Choosing Between Preschool and Daycare

When your toddler reaches the stage in his life when he is ready for early childhood education, choosing the right form of care for him is important for establishing a strong foundation for his future. Your child is also at this stage experiencing an important period of development, and therefore needs a nurturing setting in which to grow physically, mentally and emotionally, making it essential to find the right preschool or day care that will meet your toddler’s needs.

While the terms preschool and day care are often used interchangeably, each of these facilities has its own unique child care services and activities, which should be taken into consideration when choosing the right type of child care center for your child.

The Differences Between Preschool and Daycare

The main difference between these two types of child care facilities is the age of the children admitted into the programs. Daycare centers are designed for infants and young toddlers; however, some daycare centers admit toddlers that are three and a half years of age and older. On the other hand, preschools accept children that range from about two and a half and six years of age. Some day care centers simply transition children to a preschool program in the same facility once they reach a certain age.

Another importance difference to consider when choosing between a day care and a preschool for your child is the unique hours of operation of each program. Daycare is generally designed for working moms and working parents and offer full time programs year round. Preschools on the other hand generally provide child care services on a part time schedule; for example, they operate a few hours a day, two to five days a week. Some preschools offer full day care but only from September to May.

The Similarities Between Preschool and Daycare

Both daycare facilities and preschools require licensing. The child care center should have a current license. In addition, the cost of daycare and preschool are roughly the same.

You should also use the same selective criteria when choosing either program for your child. The criteria you should consider include:

  • does the child care center have a good reputation?
  • does the preschool or daycare have an established set of rules (i.e. hours of operation, emergency policy, sick child policy)?
  • does the child care center have a strong curriculum that will foster your child’s development?
  • does the daycare or preschool have a qualified, supportive staff?
  • does the center provide a safe and clean environment for your child

Based on this criteria, you will be able to decide which child care facility best meets your growing child’s needs.