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Debate Club: Should Kids Attend Half- or Full-Day Kindergarten?

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The Benefits of Half-Day Kindergarten


Cheryl Maguire

“Can we go to the library play room and do a puppet show?” my daughter asked.

“Sure,” I replied. “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 positive memories of library story time with all three of my children, who each attended half-day kindergarten. Their school gives parents the option to pay for full-day kindergarten or send their kids for half days for free. If interested in the full-day option, you’re placed in a lottery system due to the limited number of spots available.

My twins were not selected for full day spots, but I discovered it was for the best. After this experience, I chose half-day kindergarten for my younger daughter as well.

No significant educational benefit

The main reason I wanted to enroll my twins in full-day kindergarten is 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 fewer hours in school.

Research by Philip DeCicca showed similar findings. He tested children at the end of 1st grade and found little difference in both the reading and math test scores of children who attended full-day versus half-day kindergarten. (Initial gains were evident, but short-lived).

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More time to play

Half-day kindergarten allowed for more opportunities for unstructured play time, either alone or with friends. The benefits of unstructured play include a stronger bond with family members, better peer relationships, improved problem solving, and healthy development.

My children developed friendships during their kindergarten years that they still enjoy six years later. I also had the opportunity to meet and socialize with their friend’s parents. We engaged in activities (such as Miss Carol’s story time at the library), which provided some structure mixed with unstructured time to allow the children to socialize with one another.

More time with family

Research from the University of Illinois found that when families regularly spent time together – in this case, going on nature hikes – they functioned better as a family. The study suggests that time together enables families to better read social cues, which led to feeling less irritable and more in control.

I look back fondly on those extra hours I spent with all three of my children. In addition to story time, we also visited playgrounds, playgroups, and other local, kid-friendly activities. My kids will be in school for six hours a day for the next 12 years, so I’m grateful for the additional time with them.

Limited attention span

Most kindergarten age children have a limited attention span. According to the website Day2Day parenting, the average five- to six-year-old child can attend to something of interest to them for 10 to 15 minutes. This time frame decreases to five to 10 minutes for topics that don’t interest them.

A school day is six hours long. That’s a lot of five to 15-minute increments.

Costs less money

Full-day kindergarten can be expensive. In the school my children attend, it costs $3k per child ($6k for twins!). Instead of spending the money on school, I was able to save and use the remainder to pay for activities such as a gymnastics or dance class.

There are only 180 days of school, and some days are half days. With my twins, it wasn’t worth spending an extra $3k for only three hours extra per day.

What’s best for your child

You know your child better than anyone. If you feel he or she would benefit from a full day – due to your schedule or as a good alternative to day care – you’re probably right.

Full-Day Kindergarten Prepares Kids Better For Their Academic Future

By Kristen Polito

The decision between full and half-day kindergarten is a personal one for all families. Many factors come into play when considering what’s best for your child. Socioeconomic circumstances, social preparedness, cognitive proficiency, and family schedules are all something to consider when signing your child up for their first full school year.    

The term “early intervention” keeps popping up in discussions about schooling, teaching, and learning – especially as it concerns the year between pre-k and first grade. Early intervention is vital as it’s focus is to help ensure that children succeed in their education and on into adulthood.

Several studies have explored the differences between full-day and half-day kindergarten, examining school readiness, longitudinal test scores, overall school performance, and socialization outcomes.

As far as the earlier academic years are concerned, considerable evidence points to full-day kindergarten classes as being the more beneficial option when compared to half-day kindergarten classes. According to the anti-academic fade out article in The Atlantic cited above, “we have to build on what children learn in those preschools and match it with challenging but playful instruction in kindergarten and the early grades.”

Going from pre-k to half-day kindergarten is redundant. Graduating from pre-k to a full-day of kindergarten – provided it is stimulating and challenging – can help build on the early foundation of learning.

Ready for school academically

Studies show full-day kindergarten programs are beneficial to the growth of children’s academic skills during that critical year between pre-k and first grade by boosting children’s literacy and language development, reading proficiency, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and social aptitude.

How? By maximizing and capitalizing upon learning time.

For one thing, full-day programs naturally offer increased flexibility and allow for small-group and individual activities. This takes the pressure off teachers of delivering an overwhelming amount of information to the entire class at once. More individualized attention produces results.

Additionally, full-day programs tend to result in improved attendance in kindergarten and beyond, yielding more classroom face time. Better attendance in kindergarten and through the primary grades translates to more overall learning time.

Improved cognitive learning

Full-day kindergarten programs substantially increase cognitive learning due to time devoted to collaborative group work, independent work, and child-originated activities. This includes activities such as free play outdoors and indoor time in learning centers. 

Chloe R. Gibbs at the University of Virginia recently completed a study examining the differences between full- and half-day kindergarten. Full-day kindergarten ranges between four and seven hours, and the study says that time should be used proactively instead of passively. The brain has the greatest ability to change under the influence of the immediate surrounding conditions early in life.

Advanced literacy and problem-solving skills

Full-day kindergarten students show faster gains on literacy and language measures when compared to half-day kindergarten students. Moreover, such gains may last over time.

One study, for example, showed higher reading achievement persisting through third grade and, in some cases, through seventh grade – a benefit that strengthens students’ overall school performance.

Social competence

Full-day kindergarten students have displayed notable gains in academic socialization and are equipped with stronger learning skills. They also show improved emotional and behavioral development, creating an environment where they can thrive socially.

One study found that full-day kindergarten students received significantly higher conduct marks through playing nicely, working well with others, demonstrating self-confidence, and obeying playground rules. Researchers determined this through a self-concept scale over time. 

Chidren who have an easier time socializing and playing with peers also have an easier time making friends and experience a smoother transition into later grades as reported by parents and teachers. 

Research comparing half-day and full-day kindergarten suggests that it makes more developmental sense for children to segue from pre-k to full-day kindergarten as part of an early learning sequence. Some experts believe that this contributes to higher academic achievement in later grades, reducing retention and remediation rates.

For Education Week, Reporter Deborah Viadero writes, “In a study of over 17,000 students in Philadelphia, researchers found that ‘by the time they reached the third and fourth grades, former full-day kindergartners were more than twice as likely as children without any kindergarten experiences – and 26 percent more likely than graduates of half-day programs – to have made it there without having repeated a grade.’”

Extended care for working families

Many parents are joint earners by necessity or choice. Either way, the need for daily, extended child care is a reality for many families these days. Besides an education, a full-day of kindergarten offers the convenience and practicality of all-day child care. 

Ultimately, the availability of full-day kindergarten funding for your school district may make your decision for you. Not all jurisdictions can offer full-day kindergarten free of charge just yet.  And having to foot the bill for the supplementary half day may be a non-starter for many families with relatively modest budgets.

When it comes down to it, full-day kindergarten is not a panacea that will remove all conceivable obstacles to academic success that struggling students may face. Consider full-day kindergarten as one part of a large, working plan that parents, teachers, and school administrators can utilize to ensure that children reach their full potential. 

At the end the end of the day, every child’s story is different, and every family’s needs are unique. Full-day kindergarten should be available to any and all, but the decision to utilize it should be made by parents – and not by school boards.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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