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What is the Difference between Daycare and Preschool?

We often hear this question from young parents looking to put their children in an early educational program before reaching the kindergarten age. Parents asking this question wonder which environment is most appropriate for the children’s growth and education. What are the main differences between a daycare facility and a preschool, and which system suites their children best? Here you will find answers to these basic but important questions.

What is the difference between daycare and preschool?

Age Limits for Children

Based on the traditional definition, preschool is an educational program for children who are not old enough to enter the kindergarten yet. On the other hand, daycare is a child-care facility that provides care and supervision for children of any age during the daytime hours. Preschools typically accept admissions for children between the age 2 and 3, while daycares accept children as young as a few weeks old. Daycare centers specialize in providing care for infants while preschools only accept children of a certain age.

Hours of Operation

Hours of operation used to be the main difference between a daycare and a preschool. This difference is becoming less prominent nowadays with preschools and daycares providing the same opening hours during a day. Most daycare facilities provide full-day coverage usually from 6 am to 6 pm. It used to be that preschools provided care only within certain hours of a day either from 9 am to 1 pm or from 9 am to 3 pm. This has changed in the recent years with many preschools now offering full-day coverage the same as daycare centers.

If you are a working parent, daycare might be a better option for you as it has no age-restriction for accepting children and offers flexible hours that suite most working parents. If you are not a working parent and are only looking to send your child to a care facility for a few hours during a day, then you may consider enrolling your child in a preschool. Many preschools now provide before and after care service that accommodates the schedule of working parents as well. Before making a decision, make sure you personally visit the local daycare centers and preschools in your area to see what programs and options are available.

Quality of Education

The quality of education has become a blurry subject between daycares and preschools as both facilities are now capable of providing high quality education to children in different age groups. The truth is there are good daycare centers and there are not so good daycare centers and the same criteria apply to preschools as well. The quality of education can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood based on the location, programs offered and the skills of teachers whether it is a preschool or a daycare center. The best thing parents can do is to research both preschools and daycare centers, visit them in person, and interview the teachers to ensure they are selecting the best care facility that will serve their child best.


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