Daycare vs preschool: what’s the difference?

Is your program helping your child meet his/her full potential? How do you know? 

Parents: do your research to ensure you’re getting a quality program for your child!  We have learned from many parents that what they are getting doesn’t meet the needs of their children. Many want to see their kids excel and grow, and the daycare programs simply cannot provide the structure or learning environment that enables that.  

Take this short quiz to guide what to look for in choosing a preschool, and test your knowledge!

A. What‘s the difference between “daycare” and “preschool?”

  1. Childcare programs can call themselves “preschools” in Arizona
  2. Arizona has a separate license for “preschools”
  3. In Arizona, unlicensed childcare programs are legally allowed to operate

Correct answer: 1 and 3.  Did you know, Arizona has no educational standards for early childhood education? The state only offers “recommendations,” so early childhood educators must use state standards for childcare centers. Many other states designate preschool as “a school serving 3-5 year olds with a published curriculum, learning assessments and lesson plans.” For us Arizona residents, that means anyone with childcare experience can open a “preschool” for fewer than 4 children, even if it’s just babysitting! How can parents know whether they’re getting educational program or just childcare? See more from an Arizona government website on legal unlicensed programs.

Here’s how: the difference is in whether your child is learning.  Only a quality educational learning center offers learning objectives in a curriculum by trained teachers.  This is called “early childhood education” – very different from daycare.  At SVLC, we define our preschool as a learning center. It has curriculum and assessments for the children to properly develop. We track learning goals like kindergarten & primary school does. A daycare, regardless of the educational philosophy they advertise, is not required to offer formal instruction. 

B. A daycare in Arizona must:

  1. Teach basics like counting & the alphabet
  2. Track learning progress for each child
  3. Provide hands-on projects to learn about science, art, music and nature
  4. Have a play area 
  5. All of the above

Correct answer:  4. All childcare programs are required to have a play area, but simply playing does not bring your child up to his or her potential. Daycares have to post curriculum and possess an “educational philosophy,” however they’re not required to offer teacher instruction. A quality preschool program does offer 1, 2 3 & 4 – they teach counting & the alphabet, track learning progress for each child and provides hands-on projects.

C. Childcare staff or directors must:

  1. Have a background in education
  2. Be a certified teacher
  3. All of the above
  4. None of the above

Correct answer: 4.  There is no educational training requirement to operate a childcare center. All aides and staff must have a background in something like parenting or child development. This is very different from having education training, which is optional. In fact, most daycare programs do not have certified teachers but represent themselves as a “school” anyway. To be sure of what quality, experience & knowledge your program brings to your child, look into the early childhood teacher standards for the school, including the staff educational background & certification.

SVLC is run by trained director and staff. We possess as many teacher training certifications as are available in order to provide you with the most important asset to your child: a quality education.

D.  The typical daycare provides these learning outcomes before a child starts kindergarten:

  1. Child can count 1-10
  2. Child can recognize the letters in his/her name
  3. Child can write his/her name
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Correct answer:  5. Actually, most Arizona daycare programs do not teach the child to write his/her name, hold a pencil, recognize letters, or count. In fact, most offer fewer than 12 minutes of instruction a day. These skills are, however, essential to early childhood learning.  Even local daycare facilities that bill themselves as preschools offer about 3.5 hours for playing on the playground, 2.5 for playing with toys, 1.5 for washing hands and eating and the rest is napping or free time.

SVLC is proud to be different from all area programs in that we offer a minimum of 2 hours of instruction daily, including literacy, math, science, art and physical education lessons that focus on developing the most important skills your child needs to be ready to excel in kindergarten and beyond.  

5.  A learning center schedule looks like:

  1. Flexible drop off and pick up. Kids come and go whenever needed
  2. Any number of days a week
  3. No fewer than 4 days/week 
  4. Doesn’t matter – it’s all the same 

Correct answer:  3.  Most daycares offer flexibility for days & times of attendance. This is primarily because parents have work & obligations that may change day to day, and having the convenience of dropping off late or picking up early allows them to spend extra time with their child when they can. We get it – we love time with our babies too. This isn’t, however, the optimal situation for the child’s learning. In a learning setting, routinely leaving in the middle of an activity or lesson can disrupt the child’s sense of focus and connection to the activity. The occasional change in schedule is a normal part of life, however, for your child’s learning, a consistent and focused approach to the school day will benefit him/her greatly.

In sum…

Parents: do your research to ensure you’re getting a quality program for your child!  We have learned from many parents that what they are getting doesn’t meet the needs of their children. Many want to see their kids excel and grow, and the daycare programs simply cannot provide the structure or learning environment that enables that.  

Comparison chart

Please come learn about why we are different and what we offer your child for his / her longterm success.

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