Difference Between Preschool, Childcare and Kindergarten


When looking for an arrangement or facility for your child, you may come across three terms that are commonly heard but are a bit confusing, especially to first time parents. Are there significant differences between the three and which one is the right fit for you?

First, let’s define the three.

In Singapore, the term “preschool” is used to refer to any facility or institution that are providing education services and early childhood care.

Childcare and Kindergarten, on the other hand, are two types of providers of early childhood education who offer preschool programs. Basically, you only want to know the difference between these two, as they are just both considered under the category of preschool.

Age Group

Childcare centers accept children that are over 18 months old up to 6 years old. Some of these childcare centers may also provide infant care services for babies that are 2 months old and older.

Kindergarten only opens its doors for children who are between 3 years old to 6 years old.

Time of Classes

Childcare centers mostly cater to the parents who has to work but has no one to leave their children to. The programs of each childcare center differ from one another, but the common times are full day or half day.

Kindergartens usually have programs for kids that lasts for 3 hours at most. The exact time varies for every school.

School Holidays

Childcare centers are only allowed to close operations for trainings and the like for 7 days per year. This is not included in the gazetted public holidays and Sundays.

Kindergarten observes the same holidays as primary schools.


Childcare centers are more comprehensive when it comes to meals since they offer the more hands-on approach in childcare. You child will get 2 meals, breakfast and lunch plus 1-2 snacks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or both.

Kindergarten serve no meals, but they do give out snacks in between classes.

Government subsidies

Childcare, for Singaporean children, the government will pay for a part of the fees for childcare centers. This will also depend whether the mother is working or not.

School fee for kindergarten is not subsided. But you can apply for financial assistance if your income does not reach a certain limit.

Education Approach

Childcare centers’ focus of program can range from an academic or a play-based one. The goal of childcare centers is to give the children a smooth transition when they start primary school.

Programs that kindergarten use are academically focused compared to childcare centers. The objective is to prepare the children so they can meet what challenges will come when they go to formal schools.

As a recap, preschool is what we call the institutions and facilities that are giving education to early childhood development. Childcare centers and kindergarten are two types of preschool that you can consider for your child. Weigh the differences and decide which one is most suited for you and your family.

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