At the heart of the Montessori curriculum is the understanding that each child learns differently and their education needs to be unique to their needs. While there are a number of distinctions between Montessori schools and traditional daycare or child care centers, the following are a few of the more prominent ones:

Montessori Program Traditional Daycare or Child Care Center
Teacher has an unobtrusive role in classroom activity; gives primarily individual lessons with children working independently. Daycare teacher is the central figure in classroom activity; mainly entire group lessons with all children doing the same activity at the same time.
The environment and method encourage internal self-discipline.   Self-motivation is the goal. External forms of discipline –rewards and punishments—are used as motivators.
Child works at his/her own pace to internalize information. Instruction pace is usually set by the group norm or teacher.
Research-based materials are used for physical and intellectual exploration. Toys are often used to entertain and teach in daycare centers.
Child spots her/his own errors through feedback from the material not adult correction. Errors are pointed out and correction is usually given by the adult.
Children choose their own work based on their own interests and abilities. Curriculum is structured for the group with little variance for individual interests.
Three-year, mixed aged environment Children grouped by age
Children work where they are comfortable, move around as needed and talk to one another at will while learning to respect each other’s need for independent work. Children are usually assigned their own table and chair or rotated through activities. They are often encouraged to sit still and not talk.
Montessori schools use specifically designed educational material to intrigue, challenge and promote education across a multitude of subjects. Daycare centers use toys with little to no educational value.