Preschool, Childcare and Kindergarten in Singapore – What is the Difference?

Childcare, preschool, and kindergarten – you might have heard these three terms being mentioned while researching for the best early learning approach for your little ones. 

These terms might sound similar but they offer varied learning experiences for you and your children – depending on your needs and preferences.

Here’s a quick look at some factors that set them apart.

Getting to Know the Definitions

Preschools in Singapore

The term “preschool” is an all-encompassing term that defines any institution that provides early childcare and education. Preschools in Singapore are then sorted into two sectors: childcare and kindergarten. 

All the operations pertaining to how preschools function are regulated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Among the key focus areas of the agency include the uplifting of the standards for early childhood programmes, training and development of early childhood professionals, enabling all families access to quality preschool programmes, and more.

The early years of a child's life hold significance as they set the foundation for their lifelong learning, attitude, aptitude, and growth.

To figure out which is the best preschool in Singapore, you will need to work out what factors are important to you in order to decide which is more suitable for you and your child.

An excellent preschool not only offers you peace of mind but also creates a nurturing environment for your child's development. Additionally, subsidies can assist in reducing the financial burden of fees.

Childcare in Singapore

Childcare centres in Singapore generally cater to children from the age of 18 months to 6 years old. Some childcare centres have infant care programmes for babies from 2 to 17 months old. 

Most childcare centres run from 7am to 7pm for full-day programmes and this includes meal and nap times for the children. Some centres offer Saturday care facilities for half day.

Half-day programmes at these centres run from 7am to 1pm, just before nap time starts for children who are staying on for full-day programmes. 

In terms of the meals provided, childcare centres cater two meals for the children – breakfast and lunch. Some centres may offer morning and afternoon snacks, so it is best to check with the individual centre for their meal plans.

Other than Sunday and public holidays, childcare centres in Singapore have six closure days a year for staff development purposes, lesson planning and selected public holidays.

Kindergartens in Singapore

Most kindergartens in Singapore accept children from 3 to 6 years old as the programmes offered by kindergartens tend to be more academically focused. Given that most kindergartens only operate between 3 to 4 hours a day, there is plenty to be completed within that time frame for them to cover the curriculum. 

While meals may not be part of the package at kindergartens, some schools offer snack options for the children. Do check with your preferred schools on their meal plans as you might have to pack a snack box for your children to take to school.

With regards to the holidays, kindergartens follow the primary school holiday schedule. This means that they have their school holidays in March, June, September, and November/December to mirror the primary school holiday period. If this is a concern for working parents who may not be able to take time off during the holiday period, then kindergartens may not be the best option for you.

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Learning Approaches Offered in Good Preschools in Singapore

As parents, you are aware that children have developmental milestones to meet as they grow. How does enrolling your child to a preschool help with these milestones?

For a start, all preschools in Singapore aim to help your children meet their learning goals, such as socio-emotional needs, building confidence and developing a good foundation for numeracy and literacy so they can progress seamlessly into formal learning at primary levels.

Different preschools adopt distinct approaches to early education. Take the time and opportunity to delve deeper into your shortlisted preschools’ educational philosophy, curriculum, and programmes to assess if these align with your expectations and suit your young child's needs.

Curriculum Differences in Preschools, Kindergartens and Childcare Centres

You can find an array of learning approaches in both schools, like Montessori, Reggio, or Waldorf, that can suit your children’s learning needs. 

While both childcare and kindergartens have similar curricula, kindergartens are generally more academic-oriented compared to childcare centres as they only have three hours to complete a day’s learning. They also do not offer any childcare services for parents who may require them. 

On the other hand, hands-on learning tends to be more popular in childcare centres, with children participating in activities that support age-appropriate development, like motor skills. Children are deeply immersed in their learning process as they understand how numeracy and literacy tie in with their environment.

Many of these preschools organise regular field trips to incorporate even more experiential learning into their curriculum.

preschool singapore

At KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse, the philosophy behind our learning approach is the belief that all children are curious. Therefore, our curriculum framework based on the inquiry-based learning approach towards early childhood education in preschool incorporates both play and school readiness. Such an approach allows a child to be confident in their environment to challenge and stretch their learning potential. 

Infant care programmes are available at selected KiddiWinkie Schoolhose campuses, where infants are given a warm, secure, and nurturing environment to learn and develop skills at their own pace. This would be a perfect choice for you if you have an infant and a toddler at home! The convenience of dropping two (or more) kids at one centre will certainly ease those travelling woes.

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Teacher-Child Ratio

In a kindergarten, the teacher-student ratio is slightly larger than at a childcare centre with around 15 children to one teacher and a teacher-aide for the younger children, and 20-25 children to one teacher for the older children.

In a childcare centre, the younger the children are, the smaller the class size is. This is outlined by ECDA childcare for preschools. 

Qualified & Knowledgeable Teachers and Early Childhood Educators

Teachers play a crucial role in molding a child's development, making the quality of educators a pivotal factor. Childcare providers regularly organise training sessions for their teachers to help them stay current with evolving educational needs and methodologies.

Children thrive and make more significant progress in their learning and development when they are under the care of compassionate and well-trained educators. 

During the preschool visit or orientation period, engage in a conversation with the preschool to learn more about the key staff members who will be caring for your child. Verify that the educators possess the necessary qualifications and expertise to ensure a nurturing environment for your child. Additionally, take the time to observe the teachers' interactions with the children.

Reputation of the Preschool: Certifications, Awards & Accolades 

Awards can serve as a clear yet reliable indicator of a preschool's excellence. Keep an eye out for prestigious industry accolades like the Singapore Pre-School Accreditation Framework (SPARK) Award, and popular choice awards which help reflect the thoughts and sentiments of parents. 

At KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse, for our efforts in providing quality learning experiences for our children during their preschool years, we have been recognised with the following awards and accolades by education partners and leading industry organisations:

Certifications, Awards & Accolades

How do I decide which is the best preschool in Singapore for my children?

You may find it helpful to list all the criteria that you want in a preschool based on the information you have on this page, then schedule to visit the preschools that are aligned to your requirements.

Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse has 9 campuses island-wide offering programmes for infant care, as well as the early years and preschool years. You can start by locating a campus near your home or workplace. 

Reach out to us to book a tour at your preferred Kiddiewinkie Schoolhouse campus to find out more about how your child stands to benefit from our programmes and curriculum, while getting him/her ready for primary school.

FAQs about Preschools, Childcare Centres & Kindergartens 

preschool singapore

1. When Should my Child Start Preschool? How Do I Know When My Child is Ready for Preschool?  

KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse offers preschool programmes for children from the age of 18 months to 6 years old. The ideal time for your child to embark on their learning journey with us is when they start demonstrating signs of independence, a growing interest in forming friendships with peers, and an enthusiasm for engaging in structured, educational activities. Our dedicated team of trained early childhood educators will be alongside them, providing guidance at every stage of their development.

2. Which Type of Preschool is Best for my Child? 

In Singapore, there are a variety of preschool programmes and learning approaches available for your young one. To make an informed choice, we recommend visiting the centres in person, signing up for school tours and finding out more about the curriculums, visions and learning environments of each type of preschool that you are considering.

Here is a list of approved learning approaches for Singapore preschools: 

  • Montessori
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Waldorf Steiner
  • Play-Based
  • Parent Cooperative
  • High Scope 
  • Art-Based 
  • Language-Based 
  • Theme-based, Experiential Learning
  • Whole Brain Learning Approach

Is Childcare Compulsory in Singapore? 

Childcare is optional for young children in Singapore. However, it is common for most children to enrol in a childcare centre in their growing years. As many parents juggle work, family and other commitments on top of childrearing, the addition of a childcare centre helps spread the load and yet ensures an all-rounded pre-primary education for young children. 

At our KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse, we understand the importance of preparing your child for a smooth and successful transition to primary school. We specialize in providing a nurturing environment that fosters a strong educational foundation. Our carefully designed Early Years & Preschool programme is customised to ensure your child is well-prepared for this significant step. We focus on equipping them with the necessary skills and self-assurance to excel in all aspects, both academically and beyond.

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