Is There a Difference Between VPK, Preschool, and Early Learning Centers?


Is There a Difference Between VPK, Preschool, and Early Learning Centers?

VPK, preschool, and early learning center

If you have a young child, you know that there are many early childhood education options available. As you search for the right program, you may see several types of programs: preschool, VPK, and early learning.

What are the differences between these types of early childhood learning programs? It’s important to know what each of these programs offers so you can make the best choice for your child.

This guide will explore the differences between preschool vs. VPK. You will also learn about what early learning centers offer and how to find the right fit for your child.

Reach out to the New Horizons Learning Center team now to discover our nurturing programs. You may also schedule a tour of our incredible facility or inquire about applying for admission.

What is a VPK?

Florida offers a free voluntary prekindergarten education program (VPK) to all four-year-olds in the state. The Florida VPK program is free for all, regardless of family income.

Education experts designed the VPK program to get children ready for kindergarten. The VPK curriculum focuses on school readiness education, including pre-reading and social skills.

Many childcare centers and public school systems offer VPK programs. Parents and caregivers can choose which program option is right for their child.

Children may attend a school year program that offers 540 instructional hours. They may also enroll in a summer program that provides 300 instructional hours. Educators keep their class sizes small to ensure they can provide high-quality education to each student.

Children must be four years old to access the free VPK program. Voluntary pre-kindergarten programs provide specialized instructional services for children enrolling in kindergarten the following year.

Sometimes, parents wait for a year when their child will be five to enroll in kindergarten. In this case, they may wait until the following year to enroll their child in VPK.

Parents interested in enrolling their child in VPK may learn more by visiting the Florida Department of Education website. You may also contact the educators at New Horizons to learn more about this program.

What is a Preschool?

Preschool programs meet the needs of children from ages two to four years old. Children in preschool programs may spend a lot of their time playing.

Play-based preschool learning can provide much of the education young children need. Caring educators provide a safe, enriching environment and learning activities, including:

  • Stories
  • Songs
  • Simple games
  • Sensory activities
  • Independent play
  • Basic science and math activities

Preschool learning helps children improve their communication and independence. It also provides a good foundation of skills they will build on later in kindergarten.

Preschool vs. VPK: Which is Right for My Child?

Preschool is ideal for children ages 2-4 years old. Going to preschool allows children to gain independence and practice essential social skills. It also gives young children the opportunity to have many sensory activities each day.

A VPK is a more structured program. Educators designed the VPK curriculum to give kids what they need to be successful in kindergarten. In a VPK, children learn about:

  • Letters and their sounds
  • Shapes, measurements, and other basic math concepts
  • Social skills–sharing, listening, empathy, and more
  • Being part of a classroom community–maintaining attention, working with others, following instructions, etc.

Children often attend preschool starting when they are two and then transition to a VPK the year before kindergarten. Attending a VPK lets a child get the most out of this critical year and allows them to begin school confidently.

What is an Early Learning Center?

An early learning center is a facility that offers multiple early education programs. At New Horizons, we provide high-quality preschool and VPK programs.

Some may refer to early learning centers as “child care centers.” While early learning centers do provide safe, nurturing care, they take early education a step further.

Preschool and VPK programs use an effective, time-tested curriculum to provide developmentally appropriate learning opportunities.

Here are some benefits of enrolling your child in an early learning center.


When your child starts at an early learning center, they remain in a familiar environment throughout their childhood. Instead of moving from center to center as they get older, your child can move from one program to the next within the same center. This can help them feel more comfortable with the staff and help them make friends.


Your child may feel more confident starting a new program if they are familiar with their peers and the teacher. Your child may feel less anxious and more excited about transitioning from preschool to VPK.


Parents often appreciate when things are simple. When you enroll your child in a New Horizons learning center, you won’t have to worry about how to transfer your child from one program to the next. Our caring staff and dedicated educators will take the guesswork out of this process. We will make sure you and your child have a smooth transition from preschool to VPK.

Contact the New Horizons Learning Center admissions team now to explore our programs or ask about enrollment. We look forward to meeting you and your child.

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