Each daycare has its own special approach to supervision, childcare, and education. This is often informed by specific views of child psychology, development, and learning.
In general, though, daycare tends to be quite play-based. Normally, it has plenty of “free-explore” time, unstructured activities, and play-based learning. That said, many daycare centres, especially at the higher levels, provide some structured learning, focusing on academic skills and knowledge, such as reading, writing, math, numbers, and letters.
This contrasts with many preschool programs, which tend to be more academic. Many preschools have more teachers with training in Early Childhood Education than daycares, and more teachers who are Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECE). They also focus more on early learning and academics than daycare through a fairly intensive curriculum. And some have less unstructured play time than daycares.
Childcare simply refers to any place where a child is cared for. This can mean a number of different things.
It may, for instance just involve one-on-one homecare provided by a parent, nanny, or someone else. Childcare may also be provided in an out-of-home setting. Here your child may simply be “looked after.”
Like daycare, though, childcare can and often does provide much more than babysitting. It often includes structured play time, with organized activities which allow kids to explore and learn. Many childcare centres also have some play-based learning. And some even provide some sit-down learning. Normally, though, childcare providers focus less on early learning and cognitive development than preschool.
Pros and cons of daycare and childcare centres
Daycare and childcare centres aren’t right for all children. They do have some major benefits, though. They also has come potential disadvantages.
Below we look at some pros and cons of daycare and childcare. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list.
Daycare and childcare
May be open during summer and holidays.
May offer before- and after-care.
May be more affordable than one-on-onecare.
Licensed and regulated by provincial government, unlike one-on-one care.
Safe and highly supervised.
Lots of social activities and interaction.
Less individualized learning and one-on-one time than preschool.
Less focus on early learning and academics than preschool (usually).
Children may be less prepared for the school years than those who attend preschool.
Higher child-to-adult ratio than one-on-one care.
Infant daycares can be hard to find.
To learn more, read our comparison guide of preschools and daycares, and preschool pros and cons guide.
Choosing a daycare or childcare centre
Should you send your child to a daycare or child-care centre? And if so, at what age?
These are challenging questions. And there’s far more to them than the table above.
What’s most important is to look at specific daycares. You should look into their approach to care, supervision, development, learning, and more. You should also try to get a feel for the environment and the care providers.
Finally, you should consider whether a daycare is a good fit for your child. Does it fit your child’s personality, learning style, and social and emotional needs? Is your child likely to thrive there? Is there likely to be a long period of adjustment?
There’s lots of research to be done here. And you won’t want to take shortcuts given what’s at stake here—your child’s well being.
Below, we list daycare and childcare centres in Canada. Click on a profile to learn all about it, including its approach to early childhood development and education. You can also click through to a daycare’s website and register your child.