Day Care and Montessori (Key Differences & Similarities)

Receive weekly Activity, plans, and resources tailored to boost your child’s fine motor skills, sensory exploration, and cognitive abilities. Join our collaborative community of 20k+ parents & educators.

As a mom, I want the best education for my children – and at first, I struggled between letting my toddler attend traditional day care or a Montessori school. I received varied tips and opinions from relatives, friends, and colleagues that influenced my decision-making process. Ultimately, I also had to do a quick research and asked the advice of teachers as to what preschool program can nurture my little one’s potential and prepare my child for kindergarten.

The Montessori environment is seen to be calmer, more flexible and poses a holistic, self-paced, and task-based approach to developing the child’s unique potential in a supportive and guided space. More so, the Montessori method is student-led and aims to nurture the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social facets of a child.

On the other hand, Montessori schools closely resemble day care centers but have major differences as the latter are highly structured. The primary purpose of day care centers is to keep watch and take care of your child while you are at work, or on an important errand at which you would need assistance with child care.

What are the Key Differences Between Day Care and Montessori?

The differences between Montessori and day care may not be noticeable at first but the two educational programs differ in philosophy, process, and output. Many day care centers tend to be more play-based, in contrast to the authentic Montessori learning experience that concentrates on the whole child and focuses on guided hands-on activities. So, if your child is at a Montessori school, you can expect that your little one will be shaped into a happy, independent, and academically good student. 


Day care programs or childcare centers cater to children who cannot be fully independent, with parents that are employed full-time, and in need of child care when life gets too busy or while they are at work. 

The Montessori method is developed by an Italian educator, women’s rights advocate, and physician specializing in psychiatry, Dr. Maria Montessori. Montessori programs are scientific-based and concentrate on the mind of the child and their thought processes.

Want 20 Easy & Fun Montessori Activity for Your Child?

Grab your FREE printable activity guide now!

    No spam, promise.

    The feminist educator believed that the mind of the child is absorbent like a sponge, enabling them to learn and get creative juices flowing through exploration and innate curiosity. Montessori teachers help provide a safe environment for your children with an emphasis on nurturing their developmental needs and deepening their love of learning. 


    According to Emily Schubitz, a renowned educator, the Montessori approach is a “developmental force rather than just a babysitting approach.” She further states that “the secret lies in the way in which children are respected and in which their inner needs are met through a carefully prepared Montessori environment.”

    A Montessori day care isn’t merely a child care center or facility but runs in a completely different way – focused on self-paced and guided learning as well as positive discipline. The Montessori way is focused on early education so you can enroll your child as early as 2 1/2 to 4 years old. The Montessori program follows a standard curriculum and focuses on cultivating independence and developing self-confidence or autonomy.

    A day care is a place where professionals help meet the needs and bridge gaps in terms of child care. Day cares may not follow a specific curriculum and are focused on instilling obedience in students. Day care centers will mostly be filled with different fun and colorful toys compared to when your child is at a Montessori school with plenty of engaging activities on an individual level as well as age-appropriate Montessori materials and toys that are designed to boost self-discovery and self-confidence in children. 

    Teacher Educational Level, Training, and Certifications

     Day care centers employ and train day care workers especially geared towards caring for young children. The day care worker should cover the basics of child care, pass required background verification, and undergo first aid training. Whereas Montessori schools are run by preschool teachers with college or even advanced degrees and trained in the Montessori way or philosophy.

    Montessori programs concentrate on the child’s developmental processes and instill a positive experience and approach to learning. The Montessori method improves that with learning materials or questions and answers that allow creative exploration, and analytical, as well as critical thinking.

    Tasks and Activities

    Ready to make a lasting impact on your child’s future? Download our FREE 20 Fun & Easy Montessori Activities Ideas you can use today to supercharge your child’s development. Click here to get your free printable activity guide.

    Day care is a place where a parent can drop off their preschool-aged children in the morning and pick them up early afternoon. Day cares function as a childcare facility for younger children that still need to be managed and keep a watchful eye on. On the other hand, Montessori programs concentrate on the whole child – the sum of the individual parts.

    In the same way, parents can also drop off their child at the Montessori school in the morning and pick them up early and late in the afternoon. Children develop at their own unique pace, and the Montessori philosophy supports this by providing routines, activities, and tasks that bolster the growing independence of Montessori students on an individual level or as part. 

    While day care tends to focus on the basics watching over your child while you are away and giving them toys to get busy with, the Montessori classroom caters to kids from two to six years old focusing on early childhood education or academics and the entire nine yards in terms of the physical, emotional, and social development.

    Sense of Community

    Kids tend to be aloof at first but with interactive play, they get to enjoy being a part of a small group. Circle time is something kids look forward to because while disorderly play also results in messes that need to be cleaned up or fixed, Montessori offers your little one an opportunity to be independent and learn how to communicate, interact, and collaborate with other children.

    We’re proud that our little one finds the Montessori approach both fun and brain-stimulating. Having a strong sense of community within the school helps enhance the overall well-being of children at a young age. 

    Practical and Basic Life Skills

    Early childhood learning goes beyond academics which is why at majority of day care and Montessori schools, basic and practical life skills are taught at an early age. These practical life skills include the following:

    • Cleaning skills
    • Toilet learning
    • Self-care
    • Preparing food
    • Tying shoelaces
    • Social courtesy and grace
    • Fastening clothes

    Socio-emotional and Academic Development

    According to a study by Angeline Lillar, a Psychology professor, children who attended Montessori preschool have better outcomes in terms of executive functions, social and emotional development, as well as academic achievement, specifically in reading, numeracy, and vocabulary compared to children who attended day care settings.

    Day care for children would focus solely on cognitive development while the Montessori program focuses on well-rounded child development.

    Montessori Vs. Day Care Costs

    Montessori education costs roughly $13,000 to $14,000 for a full year of tuition while day care costs around $10,000 per year. While the Montessori school is more expensive than day care, it provides holistic child development and is constantly investing in training for its teachers as well as in the upgrade of facilities, tech, and learning materials.


    The Montessori approach is highly individualized, self-paced, and hands-on, catering to the development of the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive aspects of the child while a traditional day care is more structured and focused primarily on keeping your child occupied and entertained while you are away.

    Deciding on what learning modality will fit your child best. So, whether you are looking for holistic development and learning for your child or just a form of child care, then there is one that will surely fit your needs.