Day Care, Child Care, and Preschool: What’s the difference?

Daycare, child care, and preschool are all often used interchangeably, leading many new parents to question what the difference is. Is there even a difference? Are the three phrases describing the same service? The offerings and benefits of daycare, child care, and preschool aren’t quite the same, and it’s important to understand the differences so that you can choose the right care for your family. We’re here to help break down the difference between the three different terms and why it matters. 

preschooler playing with number game

What’s the difference between childcare, daycare, and preschool?

While you may see many early childhood education facilities use the terms interchangeably, let’s discuss the general consensus about the three terms and how they’re used in the field today. 

Day Care 

Day Care often refers to out-of-home care for children while their parents are at work. While the term was created in the late 19th century to describe a service that kept children out of urban industrial centers while their parents worked, many early childhood education professionals no longer use this term as it describes only when early childhood educators work, rather than the scope of their responsibilities.

The term day care is used less frequently today as research continues to demonstrate the pivotal role that high-quality child care has in a child’s lifelong cognitive abilities. While terms like child care and preschool vary slightly in verbiage from daycare, they place more emphasis on the developmental needs of a child as opposed to the parents’ need for convenience. As organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) continue to recognize and advocate for the essential role that early childhood educators play in the development of the children in their care, it’s important to use terminology that honors the important work they’re doing every day. 

Child Care

Child Care is a more inclusive term, encompassing a broad range of care. Child care can be provided in a more structured, licensed child care center or family child care home, or to more informal care by family, friends, or neighbors. Typically parents will choose child care based on an alignment in parenting and teaching philosophies, their schedule, and budgets.

Child care center regulations vary from state to state but are dictated by the state’s licensing requirements. Commonly, these encompass state-mandated training for staff members, early childhood education (ECE) unit requirements and/or child care certifications, specific child care ratios, and more. NAEYC-accredited centers must follow more rigorous standards.


Often used interchangeably with child care centers, preschool centers ensure young children have a safe and engaging environment that prepares them both academically and socially emotionally to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond. Preschools typically separate children by age group, provide care for children ages 3-5 (and sometimes provide care for younger children), and can be private or public. 

Preschool programs typically follow a school year schedule with time off for summer and holidays, and often base their programs off of single or a blend of unique child development theories that may align with your parenting style. 

preschooler smiling

Kids’ Care Club

Kids’ Care Club NAEYC accredited centers, are child development centers that provide care for children from ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, with each classroom divided by both age and stage of development into Infant, Toddler, Two-Year-Olds, Preschool, and Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K)/Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classrooms. Our nurturing and highly qualified teachers take a whole-child academic approach that blends elements of numerous childcare philosophies to support developmentally appropriate learning of STEM, literacy, and social-emotional skills. 

We encourage you to learn more about how Kids’ Care Club is setting a new standard for early childhood education distinct from the traditional approach to daycare, child care, and preschool by scheduling a tour today! 

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