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Daycare vs Preschool: What’s the Difference?

October 22nd, 2020

Young children playing with toys in classroomAre you looking for early learning options for your toddler? Do you work full-time and need childcare? Perhaps you’re looking for something that incorporates early childhood education into your child’s care.

Daycare and preschool operate under the same general guidelines, but there are marked differences between the two services. So which should you choose? It really comes down to your child’s needs as well as the needs of your family.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. How old is your child?
  2. Is your child potty-trained?
  3. Do you need extended care? (evenings, summer)
  4. Does your child need special education services?

Read on to learn more about available childcare services and what sets them apart.

Preschool Programs

The purpose of preschool is to provide early childhood education that prepares your child for the social and educational challenges of kindergarten. Preschool teachers stick to an educational curriculum to enhance your child’s social and academic skills.

Preschool programs typically accept toddlers between the ages of three to five years old. This age range is classified as “pre-kindergarteners.” Many schools require potty training prior to enrollment.

The structure of preschool is much like elementary school. Preschool children are separated into different classes by age group. School operates during specific set hours for the day and year and can be full-time or part-time.

Preschools typically close for breaks during spring, winter, and fall. There are school breaks for major and minor holidays and preschool is often closed in the summer, although some may provide additional summer camp services.

The right preschool curriculum can be a great step in the right direction for your child’s development. Before enrolling your child in preschool, it is a good idea to research different options in your area in order to choose the best one for you and your child.

Different preschool programs have different approaches to early childhood education. Check out this guide to understanding the educational goals of different types of preschools.

Daycare Centers

Daycare is a service meant for parents who need supplemental childcare services. This typically includes parents who work full-time or nontraditional hours. Daycare targets a much larger age range of kids, usually from the ages of six weeks to pre-teens.

Daycares typically accept kids for much longer hours than preschools. Daycare offers full-day childcare for working parents that starts early in the morning and lasts into the evening. Most daycares are also open in the summertime and are more flexible when it comes to how much care you need.

In Summary:

Preschool’s main purpose is to supplement your child’s educational growth. They provide service only on specific dates and times and accept children between three and six years old.

Daycare’s main purpose is to provide child care services to a working parent. They are often open for longer hours than preschool and accept children from a wider range of ages.

It’s not uncommon to see parents taking advantage of both preschool and daycare. For example, some children attend preschool during the day followed by after-school care in the evening.

If you feel uneasy about leaving your child at preschool or daycare, rest assured that both services are regulated by your state and the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are strict regulations on staff qualification and training, child-to-staff ratio, and the safety of the physical space.


Here at Learning Tree Academy, we combine the flexibility of daycare with the educational benefits of preschool. Our full-day preschool and pre-k programs utilize developmentally appropriate, hands-on activities to give children a head start in education, and in life. Click here to learn more about our programs or Call Now to enroll!