How to Choose the Right Pre-school or Day-care Service

by NDFAuthors

  • Aug 28, 2016

It can be an overwhelmingly long and difficult process trying to understand the differences between pre-schools and day-care. Here is some advice to make a better-informed decision.

Many parents are puzzled by all the differences between pre-schools and day-care. Maybe your youngsters are currently happily participating in day-care, and you’re thinking it may be time to join a pre-school. Or maybe they’ve spent time at home and you are wondering what the best decision is for their future education, as well as your budget and daily schedule. Either way, it is a good idea to have a look at the benefits of both types of early schooling to find a suitable option.

Necessary Requirements for Pre-schools and Day-care Centers

Suzette Little, a Mayoral Committee Member of Social Development and Early Childhood development in Cape Town, explains that early childhood development is still often seen as little more than a babysitting service, because the importance of constructive learning and personal development in younger children is not fully recognized. Therefore, parents need to look out for facilities that fulfill the necessary requirements, such as a lease agreement, health clearance certificates, identity and qualification records on staff, a child nutrition and wellness program, on-site staff trained in first-aid and daily scheduled activities.

The Key Differences Between Pre-schools and Day-care Centers

The benefits offered by pre-schools do not necessarily outweigh those provided by a professional day-care, since both early development center schemes operate under the same state agency regulations in the US. Professional and high quality day-care services also offer learning activities that match the curriculum of pre-schools.

Copyright: Milica Nistoran

Copyright: Milica Nistoran

The Pre-school Environment

However, there are some key aspects that set them apart. Pre-schools usually are less flexible in their opening hours. Many pre-schools ask parents to choose between a half-day and full-day program expecting the child to be enrolled for a particular number of days each week. It is also important to remember that most pre-schools close during holidays.

Pre-schools are also more restrictive to the age group of children they welcome: usually pre-schools accept children who are between the ages of two and five years. Age groups also tend to be separated in the classroom but have jointed playground times. Since pre-schools only welcome older children, they usually ask parents to ensure that their children are toilet-trained before joining the school. Furthermore, pre-school programs focus on teaching and learning. This means that it is possible that many states have higher education standards for pre-school teachers in comparison to day-care givers.

How to Find a Good Pre-school?

Even after making a decision towards pre-schools, there are many aspects that should be considered before choosing a school. Marjorie Wechsler, who is an early childhood education researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, explains that it is key to invest time researching different pre-schools rather than just choosing the first that presents itself to parents. She recently identified 10 program characteristics that can have a positive impact on children’s pre-school experience and their education after synthesizing research from different pre-school systems. Her results show that the best pre-schools have college-educated teachers who have received training qualifications in early child development, and their classrooms are not bigger than 10 children per teacher. Additionally, high quality pre-schools use a curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving skills and ask children to try to solve issues on their own rather than teaching them by telling them the answers. The best pre-schools will also employ qualified teachers who have the ability to teach emotional, physical, social, and cognitive skills, and who are supported by experienced coaches.

Copyright: Oksana Kuzmina

Copyright: Oksana Kuzmina

The Day-care Center Environment

Although pre-school teachers may receive more formal training, it is important to remember that day-care givers also require a minimum amount of experience and are trained according to the state’s requirements. Since day-care centers welcome children from young infants to almost grade-schoolers, caregivers may often be more preoccupied with the younger children rather than focusing on a learning-orientated program. At these centers, children can socialize with younger and older children and learn to play with children at different age stages. Furthermore, day-care centers have more flexible opening times, supporting the schedule of working parents. They also tend to be open during holidays and allow parent to personalize children’s schedules according to their requirements.

More Individual Questions to Think about

Since general guidance is only able to give a very basic overview, it is a good idea to have a closer look at you and your child’s individual needs. The strongest program is the one that fits best with the needs of your child, your budget and schedules, and is in a convenient location. Then focus on central questions such as which teachers were more engaging and offered most activities, which classrooms looked more inviting, and where the kids seemed to be happier. It takes time to find the most suitable early childhood development center: the more on-site investigation you carry out, the higher the chances you will find the one your child enjoys going to each morning.