Preschool vs. Daycare: What’s the Difference?

One question our preschool in Raleigh is frequently asked is, “What’s the difference between daycare and preschool? Are they the same?” While many people use the terms interchangeably, there are actually several factors that differentiate the two. To help you decide which option is best for your children and your family’s needs, we’re going to break down the two and provide an in-depth look at what they have in common and what makes them different.

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The Goal & Purpose of Preschool vs. Daycare

The biggest difference between the two is their goal and purpose. The main goal of preschool is to ensure young children, typically between the ages of 30 months and five years old are having their development fostered. This means supporting cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills, and social skills are a top priority as well as ensuring young children are prepared to enter kindergarten. Often, parents and caregivers will send their children to preschool to help them get ready for school and give them the opportunity to learn and socialize in an appropriate environment, even if they don’t specifically need child care.

Daycare centers provide a safe environment for infants and children to stay when their parents or primary caregivers are working. Babies as young as six or 12 weeks and children up to age 12 are cared for, typically on a full-time or after school basis. The focus is on overall care rather than education and development. While there may be educational activities planned, typically parents and caregivers don’t send their children to daycare unless they need a specific child care option, rather than an educational option.

Education and Learning in Preschool and Daycare Centers

Because the main goal of a preschool is to get small children prepared to enter kindergarten, a preschool uses a structured curriculum and has mapped out lesson plans geared toward teaching a specific lesson. They also have measures in place to track progress and report to parents more thoroughly.

This doesn’t mean that it’s a rigid learning program – in fact, most preschools use a curriculum that blends play and discovery to make learning fun or will use different methodologies, such as Creative Curriculum, Waldorf, or parochial-based learning. Often, parents and caregivers will send their children to preschool to help them get ready for school and give them the opportunity to learn and socialize in an appropriate environment, even if they don’t specifically need child care.

Daycare centers often provide learning activities and educational experiences to enrich children’s development. However, they may not have a set curriculum in place or create lesson plans for the children in their care. More time is spent in free-play and informal learning experiences.

Preschool Teachers and Daycare Staff

Both preschools and daycare centers are licensed by the state of North Carolina through the Division of Child Development and Early Education and must meet specific standards, including caregiver-to-student ratio, safety protocols, and other guidelines as well as having qualified staff in place.

However, preschool teachers generally have bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education or a NC Birth-through-Kindergarten/Preschool Add-on License. In addition, preschool lead teachers in North Carolina must also receive licensing from the Early Educator Support, Licensure, and Professional Development Unit.

Childcare That Blends Aspects of Both

Today, more child care centers blend the care and extended hours of a daycare with the structure of a preschool. For example, at our Raleigh preschool and child care development center, we support families by offering three programs:

For preschool-aged children, we utilize The Creative Curriculum to ensure we are providing structured, development-based, age-appropriate learning activities. Also, our teachers and staff are well-trained and have the proper education levels to maintain our status as a 5-star Child Care facility.

Schedule a Tour For One Of Our Preschools in Raleigh!

Want to learn more about our preschool and child care center? Contact our North Hills Drive location at (919) 785-0303 or our Spring Forest Road location at (919) 790-6888, or fill out the form below to schedule a tour!

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