The City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and their partners offer families a choice of high-quality preschool and childcare programs for children from birth to five years old at over 600 sites. The key to choosing the right program is determining what works best for your child and your family. Here are items to consider as you search for the right program to fit your needs:
- CPS school-based program or community program
- Age served
- Language preference
- Full-day or half-day program
- School year or year-round program
- Cost (for tuition-based program only)
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation
- Quality rating
Our mission is to provide all Chicago children and their families access to high-quality, equitable early learning experiences leading to success in elementary school and beyond. The City of Chicago and CPS are working towards offering enough seats for every four-year-old child in the city to attend full-day Pre-K at no charge by 2022.
CPS preschool classrooms use a standardized curriculum, Creative Curriculum Literacy Approach, to provide a research-based structure to support student growth and learning.
All our early childhood programs:
- Boost academic skills
- Fuel intellectual curiosity
- Foster independence
- Instill a love of lifelong learning
If you have a child who will be three years or four years old on or by September 1, and are interested in a preschool program, visit the district-wide information and application site, Chicago Early Learning, during the spring before your child will start school. Chicago Early Learning provides access to most early childhood education options in both elementary school and community-based settings. On the Chicago Early Learning website, you can learn about each program’s quality rating, schedule, and ages served and search for locations near your home or work address. You can also apply to the programs that interest you on the Chicago Early Learning website.
District Managed Pre-K Programs
CPS offers different types of Pre-K programs at more than 40 elementary schools, so parents can choose the option that best fits their needs. Application for most, but not all, programs is through Chicago Early Learning.
CPS offers half- (2.5 to 3 hours long) and full-day preschool options, with hours and services available varying by school. These programs are offered free of charge for children with special needs, children in temporary living situations, and income-eligible families. Some families may have a required fee based on the income of the parents or legal guardians.
Child Parent Centers
The Child Parent Center (CPC) program model provides enhanced family supports and services for children ages three to five. CPCs focus on the needs of the entire family and emphasize the importance of continuity from preschool through third grade.
Community-Operated Childcare and Preschool Programs
The Office of Early Childhood Education collaborates with the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) to provide childcare services for infants and toddlers and preschool for three- and four-year-olds in community-operated locations across the city. Community-based programs are designed to meet the needs of working parents and guardians. These programs offer childcare and high-quality learning environments where certified early childhood educators support children's health and development. There are no attendance boundaries for community-operated programs, so you can select a location near your home or place of work. Program hours by site.
Families can explore community early learning programs and submit an application on the Chicago Early Learning website. For additional information about community-operated programs, contact the Department of Family and Support Services at 312-743-0300.
Enroll This Year
Once you have accepted an offer to a school, you will need to enroll your child before the first day of school.
Apply for Pre-K programs
Application periods for Pre-K programs take place during the year before the student starts school.