When you’re trying to find affordable, simple options for daytime care for your toddler, you’re probably aware of two options: daycare and preschool. Both are great options for busy parents who need a few hours off, and both offer a wide range of activities and educational play for your child. But what’s the actual difference between these two options? The distinctions between a preschool and a daycare center are small but important for parents who are looking for the most efficient way to entertain and educate their kids during the workday. If you’re not sure which option is right for you, here are a few distinguishing features of preschools and daycare centers.
The Time Commitment
When searching for the best day care center or preschool option for your child, first ask yourself this: How many hours of care do I actually need? If you’re someone who does consistent work during weekly business hours, you’ll need something a lot more time intensive than, say, a part-time worker or freelancer. Because of this, preschool might not be the best option. One of the best daycare benefits is the offer of flexible, often long hours offered for parents who work a full-time job. Some preschools do offer different schedules for different parental needs, but in general, you’ll be better off choosing a daycare if you’re going to be away at work from 9 to 5. You’ll also be able to keep your child in daycare throughout the summer months and during holidays if you’re not able to get work off. For parents who truly can’t miss a day of a work, daycare is the clear winner.
Both daycare and preschool can end up being pricey care options, especially if you decide on a specialized care option that’s known for a specific curriculum style. In general, however, preschool will end up costing more and offering more of a range of activities. If cost is a huge factor and you’re not too picky about the educational benefits, daycare is clearly the right option. However, if you want to make sure your child is being well prepared for a learning environment, preschool is the better choice. In addition to free play and socializing, preschools will offer a variety of educational programs and classes to make sure your child is getting a well-rounded day of play, exercise, and learning.
The Social Commitment
Kids of a certain age are always getting sick. Whether it’s a cold, a fever, or a cough, it’s common enough for kids to constantly be dealing with some type of issue when they’re first starting to socialized on a daily basis. One of the benefits of daycare is that most centers won’t bring in a parent for something small, like a runny nose or headache. Preschools, however, are much more careful about that sort of thing and will call you as soon as an issue comes up. Preschools will also ask for a bit more of a social commitment from parents, in the form of fundraisers and parent-teacher meetings. Preschools do rely on private funding a lot of the time, so they often expect parents to pitch in when it comes to raising money through the year. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to be bothered with extracurricular activities, daycare might be the better option.
The Education Style
When your child goes to daycare, they’re usually walked through a range of social activities mixed with basic requirements like snack time and nap time. However, most daycares aren’t too particular about how they structure the day, as long as these core needs are getting met. When it comes to preschool, however, it’s a different story. Not only do preschools have a more rigorous structure, they often have a specific teaching style or curriculum that they focus on. Montessori schools, for instance, tend to be arts-focused. Some schools focus on a specific style of learning and social engagement.
Many schools start kids early on basic educational games and language programs. Others focus on specific styles of play combined with innovative approaches to learning. You might even want to choose a preschool simply due to the quality of food it offers. The bottom line is, preschool comes with more options overall if you tend to be picky about what your child is going to be exposed to on a day to day basis. If you want your child to have a consistent educational experience during the week, preschool might offer you a better range of options overall.