5 Benefits of Half-Day Preschool/Kindergarten
Can we go to the library play room and do a puppet show?” my six-year-old daughter asked.
“Sure. Do you remember when we used to come here for story time in the morning before you went to afternoon Kindergarten?”
“Yes, with Miss Carol! It was so much fun.”
I have warm memories of library story time with all three of my children. We had this experience since they attended half day Kindergarten. In their school, I had an option to pay for full day Kindergarten whereas half day was free. There were a limited amount of full-day spots so if you were interested in full day Kindergarten you were placed in a lottery system. My twins were not selected for the lottery full day spots, but I discovered it was for the best. Because I enjoyed having a few extra hours with my twins, I chose half-day Kindergarten for my younger daughter as well.
1. No Significant Educational Benefit
The main reason I wanted to enroll my twins in full day Kindergarten was because I thought they would receive more education which would in turn help them excel academically the following year. Both of them have done well in school academically despite the fewer hours in school.
Research by Philip DeCicca at McMaster University in Hamilton, Onthad had similar findings to my experience. He tested children at the end of 1st grade and found there was little difference in both the reading and math test scores of children who attended full day Kindergarten versus half day (at first there were some gains but it was short-lived).
2. More Time to Play
Since my kids were in half day Kindergarten they had the opportunity to have unstructured play time either alone or with other friends. The benefits of unstructured play include a stronger bond to family members, better peer relationships, improved problem solving and healthy development.
My children developed friendships during this time which they have maintained over the past six years. I also met and socialized with their friend’s parents. We did activities such as library story time which had some structure mixed with unstructured time to allow the children to socialize with one another.
3. More Time with Family
Research from the University of Illinois found when families regularly spent time together (in this case they studied going on nature hikes), they functioned better as a family. The study suggests the time together enables families to better read social cues which leads to feeling less irritable and more in control.
I look back on those extra hours I had with all three of my children with fond memories. Besides going to library story time we also went to playgrounds, playgroups and other similar activities. They will be in school for 6 hours a day for the next 12 years so I’m grateful for the additional time with them.
4. Five Year Olds Low Attention Span
Most five year olds have a limited attention spans. According to the website Day2Day parenting, the average 5-6 year old child can attend to something of interest to them for 10-15 minutes, but this time frame decreases to only 5-10 minutes for uninteresting topics. A school day is 6 hours long which may be difficult for children at this age to remain on task for this time period.
5. Costs Less Money
The cost of full day Kindergarten is expensive. In the school my children attend it is $3,000 per child so for my twins it would have been $6,000! Instead of spending the money on school I was able to save some of it. I used the remainder to pay for activities such as a gymnastics class or dance class. There are only 180 days of school and some days are half days. After I realized this with my twins, for me, it wasn’t worth spending an extra $3,000 for only 3 hours extra per day for my younger daughter.
What is Best for Your Child?
You know your child better than anyone. If you feel they would benefit from full day, they might. Also some parents may think full day Kindergarten is a good alternative to day care. At the time I made the decision, I thought my children would receive more education which would help the following year. When we ended up not making the lottery for full day, we made the best of the situation and in the end it worked out for us.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter.