The Best Daycares and Preschools (Compared & Explained)

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Choosing the best daycare for your child can seem like an overwhelming task.

Whether you’re currently pregnant and looking for someone to love and care for your young baby or are looking for somewhere where your preschooler can get a head start for Kindergarten, there’s a lot to consider.

When reviewing each childcare center, you’ll want to think not just about the facilities and the curriculum, but also the opening times, the staff turnover, and, of course, the dreaded fees!

Whatever your situation, searching for the best daycare or preschool is not something that you’ll want to put off, as waitlists can often be years long, with no guarantee that a space will become available when you need it.

So let’s not waste any time! What are the best national daycare and preschool chains in the United States?

The best daycare and preschool chains you can find across the United States are:

  1. KidsPark
  2. The Learning Experience
  3. Lightbridge Academy
  4. Children’s Lighthouse
  5. Discovery Point
  6. Kiddie Academy
  7. The Goddard School
  8. Kids R Kids
  9. Primrose Schools

Below, we’ll discuss the estimated costs and main benefits of each facility. Plus, we’ll explore some alternative and local options if you don’t like any of the big names.

Let’s go!


KidsPark – Best for Flexible Childcare

KidsPark is something of a hybrid between a daycare and a play center, offering a fun space for children aged 2 to 12 to play.

As no advance bookings are needed, many parents used KidsPark as a backup option in addition to a regular preschool or daycare.

Where you can find them:

KidsPark’s 20 centers are located across the United States. You’ll find them in Arizona, California, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

Main pros/benefits:

KidsPark offers a perfect solution for parents who work unusual or irregular hours.

Most centers are open late into the evening and also at weekends, providing a handy daycare option for the times when other childcare centers are closed.

You don’t need to book a place in advance at KidsPark. Once your child is registered, you can just turn up as and when you like and leave your child for as little as an hour, or all day if needed.

Cost estimate summary:

The fees at KidsPark are between $8.50 and $12 per hour, depending on the center.

The daily rate for 8 to 11 hours varies between $51 to $84. You’ll often get a 50% discount for siblings.

For more information, check out the KidsPark website at kidspark.com and read my full KidsPark review.


The Learning Experience – Known for Its Fun Characters

At The Learning Experience, children from 6 weeks old to Kindergarten age enjoy learning by exploring and doing.

Following a carefully crafted curriculum, children learn a whole host of skills above and beyond those that you might expect from a preschool.

Where you can find them:

You’ll find The Learning Experience centers in cities right across the United States.

There are 300 centers in existence, with plans underway to build up to 100 more each year.

Main pros/benefits:

The Learning Experience offers a full curriculum with children taking lessons in sign language, Spanish, Chinese, soccer, manners, and philanthropy. 

The preschool uses a cast of over 90 characters to facilitate learning, with animals like Bubbles the Elephant and Phoebe the Llama encouraging kids to learn in a fun and interactive way.

Cost estimate summary:

The Learning Experience doesn’t publish its fees online, but you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 per month for a full-time preschool place.

For more information, check out The Learning Experience website at thelearningexperience.com or read my full The Learning Experience review.


Lightbridge Academy – Known for Caring Staff

The Lightbridge Academy philosophy is that “Just as every point on a circle is equidistant from its center, each person whose life is touched by Lightbridge Academy is equally important.

This focus on relationships between children, parents, staff members, and center owners means that each child is nurtured with love and care in a ‘home-away-from-home’ environment.

Where you can find them:

Lightbridge Academy has around 100 centers located across New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

New centers are also set to open in Florida and Maryland.

Main pros/benefits:

At Lightbridge Academy, each child will form a special bond with their caregivers.

The staff turnover rate is low, and parents feel that the teachers look after the children as if they are their own family members.

The curriculum is also highly praised at Ligtbridge, with children learning Spanish, American Sign Language, yoga, and mindfulness as well as the standard topics like reading, writing, and math.

Cost estimate summary:

The fees at Lightbridge Academy are in the region of $1,200 to $1,500 per month for a full-time place. Back-up care is also available for around $100 per day.

For more information, check out The Lightbridge Academy website at lightbridgeacademy.com or read my full Lightbridge Academy review.


Children’s Lighthouse – Known for Its Structured Curriculum

Children’s Lighthouse Early Learning School offers an age-specific curriculum for children aged from six weeks to 12 years of age.

As well as learning topics like literacy, science, and math, there’s a strong focus on building strength of character and developing peer-to-peer relationships. 

Where you can find them:

There are over 40 Children’s Lighthouse centers in the United States. There are located in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas.

Main pros/benefits:

The curriculum at Children’s Lighthouse is carefully planned. It’s similar to the Montessori method, but instead of giving kids the choice of regulating their own learning, every hour of the day is carefully structured and regimented.

Despite the set routine, kids are given the freedom to play outside every day that the weather allows.

Most centers have incredible outdoor spaces with splash pads in the summer.

Cost estimate summary:

Children’s Lighthouse doesn’t publish its fees and we weren’t able to find these online.

To get a quote you’ll need to arrange a tour. Don’t forget to ask about the registration fee and the annual curriculum fees, as these are to be paid on top of the weekly tuition fee.

For more information, check out the Children’s Lighthouse website at childrenslighthouse.com or read my full Children’s Lighthouse review.


Discovery Point – Known for Its Focus on Literacy

The curriculum at Discovery Point is based around research that suggests that the single greatest factor in a child’s life success is the time spent hearing books read aloud.

At Discovery Point, whether kids are learning about math, science, or music, they’re encouraged to use books to facilitate their learning.

Where you can find them:

You’ll find Discovery Point centers in the Southeast of the United States with 50 centers located across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

There are large clusters in the Atlanta and Tampa areas.

Main pros/benefits:

The curriculum at Discovery Point has attracted a lot of praise from parents who feel that the level of structure hits the sweet spot between a rigid schedule and allowing kids to do whatever they please. 

The teachers are described as being very loving and caring to the children, while the owners and managers are usually on-site and available to chat.

Cost estimate summary:

A full-time place at Discovery Point costs between $215 and $260 per week, depending on the age of the child.

For school-age kids, before-school care costs $50 per week and the after-school club is $90 per week.

For more information, check out the Discovery Point website at discoverypoint.com or read my full Discovery Point review.


Kiddie Academy – Known for Its Well Rounded Curriculum

One of the most well-known childcare chains in the United States, Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care offers a balanced curriculum for children from six weeks to 12 years of age.

Developed over 40 years, the curriculum has everything you could want, with a focus on character education, STEM-infused technology, and health and fitness that’s tailored to the developmental stage of each child.

Where you can find them:

Kiddie Academy is one of the largest childcare franchises in the US with over 250 centers located across 31 states.

Main pros/benefits:

If you’re looking for the perfect balance between learning and fun, Kiddie Academy offers just that.

The teaching philosophy, called ‘Life Essentials’ is specially designed to meet the needs of every child.

Ar Kiddie Academy, kids are able to use the latest technology to make learning fun, are encouraged to make healthy choices, and are taught a lot about respect, compassion, and manners.

Cost estimate summary:

Kiddie Academy doesn’t publish its fees online so to get an accurate quote for your family you’ll need to arrange a tour.

However, you can expect to pay more than other daycares, with fees often reaching upwards of $300 per week.

There are also registration fees and annual fees to consider, as well as a $10 per week charge to access the video cameras if you want to watch your child play while you work.

For more information, check out the Kiddie Academy website at kiddieacademy.com or read my full Kiddie Academy review.


The Goddard School – Best for Facilities

The Goddard School is a chain of state-of-the-art purpose-built preschools offering its own unique learning program.

The Curriculum is called F.L.EX, which stands for Fun Learning Experience.

Where you can find them:

The Goddard School cares for over 70,000 children at over 550 locations across 38 states, making it one of the largest private preschool chains in the US.

Main pros/benefits:

Goddard schools have excellent facilities with exciting spaces that are carefully engineered to help kids to discover the world around them.

You can expect separate classrooms for each of the eight age groups from infants to Kindergarten, plus gyms, computer labs, and outdoor playgrounds. 

Cost estimate summary:

Tuition at The Goddard School is expensive, costing between $1,400 and $1,650 per month depending on the area and the age of the child.

Food and baby essentials are not included.

For more information, check out The Goddard School website at goddardschool.com or read my full Goddard School review.


Kids R Kids – Best for Staff

When you send your child to Kids R Kids Learning Academies you can expect that they will be nurtured with love and kindness.

The school’s primary principle is ‘Hug First, Then Teach’.

Where you can find them:

You’ll find Kids R Kids schools in over 170 cities across 18 states. The company is also expanding rapidly across China.

Main pros/benefits:

The facilities at Kids R Kids are excellent, with each purpose-built school having airy classrooms with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and direct access to outdoor playgrounds.

However, the main thing that parents and kids love about Kids R Kids is the staff.

Each day starts with a hug and continues with lots of fun as the friendly and caring teachers take care of each child as if they were their own.

Franchise owners are often present on-site too, ready to greet parents and students each day.

Cost estimate summary:

A full-time place at Kids R Kids costs between $195 and $340 per week for a baby and between $185 and $260 per week for a Kindergartener.

There’s also an enrollment fee which costs around $100.

For more information, check out the Kids R Kids website at kidsrkids.com or read my full Kids R Kids review.


Primrose Schools – Known for Its Reputation

Primrose Schools is a chain of early education centers catering for babies through to Kindergarten and beyond.

This preschool has an excellent reputation so its waitlists are often at least one to two years long.

Where you can find them:

There are over 450 Primrose Schools which are located across 32 states of the US.

Main pros/benefits:

The curriculum taught at Primrose Schools is excellent. The centers have a ‘Balanced Learning’ approach to teaching that uses all the best aspects from existing theorists such as Montessori, Piaget, and Vygotsky. 

As well as the standard topics like math, science, and literacy, kids enjoy daily classes in Spanish, creative arts, and emotional intelligence.

The music lessons can be continued at home via an app.

Cost estimate summary:

A full-time place at Primrose Schools can cost anywhere between $150 and $380 per week, depending on the location and the age of the child.

For more information, check out the Primrose Schools website at primroseschools.com or read my full Primrose School review.


Local Options

Of course, as well as the national childcare chains listed above, you’ll likely have a whole host of local options to consider.

While you may not find as much information about these online, they’re certainly worth considering and they may have many advantages including a lower cost and higher level of one-to-one care.

Other childcare options to consider:

Daycare Center – Small, independent businesses or faith-based, non-profit organizations that care for children on a regular full- or half-day basis.

Family Daycare – Also known as a childminder or home daycare center, a family daycare is located in someone’s home with just a few children present.

Mother’s Helper – A young person who watches and entertains kids in your own home while you’re also present.

Babysitter – A person who watches your child on a part-time basis at your home or theirs, often during the evening or weekend.

Nanny – A qualified childcare professional who cares for and educates your child in your home. They may live with you or elsewhere.

Au Pair – A young person from another country who lives in your home as a member of your family and cares for your children.

Relative Care – When a grandparent or other family member helps with children either on a paid or unpaid basis.

Childcare Swap – When two or more parents alternate days to watch each other’s children in addition to their own for no cost.

It’s a good idea to visit a variety of childcare facilities before deciding on which one is the best for your family’s needs.

When you take a tour, it’s wise to come prepared with a list of questions to ask.

You’ll want to find out each organization’s policies on everything from food, nap times, and potty training to licensing, accreditation and, employee qualifications.

We found that this list of questions to ask at your daycare tour is one of the best on the internet.


Wrapping Up

When searching for the best daycare or preschool, parents are often faced with a huge array of choices.

What’s the best option for one family might not be the best for the next.

So, while you can take note of the feedback of friends and other parents in your area, it’s always a good idea to do your own research.

This overview of some of the most popular childcare centers in the US should give you a good starting point for options to consider.

Your next steps now are to make a shortlist of the best daycares in your area, then arrange tours so that you can get a feel for how each center operates in practice.

If you want to compare certain chains or curriculums before making a decision, check out:

Hope this helps!

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