Preschool Vs. Daycare: Which One Is Better?

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Situation 1: You have decided to go back to work after maternity leave, and your husband is already working. Need some place to leave your kid. Your child should enjoy being at the place, shouldn’t miss you and should be taken care of by affectionate people.

Situation 2: It’s time for your toddler to step out of the house, mingle with children, socialize and interact with people other than his family members.

If you are in either of the situations, you have two options – a daycare and a preschool. So, which one to choose? This MomJunction article helps you decide.

What Is A Preschool?

A preschool, otherwise known as a pre-primary or play school, is a learning place that offers early childhood education to children before they start elementary school.

Ideally, children who have crossed the toddler age (2 ½ to 5 years) qualify for preschool. It focuses on the child’s development and lays the foundation for later school years.

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What Is A Daycare?

A daycare or creche is a place that provides childcare services. Daycare centers mainly cater to working parents and focus on taking care of the child, feeding them, putting them to sleep, and making them play for some time.

It is typically for younger children (infants to 10 years) who have to spend five to eight hours away from home, but older children also go to daycare after school hours.

A preschool is different from a daycare in many ways, but they have some similarities as well. Read on to know what they are.

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[ Read: Effective Parenting Tips for Preschoolers ]

Preschool Vs. Daycare

Focus is on the child’s education and developmentThe child’s development is not the top priority here. Instead, the focus is on taking care of the child and keeping them active
Doesn’t open during the holidaysWorks during the holidays as well
Caters to the age group of 2.5 – 5 yearsIs suitable for a wide age group – from infants to older children
Open for shorter hours usually for three to four hoursProvides full-time care and is open for a longer duration, usually for eight to nine hours
Typically has day-scholarsTypically has children of working parents
Different preschools have different methodologies such as Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, play-based and religious modelsIt has free-play, nap time, and informal learning

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Similarities between preschool and daycare:

  • Several preschools have an extended daycare, where the children can stay back after the school hours.
  • Daycares and preschools require licensing and accreditations to run them.
  • Safety of the children is a top priority in both the cases.
  • They need to have qualified and trained staff to educate and train the children. The fee structure is almost the same.

If your toddler is ready to stay away from you for a few hours, you need to choose between a preschool and a daycare.

Preschool Or Daycare – What To Choose?

This is an individual decision and depends on your familial requirements.

  • Daycare may be suitable for working parents as it offers childcare services for longer hours.
  • If your child is too young, then you might want to opt for a daycare.
  • If your child is a toddler, and it’s time for them to be initiated into formal learning, preschool might be a better choice.
  • Also, a preschool is the right place if you want your child to interact and play with the same-age kids.

Whether your choice is a daycare or a preschool, you need to prepare a set of criterion for the center to meet.

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[ Read: Advantages Of Sending Children To Preschool ]

Factors To Consider While Choosing A Preschool/ Daycare

Determine what you want for your child and your expectations from the preschool/ daycare. Here are a few things you may consider before taking a decision:

1. Distance: See how far the center is from your home/workplace.

  • If it is a daycare, choose the one which is closer to your work so that you can drop your child just before you go to work and pick up right after work.
  • If it is preschool, it is good to have near your house.

2. Time spent: Decide how many hours you want your child to spend in preschool/ daycare.

Preschools operate from 9am to 12pm, and daycares operate from 8am to 8pm.

3. Preschool-cum-daycare: Some preschools have daycares attached to them to provide childcare services after school hours.

  • If you are considering a preschool with an attached daycare, you need to find out about the transition period from preschool to daycare. What happens when most of the kids leave and your child is alone?
  • If you are dropping your child at daycare even before the caretakers’ arrive, you need to know whom to give instructions about your child.

4. Curriculum: The preschool curriculum focuses on early life education while a daycare focuses on childcare services along with education and play.

  • The center should engage the child and help in their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
  • A preschool should introduce a language, phonetics, letters, numbers, environmental sciences, and culture-specific concepts to the child.
  • Children learn best through play; so there should be a combination of free play and structured play.
  • If the preschool is pressurizing the children with lots of homework, you might not want to enroll your child in such school.
  • Check if the activities are age-appropriate.
  • The teacher-child relationship should be healthy. If the child is too scared of their teacher, it’s not a good sign.

5. Education and formal training of staff: Preschool staff undergo any formal training, while the same may not be the case with the daycare staff. Most preschools have a set of requirements that their employees have to meet.

  • The employees of a preschool are, usually, selected on the basis of their approach to children and the methods of teaching they use for a certain age group.
  • A daycare is more relaxed in its approach towards the teachers and staff. In most cases, the staff do not have to attend an examination or interview to get recruited.
  • In most states, the educational qualification required of a daycare staff is lower than that of a preschool employee.

[ Read: Signs Your Child Is Ready For Preschool ]

6. Teacher-child interaction: You need to check the qualification of the teachers/ caretakers, their experience, and their attitude towards the children.

  • A happy teacher/ caretaker will make a happy child. The teacher-child interaction should be affectionate and respectful.
  • If the children are engaged in activities and the teacher is preoccupied with something else, don’t assume that she is not responsible. Effective teachers encourage the children to be independent and resolve their conflicts, while they keep an eye on them and interfere when required.

7. Fees and payment method: This is one of the more important points to consider.

  • How much does the center charge? If their fee structure is too high, do they offer the convenience of installments? Is there any late fee policy?
  • How does the daycare charge for the additional hours?
  • Are there any extra charges for the snacks or activities?

8. The ratio of caretaker to children: It’s fair for you to expect one-on-one attention on your child at the center. So, check if:

  • Your child gets the attention even when there are too many kids. Especially if it’s an infant, they need to keep an eye on him constantly.
  • Select a preschool/ daycare where the teacher/ caretaker-child ratio is low.

9. Diaper rules: Diapers are necessary for preschoolers and infants.

  • Most preschools are strict in their diaper policies and require your child to be potty trained before they start classes. But in daycares, potty training is part of childcare.
  • If the child is already diaper-trained, it could be a bonus for you as there will not be any problems in starting a preschool.
  • Most daycare centers take in children who are still in diapers, as they also care for younger babies who are not yet potty trained.
  • Whether you are about to begin potty training your child or are already in the middle of it, you can still send your child to daycare and continue with the training at home.

10. Be aware of the daily routine: Remember that your child needs to be happy and comfortable with the general routine at the center.

  • Do they have activities such as storytelling, play time, and dance or music?
  • What is their snack time, study time, and play time?

11. Food allergies: If your child has any food allergies, you need to inform about them to the preschool/ daycare personnel.

  • Check how they are going to manage if your child develops any allergies.
  • Do they have a nurse or a doctor in case of emergencies?

12. Tracking milestones: Your child will be spending some time away from you.

  • You need to check with the preschool/ daycare if they have any program to track the child’s milestones.
  • You also need to keep the daycare personnel informed about the milestones your child is likely to reach during that specific time.

13. Interaction with other children: How do the centers facilitate social interaction and interpersonal interaction?

  • Children in daycares are exposed to a mixed age group of kids. So, they get an opportunity to socialize with everyone including caretakers.
  • Interaction in preschools is limited to their age group of kids and teachers.

So, you must have gotten an idea of where you want to put your child. But before you finalize it, make a note of a few more points.

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[ Read: Personal Hygiene For Preschoolers ]

Things To Remember

Here are a few important things to consider:

  • Check out the preschool and daycare center options near your home or workplace and ask yourself which one feels better.
  • Talk to the preschool/ daycare head, teachers, caretakers. Would your child instantly take a liking to them or seem intimidated or scared?
  • Take note of the environment and hygiene of the place — ventilation, safety, baby-proofing, etc.
  • What toys do they have? Is it safe to play with them?
  • Ask the teachers and staff about the teaching policies they adopt. Ask them how they deal with children, even with those who may be difficult to handle.
  • Compare the center’s timings with your work timings or weekend schedule.
  • Look at the age of the children who are attending the preschool/ daycare. Do you want your child to mingle with the age groups you see?
  • Interact with the parents who come to collect or drop their children at the center. Take feedback from them, find out if they are working parents or just leaving the kids there for some social interaction.
  • Find out about the activities offered at the centers. Do you feel the activities will be a great learning tool for your child?
  • Take a look at the children who are leaving the center at the end of the day. Do they seem happy and well-cared? Or do they seem tired, disinterested or bored? Do the children turn back happily and wave to the staff or do they just rush out and want to go home?
  • Check if the center is following the rules stipulated by the state. Do a background check to know if the centers are being run legally. Check the ratings, get referrals, and inquire about them.

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[ Read: Daycare Vs. Stay-At-Home ]

Preschools and daycares are your child’s first step towards regular social interactions. They also prepare the kid to be away from home for some hours, so that they do not miss their home when they begin their formal schooling. Therefore, choose a center where your child feels warm, protected and is happy to go.

What do you think about preschools and daycares? Let us know in the comment section.

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