Is one type of program better than the others?
No. However, "studies show that children who are enrolled in programs with clear goals and carefully considered lesson plans are better prepared for school," says Suzanne Donovan, Ph.D., of the National Research Council. But avoid programs that limit spontaneity, individual differences, or special interests among kids, because children who are encouraged to make choices during the day have been found to have lower stress levels than those in very structured preschools. "They're less dependent on adult approval and more willing to try challenging tasks," says Diane Trister Dodge, author of Preschool for Parents.