Ask the Experts: Preschool - Part time vs full time?




We asked local experts to weigh in on how to know if your child is ready for full-time school.

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.


Dr. Anne K. Jacobs: Frankly, the choice between part-time and full-time school is often a luxury. Some parents' work schedules do not allow for a half-day option. If your schedule is flexible, it can be very beneficial to tailor your child's entry into school to meet their unique developmental needs.

In our family, we were fortunate enough to start our girls in a part-time preschool day with the option to gradually increase time as they were ready. In considering whether your children are ready for part-time or all-day school, it helps to ask yourself questions about their readiness across different domains.

Are they ready physically? A full day of school can be quite draining for young ones who are not used to such a rigorous schedule. For example, if your child is a strong napper, part-time school may be the best fit at first.

Are your children ready emotionally?Can your child separate from you without too much distress? While it is typical to experience some tears and protests at drop-off, most children should be able to calm down and redirect within 20 minutes or so. Young children are not masters of their emotions, but your kiddo will need to have some self-soothing skills or allow teachers to calm them before they are ready for long days at school.

Are your children ready socially? School is a great place for children to learn and practice social skills. However, if your child regularly struggles with following directions, listening to adults, and respecting other kids' (with adult prompts), they may need more time to ease into school.

Finally, are your children ready cognitively? Little brains are amazing. Often children crave new experiences and delight in learning new things. If your children thrive on tackling new challenges, full-time school might be a great fit.

Anne K. Jacobs earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology from the University of Kansas and enjoys serving children, adolescents and their families. In addition to her private practice in Edmond, she holds an adjunct faculty position at Southern Nazarene University. Her family includes: husband, Noel who is also a child psychologist; twin daughters, Keegan and Sarah; one dog, two cats, and five tarantulas.


Courtney Chandler: When determining if your child is ready for half-day or all-day care, there are several factors to consider.  Has your child spent long periods of time away from family or the home before? If so, how did they respond? How did you, as the parent or caregiver, respond to your child being away from you? Has the child spent long periods of time around other children of their age group? How were transitions to and from these periods where the child was away from home?

If you are questioning which is best for your child, a great starting place is to begin with half-day care and gradually increase the time spent away until the transitions are comfortable for both you and your child to manage.

Courtney Chandler is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy and play therapist working for Sunbeam Family Services, a non-profit organization in Oklahoma City. Courtney is passionate about the power of play therapy and enjoys working with children, adolescents and their families


To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.

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