Montessori School vs Daycare: Which Should You Choose?

If you’re a parent with a toddler, or even a baby, big school will be on your mind sooner or later – we’ve got to keep those waitlists in mind, right?! Montessori learning has been building in popularity over the past 15 years or so, to the point where many parents send and/or consider sending their little ones to purely Montessori-based schools, bypassing the traditional learning paths.

What we’ve found with this is that while some children THRIVE in Montessori schools, other children adore “standard’ daycare learning. What we hope to do with the below information is to make it really simple for you to decide where you will be sending your little love when the time comes.

Our team have children in both Montessori and traditional learning schools, so if you do have any questions that aren’t answered below – feel free to comment at the end of the article, or send us a question here.

Table of Contents

Montessori School vs Daycare: What is the Difference?

Daycare Program

  • Daycare centres are held to the eduational legalities of the state and/or country that they reside in
  • Most daycare centres also believe that children learn best through play, however this may be more teacher-directed than child-led
  • Children engage in a range of activities and teachers respond with educational lessons when relevant
  • Daycare centres generally provide activities based on a group and are set around the groups age and grade, as opposed to the individual learners level
  • Traditional preschool learning is said to develop children with good problem solving and conflict-resolution skills
  • Play-based daycares tend to have activities or stations throughout the room/s based off educational themes (e.g language, science)
  • Everyday equipment (including toilets and hand-washing basins) are mostly child-sized to encourage independence, however this is not a guaranteed part of traditional learning
  • Highly structure time-wise (as we all remember!)
  • Traditional daycares tend to be focused on preparing the children for the formalised and standard testing they will do in “big school”

Montessori Programs

  • Montessori schools believe that all children learn through play, and that at a young age all learning should be done through play
  • Activities are based off the interests of the individual child, and they spend their time “learning” through engaging with their chosen activity
  • A Montessori curriculum generally provides activities available based on the child’s stage of learning, as opposed to their grade and age
  • It is thought that through Montessori-style learning, that children become more confident, independent and curious about the world around them
  • Montessori preschools typically focus on language, maths, practical life and culture
  • Montessori Schools are, surprisingly, held to the same government standards as traditional daycares
  • Learning equipment and everyday equipment (including toilets and hand-washing basins) are appropriately child sized so that the children learn independence
  • No real time structure, with children free to move from activity to activity as they please
  • Statistically, children who attend Montessori schools tend to advance at a higher rate in terms of literacy and numeracy
  • Montessori schools are focused on educating the whole child and engaging them in real-life activities

What is the Montessori Method: A Brief Overview

The Montessori Method, created by Maria Montessori, MD, in 1897, is a child-centered approach to education and development that emphasizes hands-on, multi-sensory activities that children can do at their own speed.

The Montessori philosophy encourages parents and instructors to create a place full with developmentally appropriate toys and games, then let children choose which ones they want to play with (this is based on Montessori’s observations of how children naturally learn.)

What Are Montessori Schools?

Montessori Schools are become more and more common place across the Western world. They are based off the above philosophy of learning which originated from Maria Montessori’s method. Montessori education tends to be seen as the more ‘alternative’ method of childhood education and is also usually fee-based at a much higher level than general daycares.

Montessori Schools are child-led and based off individual interests of each child and exploring the world around them through play.

But What Is Daycare Then?

Daycares are more the traditional route of early childhood education and are often the only choice for most parents. Daycares tend to be centre-based and offer long daycare, with some even offering meals and nappies as a part of any fees paid.

Daycare centres are also more likely to be covered by some type of government subsidy, and are seen as the preferred method of getting a child ready for the traditional path to “big school”. We are firm believers in choosing what works best for you and your family, and have team members who send their children to both Montessori schools and traditional daycare centers.

What Type Of Child Thrives In Montessori?

While every child is different and some will thrive in Montessori environments better than others, these are the types of Montessori students that tend to do best:

  • children who have trouble settling down in traditional schools may benefit from the montessori philisophy of self-led individual learning
  • children with special needs seem to thrive in Montessori, as it is self-led learning, they are met with less pressure to keep up with their school mates
  • self-motivated children love Montessori as they are essentially left to their own devices (in a safe environment) to learn in a way that suits them, at their own pace

What Are The Negatives Of Montessori?

From our discussions with both pro and con Montessori mamas, these are the negative elements of Montessori schools:

  • there aren’t enough whole-group activities to provide the children opportunities to develop social skills and cohesion
  • a child transitioning from a Montessori classroom to traditional classroom-based learning may struggle to adapt
  • Montessori schools tend to come with much higher fees than traditional daycares, and are really only accessible by “people with money”

Montessori School vs Daycare: FAQs

  • What age is best for Montessori School? There is no set “best” age for Montessori school, as they are becoming more and more common we are seeing Montessori schools pop up for specific age groups from younger children e.g 1 year of age to as “old” as finishing school age

Why trust My Toddler Life?

My Toddler Life is run by mum’s, for mum’s. All information provided on our site is thoroughly researched and takes in to consideration our lived experiences and the opinions of industry professionals. How are we different from other sites doing the same thing? We have fun while doing it (often with a glass of wine in hand) and don’t take ourselves too seriously! 


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