As many as 54 percent of children under the age of five require some form of childcare during the day outside of the home supervised by a person other than the parent or family. The average child receives 29 hours of childcare every week in one of these locations. Parents have two options for this type of childcare. There are preschools and there are daycare centers. There are a number of similarities between the choices. Some centers blur the line completely and combine the features of both. Parents who are considering daytime childcare should understand some of the traditional differences between these two options.
There is sometimes a difference in the education and qualifications of the staff at the different childcare centers. Preschools tend to be staffed with people who are more oriented towards teaching and education. This often means a degree in early childhood education or another education related subject. Alternately, daytime childcare centers sometimes have more relaxed staff requirements. This might mean staffing the center with individuals who are licensed to work in the industry but who do not have formal educational training. This does not mean that the staff lacks experience and skill. It simply means that formal curriculums and teaching methodologies might not be present.
The focus of a preschool is education through one or more teaching methods. Some are based on play or sensory integration techniques. Others follow established techniques such as the Montessori model that involves cooperative challenges. Preschools take the general viewpoint that the purpose of the sessions each day is to prepare children educationally and socially for formal schooling. Daycare centers often provide some level of education but the staff focuses more on socialization, entertainment and childcare. Formal classes or teaching sessions might not occur during the day although educational posters, manipulatives and other items are usually provided for individual exploration and learning.
There is often a difference between the hours of operation for the two childcare options. A preschool frequently follows the schedule of a normal school. This means opening during business hours in the morning and then closing in the early afternoon. The schedule is not always convenient for parents who are working standard daytime hours since classes will end a few hours before work. Daycare centers usually go to great lengths in order to accommodate working parents. Some remain open into the night and open very early in the mornings. These centers also usually have better contingency plans if a parent or guardian is delayed until after closing.
Admissions And Age Range
One of the largest differences between the two options is qualifying for admissions. Some preschools require testing, interviews and other prerequisites before a child is admitted. This is often done to ensure that children will benefit from the learning environment and will fit in well with the other children in the school. Some very exclusive preschools have very high standards. They will not accept children younger than two or three years old. Daytime childcare centers tend to have much more relaxed requirements. Some have no prerequisites for admission and accept children as young as six months.
Preschools are often located in dedicated buildings and sometimes share space with a larger school. They tend to be in centralized areas and are less common than other childcare options. This could be problematic for some parents who do not regularly drive into cities or other areas. Daycare centers are much more common and can be found in residential areas, inside of large homes and even in private spaces in commercial buildings. It is generally easier to find one of these centers than it is to locate a nearby preschool.
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