illumine can help your childcare business enhance its operational rigor and transform itself into a successful organization that teachers and parents love.

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