Preschool Time: What’s Best for Your Child and Family?

Deciding how long your child should be in preschool can be tough. With options ranging from just a few hours a week to an extended-year program, it seems limitless. To make matters more complicated, some studies on preschool hours say more is better — that children who go to longer pre-K days have an educational and social edge — while others say just the opposite! So how do you decide what is best for your child and family?

It can help to consider what you hope to achieve by having your child attend preschool. At least one thing is clear: The benefits of high-quality preschools in helping children learn social and emotional skills and be better prepared for kindergarten are well-documented. But attending preschool for longer — or shorter — times may not necessarily be right for your child.

It is also important to think about your child’s current age, temperament, energy level, and maturity. Does your child need more “down” time, or are they constantly on the go? Have they had trouble separating from you, or difficulty with people they don’t know? Do you think they are ready for more stimulation from other children during the day? These are questions to contemplate and discuss with potential preschool teachers or administrators before making a decision.

To make a decision, you may want to also consider:

  • Flexibility. Will the preschool allow you to start with a shorter day, then transition into something longer?
  • Time gaps. The time between days your child attends preschool can have an impact. Two-day-a-week programs, which may seem the easiest adjustment, can sometimes be harder on children who have trouble separating because too much time passes between non-school and school time.
  • Consistency of routine. Learning and other routines may be more consistent when a child attends preschool for more time.
  • At-home learning. Spending time reading, playing, doing projects, and exercising at home is very beneficial for your child no matter how much time they spend in preschool.
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