What Is the Difference Between Childcare And Kindergarten?

Daycare centres offer developmental programs, and kindergarten schools provide instructive programs for specific age groups of children. The teacher-child ratio in daycare centres varies depending on the age groups of the children. Most kindergarten programs have one certified teacher and one teacher assistant for each class group. In both types of programs, the teachers and other staff are required to maintain open communication with parents and inform parents of their children’s progress and development.

Kindergarten classes are usually based in elementary schools and operate during normal school hours. The schedules for kindergarten programs at elementary schools may be half-day, with three- to four-hour programs starting in the morning or the afternoon.

Alternatively, the children may be enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs. Daycare centres offer more extended operating hours in comparison to elementary schools. In addition, some daycare centres offer kindergarten programs with operating hours that extend beyond the normal opening hours for elementary schools.

Kindergarten programs are generally offered for children between 4 and 5 years old. They prepare the students for the next grade level in school, and the teachers organize the learning activities in relation to specific core curriculum programs designed for kindergarten students.

Kindergarten teachers are required to be certified in elementary education. Daycare centre employees may have experience in child care, and some attendants may be certified in early childhood education. Still, daycare employees are usually not required to have teacher certifications unless the employees are hired to teach kindergarten or preschool programs.

Difference Between Kindergarten & Daycare?

While studies have shown that kindergartens (or preschools) provide higher quality early childhood education than the average long daycare centre (LDC), making a choice is difficult for working parents. For many families, daycare is the only option and starts when the child is still an infant.

They may, however, want to ensure that the daycare centre involved has a good kindergarten program in readiness for when the child is older.

For families who do not use daycare and can afford the fees, the kindergarten is often a given once the child is old enough to benefit from one of the generally three or five hours daily – or two or three days a week – school year-based programs.

If daycare is required, there are a number of considerations involved, not least being the logistics involving school hours. Many kindergartens offer before and after school care. At the same time, daycare centres that focus on learning through play include a preschool program for 3 to 5-year-olds.

How they compare and why

There has always been a perception of daycare predominantly for ‘care’ and kindergarten for ‘education’. The gap, however, is closing, although studies do show a difference in quality which researchers attribute to two reasons. One is the entire teacher/child interaction and shorter hours in kindergartens, and the second is the difference between kindergarten teaching degrees and early education diplomas.

Consequently, they cite the need for governments to prioritize improving the skills required to qualify for the early childhood education diplomas required by daycare workers. In addition, the need for higher quality in the learning element of daycare programs is especially urgent in lower-income areas where children could substantially benefit from quality preschool education to instil a desire to learn in them.

Kindergarten (Preschool)

  • Self-fulfilling perception as primarily an educational environment
  • School-associated hours
  • Degree-qualified teachers for the entire school day


  • Self-fulfilling perception as primarily providing childcare
  • Kindergarten program just a small part of all-day care

Degree-qualified teachers in government-run LDCs, not necessarily in private daycare centres.

Unfortunately, due to the high demand and childcare shortages, quality tends to get overlooked by working parents whose priorities are fitting the hours to their work schedule and the end cost of care. Average fees are in the $100 a day range for LDCs, less child care rebates (CCR) and benefits (CCB) if applicable, and around $50 a day for kindergarten programs. Often it’s not so much a matter of finding the right daycare as how long the waiting list is for the right daycare!

While the government has ensured that kindergarten is available for all children before they start school, specific private and public schools may also have waiting lists.

How To Choose The Best Child Care

​Choosing the right child care can be difficult. Your decision will depend on your family’s needs and the environment where you and your child feel most comfortable.

As well as providing care, child care services provide an opportunity for your child to develop social, emotional and learning skills.

Every family is different, so it’s important to think about your own family needs when choosing child care for your child.

Things to consider

  • How is an old child your child?
  • How much care will your child need each day?
  • How many days a week will you need care?
  • How far you do want to travel?

If you only require a few hours of child care each week, occasional care may suit you. However, if you work full time, you may need a long daycare service.

What to look for

You should look for a child care service that:

  • offers valuable play and learning experiences for your child
  • makes sure there is a caring and consistent relationship between staff and your child
  • allows children time to explore and learn new activities
  • supports all aspects of your child’s development, including their social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs
  • sets clear and reasonable expectations of behaviour
  • Works in partnership with your family.
  • You should also consider the quality of the child care service. The quality of child care services is rated under a system called the National Quality Framework.

Like schools, quality child care and kindergarten are important because high-quality early education sets young children up for life.

What Are the Different Types of Child Care?


Looking for some extra help with your children? Learn more about the different care options such as nannies, babysitters, au pairs, mother’s helpers, and daycare centres and choose the best one for your family. Whether you’re returning to the office or looking for an extra pair of hands to help around the house, child care providers can help give you a break. But you may be overwhelmed by the variety of choices, from nannies and au pairs to mother’s helpers and family daycare centres.

The good news: Whether you can spend a little or a lot, and whether you need full-time care or part-time assistance, there’s a provider who can meet your needs. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of child care and find out which is the best fit for your family. 

Mother’s Helper

A mother’s helper is a child care provider who watches and entertains a child while a parent is still home. These helpers are often younger than the parent (perhaps around junior high age) and may lack the experience of an established babysitter.

Because they’re usually not watching a child on their own, rates may range from free (where the helper merely wants to gain babysitting experience) to just a few dollars an hour. Your best bet for finding a mother’s helper is to ask trusted parents in your social circle who know preteens looking for child care experience.


A babysitter is an individual hired by the hour to care for children. They may work during the day or night, and they may watch the child at your home or theirs. “Babysitting is usually a part-time job that a person holds in addition to many other things, such as attending school or working other jobs,” says Lindsay Heller, a childcare consultant at The Nanny Doctor and a licensed clinical psychologist.

A babysitter’s main duty, of course, is to care for your child, which can include responsibilities such as preparing food, putting kids down for naps or bedtime, assisting with homework, or providing transportation to activities. 


Hate having to rush your tot out the door in the morning? Consider a nanny. “A nanny or in-home provider may be more convenient for parents,” says Barbara Willer, deputy executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. A nanny typically has a regular and more involved relationship with the family. They may watch the child for multiple hours every day or on a consistent weekly schedule.

“In contrast to a babysitter, nannies [have] decided to dedicate themselves to the child care profession,” Heller says. “In addition to experience, some nannies will have a formal education in child development or related fields. They will engage in developmental activities as well as possibly cook or clean for the family.” 

Nannies usually charge by the hour but may be paid once a week or once a month. As a result, rates are often higher than those for a typical babysitter. Hire an agency if you want someone else to take care of background and reference checks. Otherwise, try online resources such as if you want to browse candidates on your own, or check with local college campuses to see if any students with flexible schedules are looking for work.

Au Pair

An au pair is a person from a different country who provides live-in child care for a family. In French, the phrase au pair means “at par,” or “equal to”, as the au pair is supposed to be considered a member of the family.

Au pair duties can include caring for the children but usually do not include house cleaning.

In the United States, the host family provides room and board as well as a stipend based on minimum wage in exchange for a set number of childcare hours. There are also additional costs such as agency fees, a mandatory educational stipend, and travel expenses.

Families must find au pairs through one of a dozen or so approved agencies that are regulated by the U.S. Department of State.

Daycare Center

colored pencils

A daycare centre provides child care in a nonresidential drop-off facility. Some daycare centres allow for hour-by-hour care but must provide either half-or full-day services that include activities, meals, naps, and possibly outings. “Centers can provide more structured learning opportunities and good opportunities for social development with other children,” Willer says. 

Daycare centres have monthly fees that vary greatly based on the location and type of care provided. Use recommendations from friends, search engines, or lists from state licensing agencies to find daycare centres near you.

Family Daycare

A family daycare centre, or home daycare centre, is child care provided in someone else’s home. Family daycares can be cheaper than a traditional daycare centre and may be conveniently located in your neighbourhood.

They often have fewer children, which may make some kids and parents feel more comfortable. “A quality, licensed family child care will provide much more than mere group babysitting,” says Barbara Sawyer, director of special projects at the National Association for Family Child Care. 

Many state licensing regulations require that family daycares provide age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate activities for the children and require training for providers. Because family daycare centres often don’t advertise much, you can find them by word-of-mouth or on websites like Angie’s List.

Relative Care

Relative care is when a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other family member helps with the children. This type of care is beneficial, as someone you already know is caring for your child, but it can also add potential stress to a family relationship if you find it difficult to communicate your expectations to a relative. Some family members (especially ones who are retired) may be willing to provide child care for free, but you should be prepared to discuss some form of payment or compensation for their time and effort.

Child Care Swap

A child care swap involves two or more parents alternating days to watch each other’s children in addition to their own. These arrangements are free and can be very convenient, but they require clear communication between the parents involved about expectations, availability, and reciprocity.

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