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The Difference Between Early Learning Centres and Child Care Centres

Early learning centres and child care centres often get lumped into the same category.

While they do share some similarities it is important to be aware of the differences so you can make the best choice for your child.

Here, I’ll cover the differences and similarities between an early learning centre vs. a child care centre and how to choose the right option for your family.


Why Are the Early Years Important for a Child’s Development?

Did you know the human brain exhibits dramatic development and quadruples in weight before age six?

Birth to age 6 is a critical time in a child’s development. Giving children individualised attention and age-appropriate learning opportunities during this crucial stage can set them up for a lifelong love of learning and personal success.


What is An Early Learning Centre?

Early learning centres understand how important the first few years are in a child’s development and place a special emphasis on incorporating education into child care.

Typically, an early learning centre will offer both structured and unstructured learning opportunities weaved throughout the day.

In an early learning centre, you’ll find educational materials that are engaging, age-appropriate, and exciting for kids.

I like to use materials that stimulate a child’s mind, encourage creativity, and nurture a love of learning, such as:

  • Books
  • Art supplies
  • Outdoor play spaces
  • Puzzles
  • Instructional toys
  • Play food sets
  • Age-appropriate games
  • Dress up clothes
  • Water and sand play toys
  • Puppets
  • Musical instruments (for little ones, this usually consists of a tambourine, maracas, small drums, etc.)

Early learning centres typically offer a curriculum designed specifically for the unique needs of each child they care for. At Tribe Early Learning, we work closely with parents to develop engaging educational experiences and learning opportunities that appeal to their child’s unique personality, needs, interests, and abilities.

You May Also Like: Parent-Teacher Partnership: Fostering a Collaborative Learning Experience

Early Learning Centres typically prioritize educational programs and activities designed to support children's cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.


What Are the Benefits of an Early Learning Centre?

  1. Builds Social-Emotional Skills – Social-emotional skills are one of the most important things young children can learn. Being around peers and caregivers allows children to build relationships, learn empathy, work with others, make friends, learn to take turns and share, and so many other critical skills that will translate to everyday life.
  2. Supports Early Literacy – We enjoy sharing our love of books at our early learning centre. We read out loud daily in our fun storytime, and have a bookshelf packed with a wide variety of books for kids to pick up at any time throughout the day. This exposure to books and hearing stories read out loud can help support early literacy and build a strong foundation for their formative school years.
  3. Promotes Self-Confidence – When a child practice new skills, get to explore their interests, build friendships, discover their abilities, and learn new things, they gain self-confidence. They also learn a great deal about their preferences, interests, and needs to help build a strong self-identity.
  4. Teaches Problem-Solving and Communication Skills – Being around caregivers and other children their age helps children learn how to effectively communicate their wants and needs. Kids can navigate conversations with peers and learn to problem-solve in a safe setting. If a disagreement occurs, a caregiver can help children learn age-appropriate communication skills and empathy to solve the issue.
  5. Teaches Early Math Concepts – Early learning centres often incorporate fun, age-appropriate concepts into the day. At Tribe Early Learning, we include early math concepts such as measuring, numbers, patterns, and shapes throughout play opportunities. This helps promote mathematical thinking through age-appropriate math concepts. Our goal is to help give your child a strong math foundation to carry over into their school years.
  6. Develops Gross and Fine Motor Skills – An early learning centre will offer a variety of toys, puzzles, games, and tools that promote fine and gross motor skills. During our outdoor time, we play games that are fun, first and foremost. But what children don’t realise is that these games are also promoting gross motor skills. Running, jumping, outdoor play structures, nature play, jump rope, and outdoor games all develop gross motor skills that will help your child throughout life.Fine motor skills are developed through safe, supervised opportunities to use craft materials, child-safe scissors, markers, paper, crayons, and other materials that require careful manipulation with the hands. We also incorporate activities that help develop hand-eye coordination.
  7. Build a Wider Vocabulary – Conversing with other children and adults exposes children to a wider vocabulary, helping them learn new words and how to use those words correctly. It also helps develop listening skills when we read a book out loud or offer instructions.
  8. Foster a Love of Learning – Along with keeping your child safe and helping them feel nurtured and supported, our biggest goal is fostering a love of learning. By supporting their natural curiosity and desire to explore, we aim to offer a positive experience with early learning. Children can carry this love of learning into their formal school years and hopefully through their entire life. We foster this natural creativity and curiosity by letting kids enjoy art materials, craft materials, painting, colouring, reading, storytelling, games, nature-based play, dancing, and music in both structured and unstructured ways.


Differences Between Early Learning Centre vs Child Care Centre

A child care centre’s primary function is to provide safe care and supervision for children who have a parent who is at work.

Although they provide a convenient solution for parents who need additional support, childcare centres typically do not place a high focus on learning and development. Rather, childcare centres focus on basic needs and very simple cognitive skills, such as numbers and the ABCs.

Here’s a glance at how an early learning centre vs. a child care centre differs.

Early Learning Centres:

  • Emphasise educational opportunities
  • Offer both structured and unstructured learning opportunities weaved throughout the day
  • Offer individualised care plans and learning opportunities that cater to each child’s unique interests, abilities, and needs
  • Promote ready-for-school learning concepts, such as early literacy, vocabulary, math skills, listening, and communication skills
  • Are developed to promote emotional, social, and cognitive development
  • Are typically open 5 days a week
  • Encourage children to learn through exploration and play

Child Care Centres:

  • Primarily serve as a safe place that provides care for your child when you are unavailable
  • Are designed to meet a child’s basic care needs (supervision, meals, snacks, naps, nurturing)
  • Usually do not emphasise learning or structured educational opportunities
  • Often operate on weekends or after-work hours to accommodate a parent’s work schedule
  • May offer drop-in care options

Child Care Centres primarily focus on providing a safe and nurturing environment for children while their parents or guardians are at work or otherwise occupied.


Early Learning Centre vs Child Care Centre: Similarities

Both early learning centres and child care centres generally deal with kids between the ages of 2 to 5.

Other similarities between an early learning centre vs child care centre include:

  • Both help build your child’s social skills
  • Both give children a chance to interact with kids their age in a group setting
  • Both require licensing to operate
  • Both provide safe child care while a parent is at work or fulfilling other obligations


How Do I Choose Between an Early Learning Centre vs. Child Care Centre?

Choosing between an early learning centre vs. a child care centre comes down to your preferences, your child’s needs, the location, the facility, and so much more.

I know how tough of a decision it is but here are some questions to ask yourself that may help:

  • Do you just need safe child care or want an environment that also promotes learning?
  • What does the centre offer and what makes it different from others? (How Is Tribe Early Learning Different from Other Centres)
  • What learning opportunities are there?
  • What qualifications do the caregivers/educators/staff have?
  • What kind of meals are offered?
  • What hours are offered? Do you need flexible or extended hours?


Experience the Benefits of an Early Learning Centre with Tribe Early Learning

If you are a parent or caregiver considering early learning centres in WA, we’d love to answer any of your questions, set up a tour, and let you know a little more about the unique learning opportunities and environment we offer.

Our goal is to create a nurturing, safe, fun environment that promotes creativity, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and early education concepts. Our experienced staff works with parents to ensure the individual needs of every child are met.

We’d be happy to chat with you to see if our early learning centre would be a good fit for your child’s needs. With early learning centres in Ridgewood, Butler, Alkimos, Success, and Canning Vale, we have facilities in a variety of convenient locations. Fill out our online contact form or check the contact info for each early learning centre here to get in touch.