The resurgence of interest in early childhood education has been accompanied by an active debate about the most developmentally beneficial approach to preschool instruction. Some experts and the major early childhood organizations in this country advocate a child-centered or developmentally appropriate approach, whereas other experts advocate a teacher-directed, didactic approach. Until recently, the empirical evidence available to inform this controversy has been woefully thin. This article reviews the social and theoretical parameters of this debate about preschool instruction, articulates the core dimensions that have been portrayed as distinguishing child- from teacher-directed curricula, and examines the available research that can inform the debate. Our conclusions support those who encourage the adoption of child-centered curricula. Didactic approaches appear to undermine young children's motivation in and enjoyment of school in the short term and to have either neutral or negative ramifications for long-term achievement, despite some evidence of short-term gains.