When making a decision about the early education of their child, parents have two main options to choose from: enrolling their child in a preschool or a daycare center. These days, the two actually have a lot in common, including being licensed by the same state agencies. Contrary to a common perception, many quality daycare centers
also offer educational and extracurricular activities that mirror those in a good preschool, and while daycares tend to be somewhat less expensive, the gap in the cost of child care is not always significant. Some preschools will also offer daycare services before and after the "official" school day, or even all-day care for infants and toddlers, giving parents the benefits of both worlds.
Nevertheless, there are some other key differences between daycare and preschool that parents should consider. First, preschools will generally follow a schedule similar to grade schools, opening later and closing earlier than daycare centers. Preschools will also be closed on school holidays and breaks, making them less convenient options for parents with demanding work schedules. Preschool programs typically won't accept infants or young toddlers, usually will have a potty training requirement, and will almost always separate preschoolers by age group (except in some educational approaches like the Montessori philosophy
Most preschools will follow a curriculum more centered on kindergarten preparation, and are far more likely than daycares to offer specific teaching philosophies like Montessori, Reggio Emilia
. Children will still enjoy plenty of playtime in a preschool, but pre-academic preparation (letters, shapes, numbers, sequencing, etc.) and/or cohesive educational philosophies are a significant component of each day. Another fact to consider is that parents are often asked to interact more frequently with the preschool teachers, which can include formal parent-teacher conferences.
Most preschool classrooms are fairly similar to one another, although particular educational philosophies will employ different strategies when it comes to classroom layout, toys, technology, activities, etc. Preschools rarely replicate the intimate environment of in-home daycares
, but if for parents looking for a home-like environment, Waldorf preschools are the best choice. Preschools do tend to hold teachers to higher educational standards and while students can succeed in grade school coming from a wide range of early childhood education centers, parents wishing for their children to enter kindergarten having developed a specific and grade-appropriate skill set might prefer the structure of a preschool curriculum.