What is better for a child, half-day or full-day preschool?

Early developmental phases

As children grow, they go through various stages of development in their early life, during which their needs keep changing. Children in preschool are generally between the ages of 2 to 5 years. These kids have certain specific needs that need to be fulfilled by their pre primary school to maximise their growth and development. 

Preschool is a phase marked by transition. Children in this age go from staying at home in a familiar and protected environment to stepping out and engaging in social activities. It is a time when certain elements of formal education are introduced to the child to get them ready for proper school, while also retaining the importance of play to help them learn to navigate the world and develop life skills. 

Why is preschool important?

In preschool, children engage in an important part of their development through pretend play. Playing with other children their own age, away from their home environment, allows them to develop social skills and also helps in their emotional development. Furthermore, by playing with toys like legos and clay, drawing or colouring, playing outdoor games and more,  they develop their fine and gross motor skills, which is also extremely important. These elements of play also develop a child’s imagination, creativity, and observation skills, allowing them to develop their own individuality. 

Furthermore, preschool also introduces children to the basics of subjects like reading, writing, counting, language, and art. This part of preschool plays a significant role in readying them for the next stage in their schooling. Preschoolers are allowed the time to grasp basic concepts, which further helps them excel in early school life and not get overwhelmed. 

It has been found that in order for a preschool experience to be successful, it should emphasise on both play and learning. This would encourage the child’s mental, emotional and physical development, while also instilling values such as empathy, cooperation, and tolerance to get them ready for the social world. While it is clear that preschool is a crucial stage in a child’s education, the choice of the type of preschool they should go to, is a tough one. Whether one should enrol their child in a full day preschool or a half day one can depend on a number of factors. 

Half day preschools vs full day preschools

Half day preschools generally run for 3-4 hours in a day. In such a preschool, the time is structured to accommodate instruction, individual play as well as group activities. On the other hand, full day preschools run for 6-8 hours a day. These preschools also double up as day care centres and thus include regular naps and meals along with activities. The choice to enroll a child in either one of these preschools depends on many factors, as listed below:


  • In half day preschools, due to the shortage of time, there is no time for napping or resting for the children. This can be a problem for some since kids in the age group of 2 to 5 years, still need a midday nap in order to keep their energy levels high. The concentration of many activities in a short span of time can get overwhelming for some kids.
  • On the other hand, in full day preschools, the schedule is much more relaxed. The day is divided into sections and activities and rest are alternated well, to provide them with enough stimulation but also relaxation.  

Number of activities

  • In a half day preschool, there is a limited number of activities that can be completed in the day. Although even these preschools have set schedules that are meant to accommodate all important activities, half-day preschools might not be able to get much done in just 3 to 4 hours. This means that certain important events may take place just once or twice a week as opposed to everyday. 
  • In full day preschools, important activities, along with play and learning can take place everyday without any time constraint. This allows children to consistently engage with various subjects and learn through practice.

Training for further education

  • Half day preschools might not be able to prepare children completely for school. Certain studies have shown that children that attend half day preschool are less prepared for full day school, since they might not be used to being attentive for the whole day. They also might have difficulty being away from home for long periods. Also, their reading, maths and other skills might not be on par with other students due to lack of practice in preschool. 
  • According to research, children that go to full day preschools are extremely well equipped with the skills needed to adjust to the full day school system. This is because they get used to spending time away from their parents and with children their own age. They also learn to study for longer amounts of time, concentrate better and retain information more easily. 

Available time with parents

  • Naturally, half day preschools mean that children get to spend more time with their parents. Research in child development has shown that a child’s mental and emotional stability depends a lot on the amount of time they spend with their parents. Since half-day preschoolers spend less time in school, they get the chance to spend extra time at home with their parents, thus giving them one-on-one bonding time.  
  • Conversely, children who attend a full day preschool miss out on quality time with their parents. This can be harmful for their growth and may weaken the bond between the child and their parents, thus leading to problems in the future.  

Ease of adjustment

  • Young children find it easier to adjust to half day preschools. Smaller children who are not used to staying for long periods without their parents can find full day preschools very stressful and alienating. In such cases half day preschools can be helpful for them to adjust to changing schedules and learn to spend more time away from home. 
  • On the other hand, full day preschools can be quite stressful for small children. This is especially true for the initial period. Children who are used to spending a large amount of their time at home with their parents can find it very scary and anxiety-inducing to suddenly stay in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people. 


The decision to enrol a child in a half day or a full day preschool depends on a number of factors. Some things to be considered are a child’s age and personality, their ability to stay away from home, their parent’s jobs and schedule, and the overall lifestyle of the family. Overall, it can be said that children that are older and have high energy levels or children with both parents working, can benefit from full day preschool. While younger children with at least one stay at home parent are more suited for half day preschool. In the end, each parent must decide what is best suited for their child based on his/her individual needs and personality.