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Daycare or Preschool

What's Best for Your Family


Puzzled by the differences between preschool and daycare — and which one is right for your budget, schedule, and (of course) child? Here's what you need to know to make the best decision.

In Bangkok, daycares are few in number. Terminology makes it even more confusing as many places use the terms daycare and preschool interchangeably. Either way, you may be wondering: Do the benefits of preschool outweigh those offered by a good daycare? Not at all.

In many countries these days, daycare centers often provide more than just care — they also offer learning activities to prep kids for kindergarten, which means the curriculum may mirror a good preschool’s. Plus, sending your child to daycare can cost about the same or less as sending him to preschool. In most cases in Thailand, international daycares cost much less than the comparable preschools. Still, there are some key differences between preschool and daycare — differences you’ll probably want to consider before you turn over that registration deposit for either option. Here’s what sets them apart:


  • Preschools have shorter daily hours and operate for a total of 180 days out of the year — most close on holidays, for week long breaks, and for the summer (though some preschools offer camp for an extra fee when the school year ends). With preschools, you usually have to choose between half-day and extended hour programs (often ending around 2:30pm). And you probably need to enroll your child for at least two days each week as a minimum.

  • Daycare centers are more flexible when it comes to hours — they tend to open early and close late to cater to working parents. Plus, they’re more likely than preschools to remain open all year-round, except for public holidays. Some daycare centers allow you to totally personalize your child’s schedule (just an hour on some days so you can run errands at your pace and not at your tot’s; full days on others so you can go to work; drop-in days when an emergency situation arises).


  • Kids, from wee infants to grade-schoolers, are welcome at many daycare centers. That means your little one may get a chance to socialize with bigger kids and be around babies (a huge bonus if your only child is soon becoming a big sibling). This also means that classes may or may not be separated by age. Downside: It also means the caregivers may be more preoccupied with the really little ones unless the facility is well staffed.

  • Preschools usually accept children ages two to five. Plus, age groups tend to be separated at preschools — there’s usually one classroom for the three-year-olds and another for the four- and five-year-olds, though they may mingle by the swings and slides at the playground.

Potty prerequisites:

  • Many preschools require your child to be toilet-trained. Day cares accept kids in diapers and can assist with toilet training.

Other Differences:

  • The differences above are the most frequent, but there can be more and those often times vary from center to center. Even between preschools themselves and daycares themselves, there are additional differences. These include curriculum, teaching philosophies, food, number of staff employed, teacher/child ratios, size of facilities, indoor/outdoor/gym spaces available, transportation options, etc. The list may be endless.

Still stuck on what is best for you, your family, and your child specifically? Since general guidelines will take you only so far, it’s time to look closer to home. Focus on the specific centers in your area. The best program is the one that best fits you, your child, your schedule, and your budget — and in your neighborhood, daycare or preschool may both be strong options. Make a chart of their individual pros and cons. Ask yourself: Is the facilities right for my child? Which teachers are more child friendly? Which classroom is more inviting? Which one offers more engaging age appropriate activities? Where do the children seem happier? The more on-site investigating you do, the more likely you’ll find the best preschool or daycare match for your munchkin — and you.

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