Preschool Versus Day Care: What’s the Difference?

When looking to enroll your child in a program most parents can find it overwhelming to begin looking at facilities. Where do you begin and what are the differences in each program? There are 5 main differences to consider when choosing your child care option.

1. The Hours

A Day Care is a facility where parents can have their children cared for by professionals for most if not ALL of the day and tend to offer a year round program.

A Preschool is usually in session as few as 3 hours a day or only a few days a week. Some Preschool’s may offer extended care but they concentrate more on the school’s schedule rather than the parents work schedule. With Preschools parents will discover more closure dates for holidays and vacation, some may even close for summer time.

2. The Ages of the Children

Day Care centers serve a wide range of ages. Some accept infants as young as 6 weeks old, young toddlers, and even elementary age school children for after school care. Day Cares will accept children in diapers and assist children in toilet training.

Preschools are designed for children ages 2-2.5 years old to 5-6 years old. Preschool aged children are usually expected to be toilet trained prior to entering the program.

3. Philosophy/Curriculum

Some Day Cares have been known to adopt educational styles of an early childhood model but most are strictly play-based focusing on socialization and ensuring the children are healthy and happy. Many Day Cares may be designed to encourage children’s cognitive, social, and physical development.

Preschools tend to have a specific educational philosophy (Montessori, Reggio, Eco-Friendly, etc…) and focus their curriculum and activities with a goal for your child in mind.

“Be wary of programs that claim to teach academic skills or ‘sped up’ children’s intellectual development” says the American Academy of Pediatrics in Caring for Your Baby and Young Child. From a development standpoint, most preschoolers are not yet ready to begin formal education.

4. Parental Involvement

You do not usually fundraise for Day Cares, although they may have social gatherings for families.

For Preschool expect to have socials, fundraising events, or to donate items to the program. You will be asked to volunteer your time to help out in the classroom or for preschool related events.

5. Cost

Although both Day Care and Preschools have to fulfill state requirements for their employees, educational standards can vary between the facilities.

Day Care tends to cost less although they are open year round and operate for longer hours.

Preschools tend to cost more although their operating hours are limited. The idea is that your child is learning more at preschool because their Teachers are more educated and children are learning through the set curriculum and enrichment programs offered.