Daycare vs. Preschool: How to Choose What’s Right For You

daycare vs preschool: how to choose whats right for you

What is the difference between preschool and day care? 

Your little one is showing signs that they are ready for daycare… or is it preschool? The differences between daycare and preschool can be subtle, but important. 

Let’s start with what these types of programs have in common…

preschool play

Preschool and Daycare Commonalities

Both daycare and preschool provide developmentally-aligned care for children. Programs are designed to meet the physical and emotional needs of children, as well as provide childcare support for working parents. Both daycare and preschool prioritize regular meals, snacks, naptimes, and play— all of which are essential for early childhood wellness. Furthermore, both programs will offer fun and age-appropriate activities for the children in their care. Both may offer help with important milestones, like toilet-training, though this may vary by individual program.

To make matters more confusing, there is often great overlap in age ranges for daycare and preschool, with some preschool programs starting as early as 18 months, and some daycare programs extending for children as old as 5 years. So how can we differentiate between these two options? 

preschool learning

The simple answer: Preschool builds on daycare with a focused and personalized experience.

In addition to the generalized support of daycare, preschool offers a more focused and personalized experience for young children. At Little Scholar, our preschool program engages and challenges young children with early and age-appropriate academic concepts, like letter recognition, concepts about print, math sense and counting, and more. Like many preschools, we use an early childhood curriculum that includes social skills (such as manners in English and Spanish), life skills (such as self-care and care for the environment), and the arts. In addition, teachers look for measurable progress and are in frequent communication with parents over their child’s progress, interests, and successes. (Note: While some daycares may be excellent at communication with parents, especially regarding physical and emotional needs of the children in their care, most do not include analysis of academic or social progress.)

Preschool introduces formal schooling.

Preschool also includes routines and practices common in elementary school—with adjustments for little ones. For example, there is often a more structured routine than daycare, similar to a school day. Parents may also be invited to back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, and other preschool events. Preschoolers may even have special assignments or projects to try at home that will integrate in their school day. 

Preschools are designed for children's learning needs.

While daycare may offer extended hours, preschools generally prioritize the optimal time for learning needs of the child. According to the Montessori philosophy, a three-hour window is an ideal length of time for children ages 0-6 to learn and grow. Little Scholar Preschool is designed with this in mind, and uses a combination of strategies to help children make the most of their time together.

preschool students

Preschool questions? We would love to hear from you.

Little Scholar offers a toddler learning program in addition to preschool. No matter where your child is on their journey, we have a program for you.

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