Differentiating Child Care, Preschool and Kindergarten in Singapore

These three terms are confusing to many Singaporean parents, especially first-time parents. The early years of a child’s life is a learning phase for most parents who are discovering things they never knew existed and wouldn’t be any wiser had it not been for their child.

Sometimes the difficulty in understanding the differences arises from the fact that these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Understanding the difference between preschools, kindergartens and childcare in Singapore will make it easier for parents to decide what they need and make timely decisions on when they need these services.


In Singapore, this term refers to an institution that prepares a child for school. Such a facility offers early childhood education and keeps children engaged and safe. In this case, a parent gets a facility that cares for children and at the same time, has early learning programs that prepare children mentally and intellectually for school. Preschool programs are available in childcare centres and kindergartens.

Since both the kindergarten and childcare centres provide similar services, how do they differ?

The Kindergarten and Childcare Centres Enrol Children of Different Age Groups

This is one of the primary distinctions between a kindergarten and a childcare centre. Most childcare centres take in children who are one and a half years old to 6-years old. Of course, infant care services are also available. However, toddlers tend to be hyperactive, and parents send them to childcare centres to keep them busy and also provide them with an opportunity for early childhood learning.

Kindergartens, on the other hand, only admit children between 3-6 years of age. Parents with younger children are naturally not expected to take them to a kindergarten, but should instead opt for a childcare centre.

Different Operating Times

Childcare centres offer parents greater flexibility when it comes to duration of stay at the facility. It is, however, important to note that childcare centres determine their schedules. You’ll, therefore, find some that open earlier than others, while others remain open till late.

Most childcare centres operate between 7 am and 7 pm. This gives parents who have an early start the chance to drop their children early. Likewise, those who leave work late can plan to pick their children by 7 pm.

Childcare centres also offer an option of leaving the child for half the day or full-day care. If you are considering care for half the day, you can opt for the morning or afternoon session. Most childcare centres remain closed over the weekend, but some operate until 1 pm.

Besides the structured timing, some centres offer greater flexibility where the parent’s schedule dictates how long a child stays at the centre.

Kindergartens, on the other hand, have specific timings, with most operating for three hours a day during the week. Some have classes between 8 am, and 11 am, while others have three hours set aside in the afternoon.

Different Teaching Styles

Kindergartens tend to have academic programs to prepare children for formal education. Childcare centres, on the other hand, have greater flexibility in the approach they use. For example, some centres use specific teaching styles, such as Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia. Others use a mixed-method, including the local curriculum to ensure a smooth transition into formal education. The education styles in childcare centres also tend to be play-based.

Meal Provision

Since kindergartens are open for a few hours a day, children only get a snack. Childcare centres provide at least two meals and two snacks. Children who attend half-day sessions get to have a meal and snack, while those that attend the full-day sessions have both meals and snacks.

Although both the kindergarten and childcare centres cater for the educational needs of young children, the range of services offered varies significantly. These differences will help you decide if you need a childcare centre or kindergarten for your child.