What’s the Difference Between Daycare and Preschool?

Every parent wants the best for their child from the time they take their first steps to when they are grown up and off to college, and every moment in between. Although your child’s needs change as they grow older, your desire to provide them with the best care and education never does. Sometimes, a parent’s biggest decision lies in care of their child when the day comes where they have to return to work. Do you hire a nanny? A babysitter? Enroll them in daycare? As much as a mother would jump at the idea of just taking their child with them to work, this is a decision that requires ample time, research, and consideration. Usually, during this time, a parent will come across daycare centers and preschool centers that both boast beneficial aspects for their child. However, this begs the question, is there a difference between daycare and preschool? If so, what are the main differences between the facilities? Let’s dive into the differences that set daycare and preschool apart from each other. 


One of the main differences between daycare and preschool is their basic function. Preschool is a learning facility that helps children prepare for kindergarten. On the other hand, a daycare is a center that provides working parents with full-time care through the work week–even weekends depending on the center you choose. Since preschool lays the ground for kindergarten, it’s recommended that children between the ages of 3-5 be enrolled. However, be advised that almost all preschool centers require children to be fully potty trained. In preschool, teachers are trained to use specific learning techniques that will further promote your child’s social and cognitive development. The hours of operation of preschool differ from daycare since they act as an educational facility. Like standard school systems, preschool closes for holidays, summer breaks, through inclement weather, etc. 

On the other hand, daycare centers usually have longer hours of operation in order to accommodate the busy schedules of parents. Depending on your schedule, daycare centers allow you drop off your child from the time they open and stay there for as long as you need–of course, not past closing time. Your child isn’t required to stay there all day either. Your child’s daycare schedule can be whatever you need it to be, whether it’s an hour one day and 5 hours the next day, flexibility is the key. Additionally, daycare does not have an age limit on children that can be signed up for their care facilities. Whether they are infants or grade-schoolers, daycare welcomes children of all ages. The main function of daycare is to provide an area for children to interact with other children, play with age-appropriate toys, color, do puzzles, watch TV, etc. In very loose terms, daycare is an amplified version of babysitting. 

The choice of what child care facility best fits your child’s needs is entirely up to you. Before making a decision, take the time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you looking for full-time care?
  • Do you work long hours?
  • Is your child old enough to be without you for long periods of time?
  • Is your child nearing the age that’s appropriate for kindergarten? 

Asking yourself these questions might help you determine what’s best for you and your child’s needs.