Header image courtesy to Naomi Shi (via Pexels)
Originally published by Jenny Leung. Last updated by Janice Lam.
Whether you call it pre-school or nursery, education up to the age of five or six is vital for your children’s development in the short and long term. Keeping learning light, fun, and engaging at this age is a proven means of helping kids become more well-rounded people as they grow. However, with so many to choose from in Hong Kong, each with its own approach to teaching, finding the right one to meet your little one’s needs can be a challenge.
To help narrow down your search, we bring you (in no particular order) a selection of highly reputable pre-schools that offer various methods of learning, along with excellent teachers and facilities, and carefully curated activities to develop your children’s academic and social skills to give them the best possible start in life.
Established in 2018, Malvern quickly gained acclaim amongst Hong Kong parents for its use of uniquely designed teaching programmes. Built on the foundation of EYFS (early years foundation stage), the educational programme is a combination of structured and free play formats that allow children to take initiative in learning activities and gain confidence. The school prides itself on their forest-beach school programme, fostering children’s relationship with nature, as well as developing their intellectual and hands-on skills in life. In addition, kids can have a taste of coding basics and mechanical sciences through playing with Beebots. Needless to say, Malvern is well-equipped in providing an all-round education for children.
The Montessori approach emphasises nature, creativity, and hands-on learning, with gentle guidance provided by the teachers. Children learn about other cultures, animals, and plants, in addition to reading, language, and mathematical skills. The Montessori curriculum focuses on five areas: practical life; sensory awareness education; language arts; mathematics; and cultural subjects such as geography, zoology, time, history, music, movement, science, and art. All disciplines tie together in complementary ways.
Many pre-schools currently run a programme that includes Montessori elements, but most of them are not pure, authentic Montessori. The only school in Hong Kong that can claim to do it properly are the four International Montessori Schools, found in Sheung Wan, Ap Lei Chau, Stanley, and Shau Kei Wan.
Adhering to the Waldorf method, Garden House encourages its pupils to engage in creative play and use all five senses to absorb and actively engage in life. Daily activities range from painting, colouring, singing, and reciting poems to modelling with beeswax, baking bread, building houses out of boxes, sheets, and boards, and dressing up and pretending to be parents, kings, and magicians. Although this might just sound like a whole lot of playtime, these activities intrinsically develop and evolve children’s core abilities in things like communication, use of language, and expression—all essential if they are to thrive at the next stage of their education!
Garden House Waldorf Pre-school & Kindergarten, 7 Silverstrand Beach Road, Clear Water Bay | (+852) 2358 1177
Utilising EYFS (early years foundation stage)—the required curriculum for all schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers in England—Woodland Pre-schools is a great starting point for any parent looking to give their kid a bit of a leg-up. Communication and language, physical development, and personal, social, and emotional development are all covered as part of the three primary areas, while secondary areas include an understanding of the world around them, and expressive arts and design. Best of all, Woodland has managed to maintain its rather stellar reputation across nine different schools in the city, so you can rest easy knowing that there must be one location relatively nearby practically anywhere in Hong Kong.
Established in 1992, Highgate House School aims to foster wholesome development while embedding a love of learning in children and nurturing their imaginations. Although many schools follow its central tenants, this is the only accredited Steiner Waldorf pre-school in Hong Kong, following an educational philosophy that is rooted in creative play and the notion that children who are not hurried through childhood will become more well-rounded adults. Its integrated curriculum is offered from birth to six years, in either English, Mandarin, or bilingual.
Highgate House School, 100 Peak Road, The Peak | (+852) 2849 6336
Tutor Time International is a popular and colourful-looking pre-school that has developed a reputation for nurturing kids at their own pace while still reaping the benefits of its fully immersive bilingual English and Mandarin programmes. Suitable for kids aged six months to six years old, Tutor Time provides daily activities designed to promote your children’s understanding of the world through art and sensory activities, blocks, language, library activities, math, playground fun, as well as music and movement. Using the Tutor Time Ability Profile, teachers are able to observe and record your kids’ progress towards achieving developmental milestones, making for a more personalised educational experience.
Yew Chung International School (YCIS) marries the best of Eastern and Western cultures by ensuring that your kids gain some strong development in the two major languages of the world—Chinese and English. YCIS has been around for 80 years, specialising in early childhood development and seeking to nurture its students to become “outstanding leaders and caring global citizens in a bilingual learning environment.” Students can experience a multicultural and bilingual learning environment where their active participation, investigations, and experimentation enable them to develop with the aid of stringently trained teachers who encourage the children’s initiatives through exploring deep and meaningful topics of interest—maybe not so much the bigger questions on the human condition, but things that are interesting to small kids!
Yew Chung International School, 3 To Fuk Road, Kowloon Tong | (+852) 2338 7106
Mills International Pre-school offers a caring and stimulating environment for up to 300 girls and boys aged between six months and six years old. Providing a rigorous and international education following the British national curriculum with Mandarin as an integrated language, Mills partners with local institutions like Kids’ Gallery and Star English to provide a wide range of co-curricular activities for the little ones. Children enjoy a broad and well-balanced education and are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular pursuits. In addition to receiving specialist teaching in Mandarin, music, art, and more, each classroom is also fully equipped with the latest learning aids, and technology is fully integrated into daily life.
Mills International Pre-school, The Spectacle, 8 Cho Yuen Street, Yau Tong | (+852) 2717 6336
With classes taking place in a beautiful, historic building surrounded by trees, alongside an outdoor playground to boot, City Kids Pre-school & Playgroup has established itself as a favourite amongst the discerning parents of Mid-Levels. Its curriculum’s main goals are independence, confidence, and the development of a positive attitude towards pre-school, so the move into the next, more difficult stages of education are as smooth as possible. All of this is achieved through a combination of play-based and teacher-led activities that gradually introduce the children to the idea of a structured timetable while still letting the kids be, you know, kids!
City Kids Pre-school and Playgroup, 2/F, East Wing, 12 Borrett Road, Mid-Levels | (+852) 2522 4446