Education for the Early Years: The Difference Between Childcare, Preschool and Kindergarten in Singapore

Childcare, preschool, and kindergarten – these three terms are often used interchangeably among parents during their search for early learning and childcare options during their children’s early years.

But do you know that these terms are not the same and actually represent a range of options for you and your children?

Let’s find out how they differ.

Childcare, Preschool and Kindergarten – Breaking Down the Differences

1. Childcare in Singapore

childcare singapore

Childcare centres in Singapore provide care and learning programmes for children from 18 months to 6 years old. Some childcare centres offer infant care programmes as well for babies aged 2 to 17 months – and usually, they will progress to playgroup at 18 months in the same centre.

Full-day childcare programmes typically run from 7am to 7pm, and they include learning activities, enrichment lessons, as well as meals and nap times for the children. Some centres may offer half-day childcare services for parents who need them.

As for half-day programmes, these are half of the full-day duration and run from 7am to 1pm. Children on half-day programmes get picked up just before nap time begins for those staying on for a full-day.

Meals at childcare centres include two main meals – breakfast and lunch. Morning and afternoon snacks may be offered as well, so do check this out with the centre during your visit.

Apart from Sundays and public holidays, childcare centres have 6 days of closure every year for staff development, lesson planning and selected public holidays.

There is no set school holiday period for children on childcare programmes, as childcare centres in Singapore are designed to meet the needs of working parents.


2. Preschool in Singapore

preschool singapore

“Preschool” is a common term that is used to describe any institution providing childcare services along with educational programmes. From here, preschools in Singapore are then broken down to childcare and kindergartens.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) serves as the regulatory and developmental agency for the early childhood sector in Singapore.

Among the key areas that the agency takes care of include the standards of early childhood programmes, training and development of early childhood professionals, making quality preschool programmes affordable for all families, and more. In accordance to the Early Years Development Framework, preschool programmes have also been updated to be more child-centric, with a continued emphasis on holistic development and positive outcomes for children in the early years.

• Developmental goals for infants and toddlers
• Cognitive development
• Honing language and communication 
• Physical development
• Social and emotional development 

To narrow down your search for the best preschool in Singapore, you would then need to determine the factors that are of importance to you and evaluate them against your family’s needs.


3. Kindergartens in Singapore

kindergarten singapore

Kindergarten programmes in Singapore are designed for children between 3 to 6 years old, and these tend to be more academically focused. With sessions lasting 3 to 4 hours a day, lessons are very comprehensive as there is a lot to be covered within a shorter time frame.

Meals are not provided at kindergartens due to the shorter duration, however, some schools may offer snack options for the children. Do check with the school on their meal arrangements and whether there is a need to pack a snack box for your children.

When it comes to holidays, kindergartens follow the MOE primary school holiday schedule – March, June, September and November/December.

This may be a concern for working parents as they are unable to take time off during the school holidays, which is why kindergartens may not be the best option for some.

Learning Focus in Preschools Singapore: Learning in the Early Years

There are certain developmental milestones that children need to meet as they grow and this is where the programmes offered in a preschool can help your child meet these milestones.

For all preschools in Singapore, the programmes are designed to help children meet their learning goals and acquire socio-emotional skills. This helps to build confidence as they develop a strong foundation for numeracy and literacy which will make way for a smooth transition to primary school. 

What Are the Different Curriculum Approaches in Preschools, Kindergartens, and Childcare Centres?

little footprints preschool

When it comes to comparing preschool curriculum, you will come across different learning approaches such as Montessori, Reggio, or Waldorf. Your task from here is to identify one that can suit your children’s learning needs. 

Childcare and kindergartens may have similar curricula, with kindergartens being more academic-oriented and structured.

At childcare centres, hands-on learning is a widely used learning method, where children participate in activities that support age-appropriate development and skills. Children are also immersed in the learning process as they learn basic skills such as numeracy and literacy while relating these to their environment.

At Little Footprints Preschool, we offer a comprehensive curriculum that comprises integrated learning activities, a literacy-rich environment and character development programmes. Children are also encouraged to stay in touch with the community, with yearly projects organised in conjunction with government agencies such as the Singapore Kindness Movement and Start Small, Dream Big

Little Footprints Preschool also offers infant care programmes, where infants are cared for and stimulated in a warm, secure, and nurturing environment.

This is a great choice for working mothers, especially if you have both an infant and toddler. The convenience of dropping both children at one centre will certainly ease logistical issues and travel woes.

Is the Teacher-Child Ratio the Same in Preschool vs Childcare Centre?

The teacher-child ratio in a kindergarten is usually larger than some childcare centres, with 15 children to one teacher and an assistant teacher for younger children and 20 to 25 children to one teacher for the older ones.

In a childcare centre, class sizes are kept small for younger children and gradually increase as they progress. The ratios are set by ECDA for all childcare and preschool centres in Singapore.

Deciding on the Best Preschool in Singapore

You may go through the list of factors on this page when deciding on a preschool and programme type for your children. After which, it is helpful to schedule a visit to the preschools that meet your needs and requirements together with your child. 

As a parent, it's only natural to seek the optimal childcare solution that caters to your child's requirements while enabling you to effectively juggle work and parenthood.

Although the cost of childcare frequently plays a pivotal role in the decision-making process, it's crucial to weigh other significant factors that may be intangible for you and your family. It might be worthwhile to invest more in childcare to address additional needs and priorities required for your child’s best growth.

With Little Footprints Preschool centres conveniently located island-wide, you can zoom in to one that is near your home or workplace. Book a tour to take a closer look at the learning environment and facilities at your preferred centre today!


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