Daycare or School: Three Differences that Really Matter for Your Child

When it comes time to choose a type of childcare for your little one, many parents find themselves deciding between daycare or preschool. This decision can come with a bit of confusion because many people use the two terms interchangeably, noting no differences between the concepts at all.

The truth of the matter is that an excellent daycare center and a high-quality preschool look a lot alike. They place value on a child’s engagement, grow their abilities for creative play, and prime them for a lifetime of academic strength.

Keep in mind that these three aspects are what most preschools are known for, but they are not requirements of daycare centers—only the daycare centers that go above and beyond the norm will make sure to uphold those values.

We’re big proponents of choosing preschool for your child who needs daytime care because doing so helps to build a foundation that will set them up for a lifetime of success. While in preschool, they learn skills that will help them through the rest of their academic career. They can participate in social interactions, form bonds, and adjust to how it feels to go to school.

Again, good daycare centers may look like this too. But it’s not a guarantee.

This article is here to outline the three key differences between daycare centers and preschools. If you’re one of the many families out there who are about to take the leap, this resource is for you.


The Purpose and Goals

One area where daycare and preschool pull apart from each other has to do with what they are set out to achieve. The goal of a preschool is to make sure that a child’s development is on the right track and that they’re advancing at the expected pace. In order to ascertain this, preschools will nurture cognitive abilities, motor skills, and social skills. By making these things a top priority, preschools make sure your little one is kindergarten-ready when the time comes.

Even if their child doesn’t explicitly need childcare, many parents choose to send them to preschool in order to prime them for what kindergarten is like. Preschool is a great place to adjust because it’s not quite as overwhelming as kindergarten, but it’s the first step out of the house.

The goal of daycare centers is more simplistic. They offer a safe place for children to stay during the day while their parents are at work, and the age range of the children is much wider. At a preschool, your child will spend most—if not all—of their time around children basically their same age. At a daycare, the age range will vary more greatly.

Instead of focusing on education and development alone, daycare centers are more concerned about overall care. Parents who need someone to look after their child during the day typically choose daycare—it’s not usually the choice of people who are zeroed in on education.


Education and Learning

Since preschool is centered around preparing a child for the kindergarten experience, they typically have a curriculum that they follow throughout the year. Just like in “regular” school, there are lesson plans complete with specific benchmarks, and progress is tracked so it can be shared with parents and caregivers.

Of course, even though it’s school, preschool is still preschool. Just because there’s a curriculum doesn’t mean that it’s rigid and overwhelming. Most preschools’ curriculum blends play with learning in order to encourage discovery and exploration. This type of learning encourages children to try different methods out on their own without being guided through every step.

At a daycare, there’s usually not a set curriculum. While there may be structured activities once in a while, most of the time is spent playing free and experiencing informal learning. It’s a much more casual environment where children choose what they want to do rather than follow a predetermined schedule.



No matter if you lean toward a daycare or a preschool, rest assured that both establishments will have quality staff. While daycare workers don’t always have a background in education like preschool teachers, they are still licensed to take care of children and will meet the correct standards.

In daycares and preschools, the relationship between the staff and your child should be warm and comfortable, with plenty of mutual respect.


Your Child, Your Choice

Austin Children’s Academy is a school that offers elements of both choices—but with a heavy emphasis on the importance of preschool. We believe in fostering young minds starting at an early age not only in a manner that’s educational and habit-forming, but fun as well.

Give us a call today at (512) 960-1514 to learn more.

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