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Daycare vs Preschool: What are the Differences and Which is Best?

Are daycare and preschool the same thing? If not, which is best for your child? As a parent, you are likely looking to find the best care for your child but it can be confusing when some facilities are listed as preschools while others are considered daycares.

This is a common question from parents with young children. Daycares and preschools are different, though they have many similarities.

In this blog, we are going to discuss these differences and help you decide which is best for your children. Let’s start with the basics.

What is Daycare?

Daycare is a childcare option that provides daytime supervision for children. One of its main purposes is to provide much-needed care for children while their parents work, but it’s much more than that and is not reserved solely for parents working 9-5.

The term “daycare” is actually an umbrella term as it can mean many different things with varying options for parents. Its main objective, regardless of what type of daycare, is to provide a place for children to learn, socialize, play, and grow in a safe environment.

The experience from daycare to daycare will vary, but most provide a time for educational experiences, socialization, meals, naps, and of course fun.

Most daycares have hours of operation that mirror the traditional workday. Their hours usually extend slightly beyond the workday to provide parents with adequate time for drop off and pick up. Our operating hours, for example, are 7 am to 5:30 pm.

What is Preschool?

A preschool is a childcare option that emphasizes preparation for Kindergarten or “big kid school” as some call it. The main goal for a child in preschool is to learn the skills and the routines that will help them have a successful start to Kindergarten.

In preschool, children will get a chance to experience a school environment similar to what they will experience when they enter elementary school. The day will be a balance of classwork, learning, socialization, and fun.

Some preschools function as all-day preschools, but most are usually only scheduled for a couple of hours. Preschool is also not always five days a week.

What are the Main Differences between Daycare and Preschool?

There are a lot of similarities between daycares and preschools. You can expect your child to have a great experience with either. However, there are some distinct differences that may determine which is best for your child.


Most daycares are open during normal working hours while kids will likely only attend preschool a couple of hours per week. A preschool will also typically break during the summer months as an elementary school will while daycares generally operate year-round.

Age ranges

Preschool and daycare have very similar age ranges, which is why choosing the right one can be a tough decision. Preschool is designed for children who are going to go into kindergarten in the next year or two so care is usually available for children 3-5 years old. Daycare has a wider date range and is available for children slightly younger starting at 2 years old and going until around 5 or 6.

Daily activities

Kids will experience some of the same activities during either daycare or preschool. Your child will color, sing, build with blocks, interact with other children, and will get to enjoy a number of new fun activities. With daycare having longer days than preschool, their activities are structured a little differently.

For example, daycare may have more time for “free play” throughout the day. They also will likely have nap and snack time. Both have regimented schedules, but depending on the facility, what happens during the day will vary.


Because preschool facilities are designed to prepare children for school and often have less hours with the children compared to daycare facilities, their expectations of the kids can be stricter. For example, preschools will require all children to be potty trained while daycare has more flexibility to work with children who are still learning.

What is right for your child?

As you can see, daycare is not the same as preschool. Deciding which is best, depends on your needs and goals for your child. There are a number of things to take into consideration when deciding.

  • Child’s Age

  • Your scheduling needs

  • Locations of nearby facilities

  • Goals you have for your child

  • Special needs

Your child’s growth and development can excel with either a quality daycare or a preschool. The best choice comes down to each family’s individual needs.


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