Our Philosophy

At Hilltop, we believe that play is the foundation for lifelong learning and that parent-participation is the key to building community.

A Play-Based Approach

Research shows that for preschool-aged children, the best outcomes occur when learning is embedded in play. Hilltop’s curriculum is based on three research-based principles*:

  • Children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare them for entrance into kindergarten.
  • Academic and social development are so inextricably intertwined that the former must not trump the latter.
  • Learning and play are not incompatible; learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.

Playful learning… engages and motivates children in ways that enhance developmental outcomes and life-long learning. If we hope to prepare intelligent, socially skilled, creative thinkers for the global workplace of tomorrow, we must return play to its rightful position in children’s lives.”—Kathy Hirsh Pasek

(*Source: A Mandate for Playful Learning: Presenting the Evidence by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Laura E. Berk, and Dorothy G. Singer)

Mixed-Age Classrooms

Every child develops at his/her own pace. Being in a mixed-age group gives each child more opportunities to learn and play at his/her own level, regardless of age.

Children are also able to build strong relationships with their teachers, who get to know each child deeply over a longer period of time.

In mixed-age classes, younger children have opportunities to develop more language skills and complex play from their older peers, while older children have opportunities to practice leadership skills and other helping, role modeling behaviors with their younger peers.

Our Commitment to Diversity

Socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural diversity is a core value at Hilltop. We believe in making quality early education and child care accessible to children of all backgrounds. To that end, each year, Hilltop offers need-based scholarships based on available funds and individual family eligibility. In our area, Hilltop is unique in its focus on socioeconomic diversity.

Because we are located in a socioeconomically diverse area we are able to use this to our advantage by establishing a “mixed income” model that has been proven to benefit children from low income households. The New York Times article “The Benefits of Mixing Rich and Poor” supports what Hilltop has practiced for years –that low-income preschool children make more progress in their language and cognitive skills when they are integrated into classrooms with mid- and upper-income peers than when they are in classrooms with only other low-income children.

Overall, Hilltop teaches an awareness of community while respecting the uniqueness of each individual child. To us, that’s a great responsibility and it’s one we’ve handled exceptionally well for more than 60 years.