Pre-school vs. Daycare: Which is right for you?

Article by:  Kimberly Fowler and Melissa Martz for, Canada’s trusted source for camps and schools.

For many working Vancouver families and single parents third party childcare is a necessity and daycare is often seen as the only realistic option. Many of these same parents are astonished when they discover that private preschool is just as available to them. Even busy, stay-at-home parents are realizing that preschool can provide their children with a wealth of advantages over regular daycare.

Preschool costs the same

Although the benefits of preschool are far-reaching, parents usually reject the idea in favour of the “lesser costs” traditionally associated with daycare. However, experts note that paying tuition for early childhood education instead of the hourly daycare rate is either about the same cost or sometimes even cheaper!

According to the 2013 report, You Bet We Care: A Survey of Centre-Based Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada, the Canada-wide median monthly fee at a full-time centre for toddler care is $696, or $674 for preschool care. However, because of the wide provincial range in costs, 25 per cent of monthly fees were higher: for toddlers $902 or higher, and for preschool aged children $816 or higher.

Median monthly fees for families in British Columbia were similar: $1,047 for infants, $907 for toddlers and $761 for preschool.

Examples of private preschools in Vancouver such as Collingwood School, Crofton House School, and North Star Montessori Elementary School have nursery and preschool programs with monthly tuition costs ranging between $566 and $1,485.

A variety of financial assistance options are also available to help pay for private pre-school such as support from the school itself, local community programs and sibling discounts.

What’s the difference?

Young children who attend private or independent preschool have a more hands-on learning environment and are introduced to many educational topics. This is a very different approach to many day-care centres where the focus is simply to provide care and opportunities for play. 

Why pre-school?

Private preschool dispels the myths that children don’t like to learn, and that ECE will rob them of their sense of play. In fact, preschool starts toddlers on a path to lifelong learning through a variety of techniques “disguised” as play and can help cultivate the linguistic, logical and social skills needed for success in later school experiences through play! Preschool also develops emotional intelligence, encouraging responsibility and self-expression. But the advantages of private pre-school even go beyond the exceptional learning environment, including:

  • Flexible schedules and after and before school care to meet your needs
  • A highly secure and safe setting for children
  • Small class sizes, ensuring that children feel secure away from home and allowing them to make friends easier, grow in self-confidence and develop a positive attitude towards authority.

Private preschool is also a great way for parents to test out Montessori school, Christian school or any other private school and gauge if it is right for their child. Experts also insist that it is best to start private education early in order to foster learning in a child’s developing stage. Often, this “trial run” will not only provide children with a mental and social advantage, but also give them an edge when gaining acceptance into elementary programs.

What to look for, what to ask

The cost and type of childcare varies greatly depending on your location. Contact day-care centres and private schools in your area for accurate fees and care options. When evaluating the pros and costs of your childcare options, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • What is the school’s educational philosophy?
  • What is the school’s reputation?
  • Are meals and snacks provided? If so, are they included in the fees?
  • Is transportation (i.e. school bus) to and from school included in the fees?
  • Does the fee cover the entire year, or just the school year? Are March break and summer programs offered?
  • Is there an extra cost for before- and after-school care? Can the school work within your schedule? What is the fee for picking your child up late?
  • Will you have to pay for care when your child doesn’t attend school on holidays, when they are ill or on a family vacation?
  • Are there any school trips materials, uniforms or other subsequent costs you will need to add to the regular fees you will pay?

Give your kids the best school experience this year. Meet with private preschools across the country this fall at the Our Kids Vancouver Private School Expo:

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