Five Differences Between Daycare and Kindergarten

One of the most significant benefits of sending your child to daycare is that it has been proven to better prepare children for kindergarten. According to a national report published by the Washington Post, children who attend a preschool or a daycare generally do better in kindergarten than those who stay at home with parents, friends, or relatives. While daycare may offer a glimpse of the structured daily schedule of kindergarten, there are a few key differences between the two.

Several significant differences separate kindergarten from daycare centers. The five most important differences between daycare centers and kindergarten include:

  • Learning activities 
  • Hours of operation 
  • Faculty and staff 
  • Childcare services 
  • Tuition

What Type of Learning Activities Are Available in Daycares and Kindergarten? 

Five Differences Between Daycare & KindergartenMany daycare centers take pride in developing a curriculum that places a strong emphasis on building a foundation regarding the cognitive, social, and emotional development of the children. The learning activities that are typically offered by daycare centers are usually focused on age-appropriate milestones. Many activities found in childcare centers develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. While these skills are seen as being necessary, it is also expected that students have a firm grasp on these by the time they enter kindergarten.

While daycare centers base their learning activities on developmental milestones, elementary schools base their learning activities on academics. There is a much stronger significance placed on learning in kindergarten. Learning activities found in kindergarten classes are based on core subject matter such as math, reading, science, and art. Kindergarten classes also tend to place a limit on individual play, or outdoor activities. This is because there is much more to learn in a limited amount of time in kindergarten. 

What Are the Hours of Operation in Daycares and Kindergarten? 

Five Differences Between Daycare & Kindergarten Perhaps the most glaring difference between daycare centers and kindergarten is the hours in which they operate. Because kindergarten classes are normally based in elementary schools, they must adhere to the hours of operation that are set by the school. While these hours may fluctuate due to location, most elementary schools are usually open for around eight hours per day. However, some schools adhere to a half-day schedule for kindergarten students. Again, the stipulations that dictate how long your child’s school day will be are determined by the state in which the school is located.

Daycare centers, on the other hand, are normally open for extended hours to accommodate working parents. Some daycare centers offer kindergarten programs that provide before-school and after-school care, but the school day in a traditional kindergarten class usually ends around three o’clock. Although, some teachers may be available for around an hour after school closes to address any parental concerns. For this reason, many daycares offer drop-off and pickup services ensuring that children will get to school on time, regardless of their parents’ work schedules.

What Type of Faculty Do These Establishments Have? 

Five Differences Between Daycare & KindergartenAnother key aspect that separates daycares from kindergarten classes is the type of faculty and staff these establishments have on hand. Students who attend kindergarten are typically between the ages of four and five years old. Teachers employed by school systems are qualified to prepare students who fall between these ages for what will be expected of them in the next grade. Because of this, schools will require their teachers to be certified in elementary education. 

The type of certifications and degrees possessed by their respective employees is a significant factor in the difference between daycares and kindergartens. While many daycare employees possess college degrees, they may not be a requirement by the center. Daycare center employees may have experience in child care, and some attendants may even be certified in early childhood education. However, daycare employees are not required to have teacher’s certifications. Of course, exceptions are made if teachers are hired specifically for kindergarten or preschool programs that are offered by the daycare. 

Learn how to get childcare volunteers for your daycare!


Are Childcare Services Offered By Both Establishments? 

Five Differences Between Daycare & KindergartenWhile some daycare centers offer kindergarten or preschool programs, the primary function of a daycare center is to offer childcare services. Daycare centers were initially formed as a means of offering child care to working parents. While daycares were primarily designed to care for infants and toddlers, most daycare centers also offer before-school and after-school programs. Some daycare centers also offer preschool programs and tutoring services to accommodate children, but education is not the primary objective of a daycare. 

The primary function of a Kindergarten class is to provide an educational foundation for our children. Most kindergarten classes do not offer childcare services as an option. However, many elementary schools have implemented before-school and after-school childcare programs to help working parents make their day a little easier. There is usually a cost associated with these programs, although most parents do not mind paying. There is something that can be said for the convenience and peace of mind that comes from only having to make one stop in the morning, and 1 in the evening.

Will There Be Any Tuition Involved? 

Five Differences Between Daycare & KindergartenUnless your child is attending a private school, or they are enrolled in a before-school or after-school program, tuition will not usually be a concern in kindergarten. Public schools are funded by tax money, which means that parents do not have to pay for their children to attend classes. However, if your child is attending a private school, there are going to be some tuition costs attached to their education. Whether or not a private school is worth what you are going to pay for intuition is a topic for another day. For now, we will concentrate on the fact that there is no fee for attending public school.

While there may not be any cost associated with your child attending kindergarten in a public school, there are going to be some fees associated with them being enrolled in daycare. According to the World Population Review, the average annual cost of daycare in the United States can range between $6,500 and over $8,000 per year, depending on the type of center in which your child is enrolled. Montessori schools have an average tuition expense between $12,000 and $15,000 per year. However, many daycare centers offer need-based scholarships that provide financial assistance.


While many differences separate daycare centers from kindergarten classes, there are five that stand out most. Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is the hours in which they operate, with daycare centers offering extended hours for working parents. Another difference between daycares and kindergarten is the level of education and the certifications held by the faculty and staff of both places. Kindergarten classes hire teachers that are certified in elementary education, while daycare centers typically hire employees with experience in childcare and early childhood education. Learning activities between these two places are also quite different, with daycare centers focusing primarily on the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children. 

Kindergarten classes focus mainly on the educational development of students, emphasizing learning on a subject-by-subject basis. Finally, we have to take a look at the childcare services and fees involved with daycare centers versus kindergarten. Daycares are designed to offer childcare services, and usually cost an average of anywhere between $6,500 and over $8,000 per year. Unless your child is attending a private school, there will normally not be any tuition associated with their education.

Related Questions 

What are the differences between Early Learning Centers and daycares? While Early Learning Centers place a strong emphasis on early learning, the primary focus of a daycare center is to provide child care. The hours of operation might also differ, with Early Learning Centers having shorter periods in which they are open, while daycare centers may be open for extended hours. Most Early Learning Centers only allow children to attend for a few hours a week, while daycare centers provide full-time child care.

Should I send my child to a daycare center, or should I send them to an in-home daycare? The answer to this question lies in how much structure you want your child to receive. Daycare centers are often regulated by the state and have a set curriculum that Fosters growth and development in children. In-home daycares may not play such a strong emphasis on structure or discipline and are commonly referred to as babysitting services. If you want your child to receive one-on-one attention, and the in-home daycare may work for you. However, if you want your child to receive the structure and discipline that comes with a daycare center, that will be the right option.


Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.

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