Daycare VS Preschool
When I was young, my mother sold her salon to run an at-home daycare. Extremely popular, I was constantly surrounded by kids of all ages at most hours of the day. Our house was filled with the constant giggling, screams, and crying that accompany young children, including the often-time shrill cries of the fiery red-headed six-month old who happened to have colic (who funnily enough became my cousin by marriage at the age of four). Aside from the noises were the constant numbers of toys scattered around the house, and if it wasn’t a Lego that would get caught under my toes (one of the worst pains imaginable), then it was one of my brother’s “little guys” (which hurt just as badly if not worse than the Legos). For a young girl with an even younger brother, it was an extremely fun time in our lives, filled with some lifelong friends and an abundance of playtime.
But that was just what it was: a home filled with plenty of play and laughter while the parents are away. I think my mother would be the first to agree, that while she actively created projects that were age appropriate, she was in no way an expert in child development. Being six when the daycare opened, I was already in the first grade, but my brother, who is four years my junior—was looking preschool in the eye at the time when my mother opened her business. Rather than keep him at home for his preschool years, my mother made the active decision to send him to preschool for several hours a day, before bringing him home to spend his afternoon hours at the daycare. The end result is that the daycare flat lined with the lack of older children during the day, before booming in the afternoon with the arrival of the preschool and elementary aged school kids.
Almost twenty years later and with the daycare long since vintage, the times seem to be changing. Now, parents—more than ever—are faced with the decision of whether to send their toddler to preschool or to keep them in the daycare center that they’ve been in since they were six months old. So daycare versus preschool, what do you choose? The decision is not always as black and white as it may seem, and should be weighed heavily against five different factors.
- Hours of Operation:
Preschools have shorter hours than the average daycare and is designed to be open for only a few hours during the day. Additionally, preschools are typically closed for most holidays, including summers, and can mean needing to find someone to watch your child for those days during the year when you cannot do so. On the flip side, daycares tend to the average parent’s working hours, including times when preschools might otherwise be closed.
- Age of Children:
As I mentioned above, my mother watched babies from the time they were babies (the youngest being five months old), which is typical for most daycares. Many daycares will begin watching your child by the age of three months, which is when a working mother’s maternity leave usually ends. While this is good for working mothers, it’s not always great for childhood development. Often times, by mixing the ages of daycare children, crucial development skills are lost in the process. What might be needed for a one year old, is not always what is going to work best for a three year old, and therefore the child development skills get lost in the compromise.
Keeping with child developmental skills as an issue, preschools will have a specific education policy, whereas daycares usually don’t (there are a few exceptions). Whether the preschool focuses on the Montessori method, the Reggio method, or that of another school of thought, preschools tend to focus on some sort of education for your child to better prepare them for kindergarten entry. As mentioned, many daycares adopt certain education lifestyles, though they are few and far between. In general, most daycares exist to keep your child happy and cared for while you are away at work.
Perhaps one of the quickest and simplest ways to decide whether your child is right for preschool is that preschools typically have a potty-training prerequisite. If your child does not meet this prerequisite, then you’re child is not ready to enter their preschools, it’s that simple. In contrast, daycares take children that are not potty trained, and will help get them to get to the point where they are school ready.
This will require some digging on your behalf because the prices will vary. Depending on where you plan to send your child for preschool the prices can be much higher than the cost of sending your child to a daycare and vice versa. Something to consider is that while your toddler will only be attending preschool for several hours a day, you’re paying a premium for their education.
As with anything, the decision should ultimately be made after you—as a parent—have visited, investigated, and discussed the choice with your spouse. Additionally, you’ll want to be realistic about your time and finances when making the decision between a daycare and a preschool. In both instances, it’s important to realize that your toddler will gain social skills while being around kids close in age and engaging in play. Just remember that while both centers offer different means of providing for your children, the important thing is that above all, your child’s care is the most important thing of all.