Preschool is a vital developmental stage, when your child will build key skills that set the foundation for years of physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. At Willow, we understand that the best way to nurture your child’s growth at this age is through creative play. That’s why we have structured our classroom so preschoolers can learn about themselves, collaborate with others, and take steps toward independence—in a play-based, joy-filled experiential learning environment.

Willow’s preschool philosophy combines the best elements of Waldorf, Montessori, and Forest School philosophies. We intentionally take the stress out of academics to foster a love for learning, right from the start. Willow teachers create ample opportunities for children to use their imagination through recess, art, gardening, and music. Students are encouraged to choose activities and understand real-world connections, guided by our comprehensive Virtues Program. With outdoor learning a priority at Willow, your preschooler will spend lots of time outside, learning not just about nature but from nature, and develop important skills like responsible risk taking, confidence, and self-esteem.

Explore more about our program

Play-Based Learning

Active learning through play is important at Willow. For younger children, work is shown and developed through play. It is a critical part of their brain development and allows them to nurture and deepen relationships. Play-based learning takes many forms in our preschool classroom, from playing games and building forts during recess to gardening, baking, dramatic storytelling, music, dance, and more. This gives children plenty of opportunities to develop their interests in a teacher-supported, unhurried environment. 

Learning Centers

Willow’s preschool classroom is designed to allow students to work at their own pace and self-direct their learning throughout the day, giving teachers more one-on-one time with each student. These fun activities help students develop their concentration and focus, fine motor skills and finger strength, hand-eye coordination, creativity, and more. These stations—sandbox and water play, sensory tables, library center, art shelf, dramatic play and block building, baking and cooking, nature tables, and music basket—teach children accountability and help develop their confidence. Learn more. 

Multisensory Phonics

“Direct and systematic phonemic awareness and phonics instruction is critical to building the foundational skills children need to become confident, independent readers and spellers,” says Willow’s Reading Specialist, Nora Devine, who specializes in Grades Preschool-4 literacy development. “At Willow, incorporating multisensory activities that foster the development of these skills goes hand-in-hand with our belief that learning should be both purposeful and playful!” Preschoolers hone their phonemic awareness through activities that involve seeing, hearing, and moving. Read more.

Take a Deeper Dive into our Curriculum

At this age, your child is growing by leaps and bounds every single day! Preschoolers go through so many developmental milestones in these years, growing physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. They are still feeling out the difference between themselves and others. They learn best through creative play and purposeful teaching and thrive when they are given the opportunity to move at their own pace. Developing the ability to work with others cooperatively is especially important, even as they take their first steps toward independence.

The Age 3 & 4 curriculum at The Willow School develops strong social and emotional skills in a joyful and nurturing environment.

  • In language arts, preschoolers are building their oral language skills and phonological awareness. Through story time, rhyming, and play, preschoolers begin to recognize words and understand the sounds they make, as they develop a love for stories and books. Preschoolers begin exploring the world of reading through book exploration, shared reading, read-alouds, and visits to our school library. Future writing skills are nurtured through dramatic play and labeling activities. Writer’s workshop journals, poetry journals, and Handwriting Without Tears are typically introduced during your child’s second year of preschool.
  • Students are introduced to math by growing their number sense through Montessori activities and play-based learning in whole-class lessons, small groups, and individual activities. Students learn numbers and counting, sorting, pattern recognition, odd and even numbers, more than/less than/equal to, and symmetry. They also are introduced to practical math skills like measuring, money, and time.
  • The science program encourages a love for nature and a curious mind. In lessons that connect science and social studies, children discover the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and learn about wildflowers, the life cycles of plants, and local animals through hands-on activities. Through gardening, stream and pond exploration, and adventures in the Willow woods, the outside world becomes a classroom where they use their five senses to see first-hand how things change over time.
  • In social studies, students develop a sense of community and a connection to others, while learning that we are all unique and capable. Their world expands as they move from self-care and practical life work to learning about the Earth through explorations of the world around them in social studies and science lessons. Students discover the four elements of nature and the seven continents.
  • Art, handcrafts and music not only make school fun, they also support competencies necessary in all other subjects, including development of fine motor skills and following directions. In visual art and handcrafts, students paint, draw, sculpt, collage, and sew, discovering color mixing and the artist within. In music, students sing and dance together, playing musical games and stories and developing an appreciation for music as they learn about different instruments and practice rhythm and beat.
  • Age 3 & 4 students are awakening their senses to new sounds. At Willow, they are introduced to world languages in the same way they would learn their own mother tongue. Students learn vocabulary for colors, numbers, and animals through nursery rhymes, dances, plays, and stories. Preschoolers have one semester of French and one semester of Spanish each year, introducing them to both languages.
  • Teaching our littlest learners about health and wellness is an important part of our program. Preschool snacks are intentionally designed to promote healthy eating habits. Students actively engage in the preparation of healthy food, encouraging students to try new things. Bread baking, chopping vegetables, and washing fruit encourage healthy eating habits. In wellness class, preschoolers focus on their basic locomotor, fine motor, and non-locomotor skills and spatial awareness through fun games, running, skipping, throwing, catching, and more. Students also learn cooperation and sportsmanship through group activities.

By the end of preschool, young Willow School students demonstrate these and many other skills:

  • An understanding of community and a connection to the world, increased ability to work with others and follow directions, and the ability to verbalize their needs and wants in social groups.
  • Early phonemic awareness, including understanding rhyming patterns.
  • Age-appropriate writing skills, supported by increased focus and hand-eye coordination.
  • Basic numeracy, including counting one to 10 and beyond and the basics of measuring, money, and time.
  • A love for nature and being comfortable and curious in the outdoors.
Apply Now