Early childhood education (ECE) is important work. You shape the future each day by working with young children.
And passion for ECE is totally undeniable by everyone who works in this field. That passion extends to asking if your school schedule is doing the most for your students and families.
Today’s families are under increasing pressure — especially moms and female-identifying caregivers, who are more frequently leaving their jobs to care for children when preschool isn’t meeting their needs. Full-day preschool is a great option for that, and so many more reasons!
At MomentPath, we can't tell you which programs to offer or activities to plan, but we can share tips and research on how to create a successful full-day preschool program while recommending some of our favorite resources to help guide you along the way.
Here's how to create an excellent extended day program at your preschool or early childhood center to provide even more support to young children and their families.
Hey, by the way! Have you seen our simple 4-Step Guide to Creating Your Preschool Schedule? It’s definitely one you don’t want to miss!
When planning your full-day preschool program, deciding (and clearly communicating!) what a full-day is, will be the first crucial step.
According to the Department of Education, full-day preschool — sometimes referred to as extended day care or after school care — is a program a child attends each weekday for approximately six hours or more.
In their work on how quantity, quality, and content impact child outcomes, Barbara A. Wasik, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Temple University, and Emily K. Snell, a Research Scientist at Temple University highlight that:
“‘Full-day preschool’ might refer to the six-hour school-year calendar, while in other contexts (e.g., studies of child care), preschool might only be considered full-day if it is available eight or ten hours a day, all year.”
Decide how long your full-day preschool or after school program will be, and you're on the first step to success!
First and foremost: no matter if you’re offering half-day, full-day, or after school care, high quality child care is at the heart of it all.
There are five essential characteristics of a high quality preschool or child care center:
Center these five areas in your preschool, and your parents, families, and staff are on their way to a great experience — whether it’s for four, six, or eight hours a day!
Want to dive deeper into what defines high quality child care today? Check out our guide for more insight and inspo!
In the words of ParentGuide News, half-day preschool tends to be “structured for the duration of class to include instruction, individual work time and group activities.”
Since students will only be in class for a maximum of four hours, the time spent is purposeful and often part of a set routine (a major yes for child development!).
That routine may breakdown into a schedule similar to the following example from Play to Learn Preschool:
|8:45AM||ARRIVAL||We greet each other. Students arrive, take off coats and shoes, and hang up their backpacks.|
|8:55AM||MORNING WORK||Students complete “morning work” on the carpet. Younger students do a name activity. Pre-K students do a folder game.|
|9:00AM||CIRCLE TIME||Morning Meeting Circle time includes a name song, a brief calendar time (for Pre-K only), checking the snack chart, a welcome from Betsy (our puppet) and a quick introduction to one of the centers for the day.|
|9:10-11:00AM||CENTERS||Students choose the centers that they would like to work on. They move and rotate through the centers at their own pace. Teachers engage with them at the centers.|
|10:00AM||BATHROOM||We call the students individually to go to the bathroom and wash their hands.|
|10:10AM||CIRCLE TIME||When they’re finished, they go to the carpet for music & movement and a thematic mini-lesson.|
|10:20AM||SNACK TIME||Students each and then ask to be excused. When they are finished, they return to working at centers.|
|11:00AM||CLEAN UP||We turn off the lights and play clean up music. Students return the toys and supplies to the shelves. When the room is (mostly!) clean, they put on their shoes & coats.|
|11:15AM||RECESS||We play outdoors. When it rains (boo!) we stay inside and play a large group game.|
|11:40AM||STORY TIME||During this final “Circle Time” we review a literacy or math skill (a letter, or a shape, or a quick rhyming activity – Pre-K only!) and then read a story. The younger preschoolers just talk about the book then read the story.|
|12:00PM||DISMISSAL||Students put on their backpacks and we walk them to the car for line up.|
In case you’re curious what other half-day schedules look like, Fun-A-Day also shares a sample schedule that includes lunchtime. 👍🏽
Full-day preschools have the luxury of time, a nap for reset, and lunch. They may be more relaxed because they have more time each day compared to half-day programs, and they can also dedicate more time to various small group activities and transitions throughout the day.
Sometimes you’ll hear that full-day preschool is better because they get double the literacy or math time. But in practice, it’s not always that simple. Just because students are at school longer, doesn’t mean they’re doing twice as much as their half-day peers.
Here’s an example of a full-day schedule from Pre-K Pages, which highlights the variety in an extended day program:
|8:15-8:25AM||Linear Calendar and Circle Time|
|8:25-9:25AM||Centers + Small Group Activities|
|9:30-10:00AM||Recess/ Outdoor Time|
|10:10-10:50AM||Math + Small Group Activities|
|2:15-2:45PM||Centers/ Free Play|
Many of the activities are similar to half-day preschools (such as circle time or outdoor time), but there are also additional opportunities for play, rest, snacks or meals, and other activities.
Pocket of Preschool also offers a sample schedule for a full-day preschool with after school care that goes from 7AM to 6PM. In this scenario, you’ll see more opportunities for play, outdoor time, and music and movement.
At MomentPath, we love seeing more options for full-day preschool because it benefits so many!
For working parents, full-day preschool meets the needs of parents and caregivers much better than half-day preschool. Caregivers don’t have to choose between changing their career or not enrolling their child in preschool if their work schedule isn’t conducive to the school schedule.
The Abecedarian Project, the seminal ECE study from the 1970s, also found that access to early childhood education had a significant impact on moms. By the time their children were four and a half years old, mothers of children involved in the project were more likely to have finished high school, be self-supporting, and saw higher earnings and decreased reliance on social services.
Additionally, full-day preschool creates a reliable routine for children to get food, play, and rest.
We said it before and we’ll say it again: routines are key to child development! This is true whether a parent or caregiver works or not. When a child is at full-day preschool, the parent/caregiver can have peace of mind they’ll have a consistent and supportive routine.
There is a plethora of positives for students in full-day preschool — many related to social, emotional, and intellectual development:
Looking for more resources on social emotional learning (SEL)? Don’t miss our free ebook on How to Understand and Implement SEL in Your Child Care Centers (+15 Trusted ECE Resources)!
We know how hard preschool teachers work, and we don’t want to make their jobs any harder.
An extended day program can be an important route for teachers both in and out of the classroom.
In the classroom, teachers may get to know their students better after spending six or more hours with them each day. Deeper relationship building is meaningful for the child’s development, and it can help guide teachers in creating engaging curriculum and meeting their students where they are.
Out of the classroom, full-day preschool may be appealing to preschool teachers because it means one day of employment with one group of students. Half-day preschool teachers may need to find another job alongside their part-time teaching. Or, they may have to teach two groups of students in one day — which means twice as much work for planning, classroom management, and getting to know students and their families.
Don’t let the child care staffing crisis hold your center back. Get the latest tips and tactics for finding and hiring great teachers in our Ultimate Guide to Preschool Hiring.
High quality early childhood education helps close achievement gaps and inequalities that can begin showing themselves as early as kindergarten. Research indicates that ECE benefits are pronounced for children who are Latinx, Black, or come from low-income families.
Additionally, according to the Department of Education (DOE), “studies have found that ELs [English Learners] gain more from their preschool experiences than their non-EL peers.”
The DOE also noted that full-day preschool was more enticing to communities with a high percentage of working families when they are publicly funded.
When resources and opportunities are available that support parent and caregiver work schedules, give students a reliable and safe space to develop, and steadily employ teachers, the larger community undoubtedly benefits.
Curious about the latest trends in ECE? Get the latest expert insights right here.
Glossing over some of the challenges of full-day preschool wouldn’t be fair. We want to make sure you have all the info you need when creating your plan for a successful extended day preschool program:
According to Allison Atteberry, Saphna Bassok, and Vivian C. Wong in their paper The Effects of Full-day Pre-kindergarten: Experimental Evidence of Impacts on Children’s School Readiness:
“Traditionally, policy-makers and researchers have focused on ‘structural’ characteristics of ECE settings such as the qualifications of educators, the class size, and the staff…More recently, there also has been substantial interest in process-oriented features of ECE, such as quality teacher-child interactions, effective curricula, and access to professional development.”
While the ‘structural’ characteristics of a full-day preschool program will always be important, consider how you’ll also support these process-oriented characteristics when setting up your extended day program.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, running an extended day preschool will impact your budgeting.
Take into account longer teacher hours and/or more staff, funding for snacks and lunches, and the cost of overhead for your classroom supplies and utilities.
As seen in the DOE study, Educational Experiences of English Learners:
“Despite access to preschool, ELs were somewhat less likely than non-EL preschool-aged children to enroll. Only 16 percent of preschool-aged ELs enrolled in preschool compared with 21 percent of non-EL children.”
This is not a Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” situation. Plan for who your student population is, what barriers they may have to registering (financial, scheduling, location?), and how you can help alleviate those challenges.
Pay for early childhood educators, the cost of childcare, and staff turnover are realities that won’t stop simply because you offer full-day programs.
These challenges may change or evolve (we certainly hope they become more manageable!) with your full-day preschool program, but you’ll want to keep them in mind as you plan.
By now, it’s clear. Full-day preschool is a great option for so many reasons. So congrats on committing to create the best full-day program for your teachers, students, and families!
We’ve rounded up some key resources to help you boost enrollment for your extended day preschool program.
Create a great full-day preschool program by:
Boost enrollment for your full-day program by:
The right full-day preschool program can go a long way in relieving parent stressors, contributing to healthy learning outcomes for young children, and supporting your community.
And the resources we shared here are just one way to dive into your extended day program journey!
MomentPath is here to help you along the way, from setting up your program to the daily ins and outs of running it. Our childcare management software makes early education organizations more integrated, efficient, and engaged. Spend less time on paperwork and more time with the young learners in your care.
Your amazing full-day preschool program awaits!