Pathways Preschool

The Difference Between Preschools and Daycare Centers

Understanding the difference between preschools and daycare centers can be difficult. This is true for most people, but especially for those who are new to the world of early childhood education.

With so many daycare centers advertising learning activities as well, it gets even more confusing. That’s why we’re taking a moment to demonstrate how the two differ. First, though, we look at commonalities between daycare centers and preschools.

What Do Daycares Have in Common with Preschools?

The top similarity between daycares and preschools is the fact that both are licensed by the state. In Arizona, the group overseeing this is the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Arizona state statute includes guidelines as regards safety, staff qualifications, immunizations, insurance, equipment, and much more. (Find the full Childcare Licensing Administrative Code here.)

Requirements vary according to the type of facility and age of the children it serves. For example, the guidelines for an in-home daycare differ dramatically from those of a K-8 public school.

Another similarity is cost, which tends to be about the same for both. Finally, all quality childcare centers always place the safety and wellbeing of your little one first.

Preschool students smile and listen to their teacher

How Do Preschools and Daycare Centers Differ?

As the name implies, one of the biggest differences in a preschool is the learning aspect. Specifically, preschools follow an evidence-based educational philosophy. For example, at Pathways, our philosophy is based on the Reggio Emilia approach.

Other differences include staff qualifications, operating hours, and enrollment requirements.

Learning-Oriented vs. Custodial Care

A high-quality preschool employs a learning-based approach, typically one that follows a specific philosophy. The Pathways’ philosophy is rooted in an approach that recognizes the fact that children are brimming with a natural curiosity. The result is that they are always learning, always exploring.

At Pathways, we believe our job is to create an environment that supports, cultivates, and enriches your child’s natural interests and potential. Some amount of learning may occur during custodial care, but it is rarely purposeful or intentional.

Staff Qualifications

As with most preschools, Pathways requires its teachers to be licensed in Early Childhood, Elementary Education, or a similar specialty. In addition, teachers must have their fingerprint clearance card, just like K-12 educators in Arizona’s public schools.

Most daycares require some type of background check on staff. However, most staff are not required to be licensed or certified as teachers.

Operating Hours

Preschool teacher works with 3 students on block puzzles

Daycare centers are usually open five days a week, only closing for major holidays (i.e. Christmas and Thanksgiving). They also tend to open earlier and stay open later than preschools do.

Preschools usually have shorter hours and observe a schedule similar to that in the surrounding school district. Pathways is open Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 6 PM, although the preschool portion of our day lasts from 9 AM to 3 PM. Children may attend either three or five days per week.

As we are a Tempe preschool, we follow the Tempe School District calendar. That includes closure for all holidays and spring, fall, and summer breaks. However, we do provide a summer camp through June and July.

Enrollment Requirements

Daycare centers have few enrollment requirements since they care for such a wide age range of children. The learning aspect of preschools, however, requires the students to meet certain criteria. Namely, age and potty training.

Pathways accepts children aged 2.5 to 5 years old. All students must be potty trained.

Discover the Pathways Difference

It isn’t just semantics; there truly is a difference between preschools and daycare centers. To learn more about Pathways’ education philosophy or to tour our facility, please call 480-359-6848.

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