Daycare Vs Preschool: The 7 Most Important Differences Between The Two

daycare vs preschool

If you’re expecting a baby or already have an infant or toddler at home, you might be feeling stressed out by all the responsibility that comes with caring for them.

“What specifically would benefit my child, whether they attend daycare or preschool?” — you would probably have this question on your mind most of the time.

Well, both daycare and preschool, have their own pros and cons and which one you should choose depends on a variety of factors.

Let’s examine how these 2 differ specifically and figure out what is best for your child!

Daycare Vs Preschool – Which Is Better?

The answer to Daycare vs Preschool depends on what you are looking for as a parent — that is, it is dependent on your specific needs and goals.

So when it comes to taking the decision between Daycare and Preschool, there isn’t any exact “better” option. Both are equally good options depending on your needs and priorities for your child.

Now coming to the basic difference between the 2 — Daycare provides childcare services for children of all ages, while a Preschool is designed specifically to prepare children for kindergarten, Montessori school, or elementary school and beyond with a structured curriculum.

If you are a working parent, the flexible hour system of daycare (a.k.a child care center or child care program or child care facility) will be super useful to get full-time care for your child.

You can also choose a home daycare, which simply means a “group child care home facility” in which a small child care center runs out of someone’s house.

Whereas if your child belongs to a slightly older age group and is ready for more formal learning experiences, preschool programs will be a better option. But preschools often have more specific hours and schedules, which may not be as flexible as daycare.

So if you need flexible childcare center services, choosing daycare will be the better option. However, if you want your child to receive more early childhood education & academics, preschool is likely the way to go.

It’s important to remember that every child is unique, so the decision ultimately depends on what’s best for your family’s needs and priorities.

Let’s go into more detail on how these two are different.


Children in daycare are typically cared for while their parents are at work or otherwise busy. The main objective of a daycare facility is to give children a safe, caring environment with activities that are age-appropriate.

Preschool, on the other hand, is usually built to provide children who are not yet old enough to attend kindergarten’s more structured educational activities. Preschool focuses on preparing kids for formal education through activities and a curriculum that are suited to their developmental requirements.

Therefore, preschool focuses on early childhood education, early learning, and preparing children for formal education like nursery school, whereas daycare is primarily concerned with providing care for young children.

Also Read:Best Age To Start Daycare

Caregivers and Teachers

When it comes to responsibilities and roles, childcare providers and teachers both play a very important role in a child’s overall development.

In a daycare, the caregiver plays an extremely critical role in making sure that a child is safe and taken good care of when their parents are unavailable.

Their work specifically focuses on providing basic help, such as caring for children, ensuring that their basic needs are met, and providing opportunities for play and socialization.

Whereas, preschool teachers are primarily responsible for taking care of the curriculum that helps young children develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

They typically have a degree and training experience in child development which helps them to train each child according to their individual needs and abilities.

However, regardless of their qualifications, caregivers and teachers are both dedicated to providing a safe, nurturing environment for children to learn, grow, and thrive.

Also Read:Worst Age To Start Daycare?

Age requirements

Now coming to the age requirements for a daycare and preschool, they vary significantly in this aspect.

Daycare centers are usually the best option for infants and children up to about 5 or 6 years old. While daycare providers do offer some activities and playtime, the main focus is on keeping the children safe while their parents are at work or unavailable.

A Preschool, on the other hand, is the best option for children who are around 3 to 4 years old and getting ready to start kindergarten. They are typically designed more structurally in terms of academic requirements and focus on helping children develop basic language and reading skills.

So, while both daycare and preschool provide childcare services, they differ in their age requirements and the areas they focus on in a child’s development.

Related Article: Live-In Nanny Cost Per Month

The Hours

Since the target group for daycare and preschool are both pretty different, the number of hours varies according to the parent’s needs and schedules.

Daycare is a center-based care facility that generally has more flexible hours, with some being open for even 24 hours.

This is because daycare centers are typically designed to provide care for children whose parents are working full-time or have other obligations that require them to be away from their children for long periods of time.

Parents can drop off and pick up their children whenever they need to, depending on the daycare’s policies.

Preschool programs, on the other hand, usually have a set schedule and are only open for a certain number of hours per day.

These hours are usually aligned with traditional school hours, which are typically from 9 am to 3 pm. This is because preschool is intended to prepare children for kindergarten, where they need to follow a set schedule and routine.

So, while daycare centers offer more flexibility in terms of hours, preschool programs have a more structured schedule that aligns with conventional school hours.

Also Read: Daycare With Cameras

Educational Curriculum

Daycare and preschool take their unique approach when it comes to their educational curriculum.

Daycare centers are primarily focused on providing a safe and nurturing environment for children while their parents are away. It is more focused on giving a “homely” feeling rather than a “school” feeling.

While some daycares might include some educational activities, they don’t usually have a formal educational curriculum. Instead, they tend to focus on activities that encourage more play-based learning.

But preschool programs have a more structured educational curriculum that’s designed to prepare children for kindergarten.

They typically have a more formal approach to teaching, with activities that promote early childhood education, literacy, and numeracy skills, social and emotional development, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

So, while daycares offer some educational activities, preschools have a more focused educational curriculum.

Also Read: Worst Age To Change Schools


When it comes to services, daycare, and preschool offer different options to meet the needs of parents and their children.

Daycare centers provide a range of services to help parents with their work schedules, such as flexible drop-off and pick-up times, extended hours of care, and sometimes even overnight care.

They also take care of meals and snacks for children, as well as diaper changing and potty training services for younger kids.

Whereas Preschool programs typically follow a more strict and structured schedule, similar to traditional school hours, offering half-day or full-day schooling hours based on parents’ needs.

They also provide meals and snacks, but their focus is on educational and developmental services, such as early education, literacy, and numeracy instruction, social and emotional skill-building, and various classroom activities that help children prepare for kindergarten.

So, daycare centers offer more flexible services to accommodate parent’s work schedules, while preschools are more focused on the educational side of things to better prepare children for formal schooling.

Also Read: Daycare With Cameras


When it comes to cost, daycare and preschool can vary based on several factors, such as location, type of program, and services provided.

Daycare centers typically charge an hourly or daily rate, and the cost can vary based on the age of the child and even the location of the center. The cost is also dependent on the services they provide, such as extended hours or any additional activities.

Read more: Childcare costs in 2022

Preschool programs, on the other hand, usually have a set fee for the year or semester, which is often paid in installments (monthly or quarterly). The cost of preschool can also vary based on the location and type of program, such as a public or private institution.

Also, preschools can charge extra fees for services like extended hours or some additional activity.

Ultimately, the cost of daycare and preschool can differ significantly depending on a lot of factors. So defining a pre-estimated budget will help you take a smoother decision in such a case.


Q1. What age is best for daycare?

Typically, children as young as 6 weeks old to as old as 7 years old can go to daycare but this age criterion is actually dependent on a number of variables.

Daycare can be a fantastic option for parents who work full-time and need constant care for their infants or toddlers. It offers a safe and nurturing environment where kids can get the care they need in the ear years of their life.

However, some families might prefer to hold off until their child is a little older and decide to keep their child at home with a reliable & close family member or nanny for the first and second years of life before enrolling them in a daycare facility.

Q2. What age is best for a child to start preschool?

When it comes to the best age for a child to start preschool, since every kid is unique, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. It completely depends on several factors like — a child’s personality, developmental needs, family’s child care needs, and even family circumstances.

Most preschools accept children at the age of 3, though some even start them as early as 2 or as late as 5.
For children who are socially and cognitively ready, starting preschool around 3 years old can be an excellent opportunity to learn the required skills. It can also help children prepare for kindergarten and get a head start on their education.

However, some children may not be mentally prepared to start preschool at 3 years old, and it’s perfectly okay to wait until they are a bit older.

Q3. Are three-year-olds potty trained?

When it comes to potty training, every child develops at their own pace, so there isn’t a hard and fast rule about when a child should be fully potty trained.

Some kids might be fully potty trained by the age of 3, while others can take longer to learn this skill.

Q4. What is the difference between early childhood and preschool?

Early childhood refers to the period of a child’s life from birth until they are about 8 years old.

But, preschool is a type of program that’s designed for kids between the ages of 3 and 5. The idea is to help prepare them for kindergarten by providing a learning environment that supports their development and trains them to follow a schedule.

So basically, early childhood covers a wider range of children’s ages, while preschool is a specific program for younger children to help get them ready for school.

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