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What is the Difference Between Daycare and Montessori School

When it comes to deciding which type of early childhood education is best for your child, you should know a few things about the difference between Montessori and daycare programs in Ontario.

The Difference Between Montessori and Daycare

Montessori schools emphasize academic achievement, social and emotional development, and overall happiness in their students. They prepare children for life beyond school with an operational style that encourages active exploration, mixed-age groups, choice, and independent learning by the child and the class sizes are much smaller than the average class size. Individual lesson plans ensure each student progresses at their own pace.

Daycare centers offer more of a babysitting service emphasizing keeping children safe and busy. Learning materials and classroom design are not typically as encouraging activities as in Montessori schools. The teacher’s role is more directive, and children usually learn in groups of the same age. Daycare centers typically do not have mixed age groups or offer many choices to students.

Student outcome: What happens when a child attends Montessori school versus a daycare center

According to studies, very few test results of children enrolled in daycare (usually between the ages of two and three). Whether they attend a Montessori institution, a traditional daycare facility, or a play-based child care center, children’s developmental milestones begin at about the same level.

Academic Achievement

While young children at the beginning of preschool do not show a significant difference in intelligence, children in Montessori schools make faster progress in reading, vocabulary, and number comprehension. Two major external factors affecting children’s academic development typically lead to large achievement gaps between the most successful and least successful children in the classroom.

Social and Emotional Development

One of the most important aspects of a child’s education is their social and emotional development. The first few years of life are when children learn how to interact with others, form relationships, and develop their sense of self, simply building social skills

Montessori-Type schools have been found to be better at promoting social and emotional growth in children than other types of daycare. This may be because Montessori classrooms typically have mixed-age groups, allowing for more opportunities for different types of relationships (older children acting as role models for younger ones, etc.).

Overall Happiness

One of the best measures of success for a child’s education is their overall happiness. Do they enjoy going to school? Are they excited to learn new things?

In general, the biggest difference between Montessori Vs daycare is that schools have been found to create more “happy” students than other types of daycare. This may be due to the more relaxed and play-based environment and the greater sense of independence and control that children feel in a Montessori classroom. 

Preparation for Life Beyond School

One of the most important things a child can learn is how to be successful in life. What are the skills and traits they need to succeed?

Montessori schools are very effective in preparing children for life beyond school and their physical development as well. This may be due to the fact that Montessori classrooms place a strong emphasis on independence, self-control, and creativity. In addition, as students move through the grades, they gradually take on more and more responsibility for their learning. This leads to a greater sense of ownership over their education, which is key for success in college and beyond.

Operational Style: How Montessori Schools and Daycares Function Day-to-Day

One of the biggest differences between Montessori schools and other types of daycare is the way they operate day-to-day. In a Montessori school, the teacher’s role is to guide, not lead. This allows children to learn at their own pace and explore new things independently.

Learning materials and classroom design that encourage active exploration

In a Montessori classroom, the child finds himself surrounded by learning materials that have been scientifically designed to meet his social and cognitive needs. He is free to try different activities during morning and afternoon work cycles, which are specific periods of time when the child is not disturbed by the teacher, and daycare kids. This helps the child develop concentration, willpower and independence. 

Mixed Age Groups

Another distinguishing feature of Montessori schools is the mixed age groups. This allows for different types of relationships to form (older children acting as role models for younger ones, etc.), and it also allows children to learn from each other. This is in contrast to traditional daycare centers, which typically have age-specific classrooms.


Most Montessori learning materials are intentionally scarce (one set per classroom), so children begin to realize that working with a certain set of materials interferes with another child’s ability to work with them. Children are free to choose what and where to work on, as long as they use the learning materials as intended. Through freedom of movement and choice, children develop internal discipline and social awareness. 

A Teacher Whose Job is to Guide, Not Lead

Rather than impose their will on children, the teacher wisely chooses their teaching moments, offering lessons and presentations at appropriate stages of each child’s development to maximize the amount of independent learning a child can achieve. (This is why we call our teachers “guides.”) The guide’s goal is to actively nurture and support their students in a developmental process that is fundamentally child-directed. 

Independent Learning by the Child

Even though the manual provides lessons and seminars, most of the class time is spent on adult-led activities since the aim of the guide is to link the kid to their surroundings, show them how to use their learning materials, and in some cases, show them how to grade their work, so they do not have to. This allows for large stretches of quiet, uninterrupted time where each child can do what they are interested in.

Individual Lesson Plans

Although the child will not know it, the teacher will have an individualized lesson plan for each day the child attends a Montessori school. The teacher will see fit to cover certain areas of the curriculum. The instructor will weigh the child’s developmental level and sensitivity to make the lesson as appealing as possible – to encourage independent learning for the child at the end of the lesson. 

A Babysitting Service or a Force for Development?

Montessori is set apart from other daycare options because of its foundation in observation and scientific experimentation. Every set of learning materials you’ll find at a Montessori school – indeed, everything at a Montessori school results from years of trial and error, as the founder of the teaching method figured out which activities and learning materials worked best for the young children in her care. 

This does not mean that all children who attend Montessori schools become successful and happy adults, while all children who participate in traditional daycare never fulfill their dreams. It simply indicates that Montessori schools help a child’s development more effectively than other daycare options.


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