Preschool Vs Nursery School – What Exactly Is The Difference?

Preschool and nursery school are often used interchangeably during conversations, so it’s not a surprise that people often confuse the two. But for parents or people with little siblings, it may be essential to know the differences between the two. That’s where we come to the rescue!

We have curated some key points regarding both to help you understand the difference between preschool and nursery school.

What Is A Preschool

Just as the name suggests, preschools are for children who will soon be of age to attend elementary school. It is an educational institution whose main purpose is to provide basic education to children to taste their formal school experience. In addition, it familiarizes them with the concept of school, so they’re more used to being away from their parents for long hours and know how to socialize with others of their age once they have to attend school.

The normal age of preschool students is three to five years old. Unfortunately, you will rarely ever find one willing to cater to children below the age of three or provide after-school educational services or childcare for children who are old enough to attend school.

Preschools often follow a school schedule or a shorter schedule, such as 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and parents are requested to pick up their kids once school time is over. So, they are not the solution for parents searching for a place to take care of their children until they get off from work in evening or night. However, a few preschools may have nurseries in a separate building on-site to fulfill that purpose, but it’s not easy to find one.

Most are quite strict about the education part of their services, following a prescribed curriculum and focusing less on the play. As such, a lot of their staff are required to be certified in early childhood education, which alternatively makes them a bit more expensive than nurseries.

What Is A Nursery School

Nursery schools are less about learning, and more about playing. They give children an exposure to education through playing, hands-on craftsand lots of leisure time so they can learn without facing too many difficulties. This creates an environment where children feel safe and comfortable, even without seeing their parents for long hours, and encourages them to come back the next day.

Nurseries accept children from ages one to three, but some include infant rooms to accommodate children as young as six weeks old. Most also accept school-aged children for after-school care as they remain open during business hours. This makes nurseries suitable for parents who’re working full-time, as they accept students for full-time, part-time, and in some cases, “drop-in” care.

Without a prescribed curriculum, nurseries tend to be more open, informal, and laid-back in their approach to education. Children mostly spend time playing games and exploring their creativity and imagination through fun activities. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided during mealtimes to replenish their energy, so they are never too tired to play more games.

Similarities Between Nursery Schools And Preschools

What makes it so confusing to discern preschools from nursery schools at times is that they are quite similar in many aspects.

Both schools accept children who are older than infants but not old enough to attend formal schools. However, the age of entry may differ from school to school. Some are happy to accept even 18 months old children in the case that they won’t suffer from parental anxiety due to being away from their parents and having good enough language skills to communicate their basic needs to the teachers.

A lot of preschools and nursery schools require the students to be toilet trained. Most also share the same views on what vaccinations the students should take and how they handle illnesses.

Preschools and nurseries may either be public or private institutions.

Key Differences Between Nursery Schools And Preschools

Nurseries accept children from ages one to three and sometimes include infant rooms in their services to care for younger children up to the age of six weeks old, whereas preschools are quite strict about accepting children only if they are three to five years old.

Most preschools don’t offer after-school educational services for children going to formal schools or extra daycare services for students with parents who are working full-time. The opposite is true for nurseries, which offer part-time, full-time, and drop-in care and remain open throughout business hours. As such, nurseries offer three meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – while preschools provide lunch and either an afternoon meal or snacks only.

Preschools have a more serious and formal approach to education, following a prescribed curriculum to equip children with some basic education that will make it easier to transition to school once they are old enough. Hence, a large percentage of the staff are certified in early childhood education. Unfortunately, this makes them more expensive than nurseries, which focus more on play and lesson learning.


What Comes First – Preschool Or Nursery?

Nursery is attended before preschool as nurseries are for one to three year olds, whereas preschools are for three to five-year-olds. This is because nurseries offer a combination of play, exploration, and learning, making it easy for very young kids to grasp while preschools imitate formal schools, involving more learning and following school schedules to prepare children who are almost school-age for elementary school.

A lot of preschools also have nursery schools in the same building or separate buildings on site. So, the nursery students are often promoted to preschool once they are old enough.

Is Preschool And Early Childhood The Same?

Early childhood education is a broad term that describes any education program that is aimed at children who will soon be of age to enter kindergarten or elementary school and involves developing their cognitive and social skills. According to this terminology, preschool is a type of early childhood education.

Is Kindergarten A Preschool?

The answer varies from country to country. In a lot of countries, kindergarten is one of the education programs that preschools offer. Just like preschools, kindergartens are for children of ages three to five years. Their purpose is also the same: to provide basic education through a mixture of learning and play to prepare children for elementary school. So in these countries, kindergarten is the same as a preschool.

On the other hand, in countries like the US, Canada, and some states of Australia, kindergarten is the first stage of compulsory education which is attended by students who are five years old just before elementary school. Preschool, however, is optional and may be attended before kindergarten.

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