10 Key Differences Between Montessori and Daycare In 2024

When you walk into a Montessori classroom for the first time, you will be struck by the quiet, minimal, and uncluttered design. 

Montessori schools are run in a completely different way when compared to daycare. While a traditional daycare will focus on structure, a Montessori classroom encourages flexibility.

Montessori Vs. Daycare: Quick Summary

Montessori Daycare
Emphasizes self-directed learning and hands-on activities Often focuses on structured activities and group instruction
Encourages independence and self-regulation May emphasize compliance and obedience
Often has a lower student-to-teacher ratio Often has a higher student-to-teacher ratio
Often has multi-age classrooms Often has age-segregated classrooms
Typically follows a specific curriculum May not have a specific curriculum
Teachers are trained in Montessori pedagogy Teachers may not be trained in a specific educational philosophy
Materials and activities are designed to meet the needs of each individual child Materials and activities may be the same for all children
Often has a longer school day and year Typically has a shorter school day and year
May offer before- and after-school care Often only offers care during traditional school hours
Focus on the whole child development (cognitive, emotional and physical) Focus on cognitive development only

No matter where you choose to place your child, it’s best to make an informed decision to set your student up for a positive experience. In this article we explain the differences between the two choices.

What is Daycare?

day care

Daycare is a place where professionals help meet the needs of children who cannot be fully independent. Daycare for children comes in different forms such as nannieschild care, or the more popular options like preschools, childcare centers or Head Start programs. 

What is Montessori?

daycare vs. Montessori

Montessori schools closely resemble daycare centers and a parent can drop their child off at a Montessori school in the morning and pick him up in the early afternoon, depending on the program chosen. 

While the child is at Montessori school, the staff are meeting his physical and emotional needs, as well as offering plenty of engaging activities on an individual level or as part of a small group.

10 Major Differences Between Montessori and Daycare Explained

We've round up 10 Key factors to take into consideration to help you better understand the Differences Between Montessori and regular Daycare available at most places. 

1. Freedom

freedom montesorri

In a Montessori preschool, children are encouraged to move about the classroom freely, exploring and engaging in a variety of activities they choose. This freedom allows each student to learn through hands-on interaction in a stimulating environment.

In a traditional daycare, the teaching method relies on teacher instructed discipline to function.

2. Deliberate Educational

montesorri daycare

In a Montessori program children are surrounded by exciting opportunities to develop their skills. They practice opening and closing containers, they learn to button shirts, they identify objects by touch, sort things by color, transfer items with spoons, learn to pour water, put together puzzles, learn to cut with scissors, sew with laces, string beads, and so much more.

In daycare teachers determine the activities that all of the children will collectively do each day and will provide a time frame in which each activity must be completed. 

3. Teacher Time

montesorri teacher

The Montessori philosophy values stability over time, which is why Montessori children will stay with the same teacher for multiple years. The extended time period with teachers enables Montessori children to bond with their teacher on a deeper lever. 

A traditional daycare, the children are exposed to a new teacher each year. 

4. Noise Levels

Montessori noise

Montessori programs concentrate on the whole child and their thought processes, they tend to be quieter, cleaner, and more focused to encourage the mind of the child.

Daycare tends to be noisy, which may result in children being unfocused at times. Disorderly play also results in messes that need to be managed more often.

5. Play Based

montesorry and daycare

Montessori is based on the belief that kids learn best through play. Children take part in a wide range of play-based activities, including pretend play, and teachers respond with educational lessons. 

In a traditional daycare, the methods rely on instructor-directed discipline to function.

6. Grace and Courtesy

montesorri parent

In Montessori children are guided to develop grace and courtesy. Children may only take activities from shelves, never from another child. Children are given the language they need to express their needs.

Daycare programs believe in group conformity such as sitting still for an extended amount of time, or sharing toys may be expected from toddlers, without regard for the actual cognitive and emotional needs of the child.

7. Discipline

montesorri daycare

In Montessori, the goal is to help children acquire self-discipline. Children should understand the right course of behavior, and to be internally motivated to behave well. They believe that children naturally want to do and be good, and that by setting up the right environment, and modeling kind, respectful behavior.

In daycare conflict resolution is often taught separately from classroom activity and expected to take place at home.

8. Trained teachers.

Montessori teacher

Montessori teachers usually have a teaching credential from as well as a Bachelor or Masters Degree. They do not have turn over of staff often and lead teachers are long standing permanent employees.

Usually daycare staff have minimal training. Many childcare centers have high staff turnover due to poorly trained and poorly paid childcare providers get frustrated with the challenge of managing toddlers.

9. Exploration

Montessori teachers

Montessori supports a child’s growing independence and self-discovery. Children have the luxury of time to choose their own activities, and to fully explore them at their own pace. Most instruction is one-on-one, teachers give short 5-minute presentations to individual children, after which they are given an opportunity to continue practicing until they’re satisfied.

Daycare centers have adult-set schedules in which children are shuffled into a new activity every 20-40 minutes such as circle time, followed by art, followed by outside play and more. Typically, the whole group is required to move together from activity to activity, whether they’re engaged in the current activity or not. 

10. Age and Grades

Montessori age

In Montessori schools, grade-levels are flexible and determined by the child’s developmental range, i.e., 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, and 15-18 years of age.

Daycares typically cater to preschool-aged children under six years old. Daycares sometimes group young children into rooms or classes based on specific chronological age or developmental stage.

Final Thoughts 

When deciding what is best for your child, seeing is believing. Tour a daycare and Montessori school then compare your observations. The Montessori environment is different from daycare settings as you will see.

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