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

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).

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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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.



The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.


Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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