Here’s a look at the main differences between daycare and kindergarten, and the types of changes your child will face.
Your little one is about to enter a whole new world. Here’s a look at the main differences between daycare and kindergarten, and the types of changes your child will face.
If your child goes to daycare, then they’re used to staying in an average-sized building with a few rooms (nursery, small classrooms for the various groups, and a kitchen). If your child attends a home daycare, then they’re more familiar with a home-like environment.
Whatever the case, starting kindergarten will be a big change for them. Even if your child is attending a small school, it will be much bigger than the settings they have been used to till now. There will suddenly be a lot more places to become familiar with: their classroom, the other classrooms, the hallways, the gym, the schoolyard, the school’s daycare (which may sometimes be located in another building), the secretary’s office and the principal’s office.
The group of children
At daycare, your child has probably spent their days with a group of 6 to 10 children. In kindergarten, your child will have to get used to being in a group of up to 17 children for 4-year-olds and up to 19 children for 5-year-olds. This will be quite the transition, since in a larger group, children must share more and wait their turn more often — for longer periods of time as well.
Your child will also need to get used to meeting older kids, i.e. the students from first to sixth grade. If they attend the school’s daycare, they will usually find themselves with children their own age; some may be their classmates, but there will also be children from the other kindergarten classes.
At daycare, your child has had between one and four educators watching over him, depending on the type of daycare he attends. In kindergarten, they will spend most of the day with their teacher, but there are several other people to get to know as well, starting with the staff at their daycare.
Each week, for example, they may spend time with the music or gym teacher. Your child may also be in contact with an educational psychologist or a special educator who occasionally comes to their class. There are also all the other members of the staff including the principal, the secretary, the janitor, the daycare monitors and the lunch monitors.
The schedule for the day
At daycare, you’ve been able to drop your child off and pick him up whenever you want, depending on the daycare’s hours. However in kindergarten, there’s a class schedule to follow. All kindergarten students start and end their day at the same time. The day lasts approximately five hours, plus a lunch break of about an hour and a half. It’s important to respect this class schedule. You will have to notify the secretary and the teacher if your child is going to miss school, arrive late or if they need to leave earlier. Daycare services are offered to the students who remain in school outside these school hours.
At daycare, a cook or the home daycare manager makes the snacks and lunch for all the children. In kindergarten, it’s up to you to prepare the snacks and lunch your child takes to school. Some schools also offer a lunch catering service for a fee. Meals are usually eaten in a classroom, a common room or at the daycare service. You can also come to pick up your child to eat lunch at home.
Unlike daycare, in kindergarten there is no nap time. However, a relaxation period is scheduled in the early afternoon to help the children calm down and recharge their batteries. Students may lie on a blanket on the floor to relax, sometimes to music. This activity takes 20 to 30 minutes. Some children fall asleep, especially at the start of the year.
Just like at daycare, a day in kindergarten usually includes periods of play and directed activity. However, the teacher is also working to prepare your child for first grade. While your child is playing, therefore, they are becoming familiar with numbers, letters and sounds, as well as notions of time and space (tomorrow, yesterday, on top, at the bottom, behind, and so on). They are also learning to assert themselves, listen to others, get organized, and become more autonomous. In addition, the teacher evaluates their learning development through written communications as well as report cards (only for 5-year-olds in kindergarten). You child may even have some homework.
My child did not attend daycare
Even if your child hasn’t gone to daycare, rest assured that he will still be able to make the transition to kindergarten. However, children who have stayed at home may have had less opportunity to play with others their own age. You could therefore use the summer to give your child the chance to play with other children from the neighbourhood who will attend the same school. Facilities such as drop-in daycares or other activities offered in your community, at the library or family centre for example, help preschoolers to learn to follow group rules.
It’s also good to let your child dress themselves, even if this takes a little longer. You can start giving them a few small responsibilities, such as having them help set the table or asking them to put away their toys. Don’t hesitate to applaud your child’s efforts and encourage them to finish their tasks rather than doing it for them. Reading regularly with your child also helps prepare them for kindergarten.
Things to keep in mind
Your child will need to adapt to several changes when they start kindergarten.
They will have to get used to being in a larger group where they must share more and wait longer for their turn.
In kindergarten, children become familiar with numbers and letters while also learning to assert and organize themselves.
Scientific review: Manon Roussel, Kindergarten Teacher
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: December 2021
Useful links and resources
Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.
Books for parents
- Au retour de l’école... La place des parents dans l’apprentissage scolaire, 3e édition, M.-C. Béliveau, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2019, 272 p.
- Les grandes émotions des tout-petits, S. Bourque, Éditions Midi trente, 2020, 144 p.
- Petit Loup entre à l’école, S. Bourque, Éditions Midi trente, 2012, 96 p.
- Petit Loup se sent bien à l’école, S. Bourque, Éditions Midi trente, 2015, 96 p.
Books for kids
- 1,2,3 à l’école, M. Dubuc, Casterman, 2020, 32 p.
- À l’école, les grands!, texte: A. M. Bergeron, ill.: Maco, Éditions Imagine, 2012, 32 p.
- Allons à l’école, texte: L. Charlesworth, ill.: M. Baker, Éditions Scholastic, 2015, 16. p.
- En route pour l’école, collectif, Éditions Hemma, 2015, 16 p.
- Gédéon va à l’école, L. Wall, Éditions Scholastic, 2014, 24 p.
- J’adore l’école! texte : R. Munsch, ill. : D. Whamond, Éditions Scholastic, 2020, 32 p.
- J’aime la maternelle avec Biscuit et Cassonade, C. Munger et C. Chabot, Éditions de la Bagnole, 2018, 48 p.
- Je ne veux pas aller à l’école, texte : E. Abécassis, ill.: A. Siroy, Éditions Thomas Jeunesse, 2013, 28 p.
- Je suis capable! C’est la rentrée, D. Pelletier, Éditions Scholastic, 2015, 24. p.
- Je veux pas aller à l’école, S. Blake, École des loisirs, 2011
- La grande école, ton album de la rentrée, texte : J. Rochefort, ill. : J Morin, Éditions Fonfon, 2011, 32 p.
- La rentrée de Gaston, S. Yoon, Éditions Scholastic, 2016, 40 p.
- La rentrée de papa, M. Wohnoutka, Éditions Scholastic, 2015, 40 p.
- La rentrée de Roudoudou, C. Bielinsky, Bayard Jeunesse, 2019, 26 p.
- Le monstre des couleurs va à l’école, A. Llenas, éditions Quatre fleuves, 2019, 38 p.
- Le premier jour d’école de Madame Pépin, texte: P. Robbins Janousky, ill.: M. Lands, Éditions Scholastic, 2017, 32 p.
- Les Monsieur Madame et la rentrée des classes, A. Hargreaves, Hachette, 2018, 40 p.
- Pat le chat : J’adore aller à l’école, texte: É. Litwin, ill. J. Dean, Éditions Scholastic, 2014, 40 p.
- Princesse Paola à la maternelle, texte: J. Couëlle, ill.: M. Arbona, Éditions Planète rebelle, 2012, 32 p.
- Roi de la maternelle, texte : D. D. Barns, ill.: V. B. Newton, Éditions Scholastic, 2020, 32 p.
- Qui sera mon professeur?, texte: J. Pallotta, ill.: D. Biedrzycki, Éditions Scholastic, 2014, 32 p.
- Qui m’amènera à l’école cette année?, texte: J. Pallotta, ill.: D. Biedrzycki, Éditions Scholastic, 2015, 32 p.
- Sam apprend à aimer l’école, texte: S. Martel, ill.: C. Battuz, Dominique et compagnie, 2010, 24 p.
Photo : Nicolas St-Germain