Q:

I have a choice of my child attending a preschool program for a full or half-day. I think a full-day program would be too exhausting. What would the extra benefits be for attending a full-day program? -- Considering

A:

There are absolutely no hard and fast rules about how many hours a child should spend at preschool. In fact, even the experts differ in the benefits of full-day vs. half-day programs. However, they do agree that attending a preschool program no matter the length of time is beneficial.

A good preschool will give children a rich background of experiences. One of the big plusses of preschool is the training it gives children in social skills. Having the chance to play frequently with other children their age helps them learn how to share, negotiate, cooperate and make friends. Plus, there is the satisfaction of belonging to a group. And attending a preschool lets children discover that other children have the worries, fears and delights leading them to realize their own feelings are not unique.

If you do not believe your child is ready for a full-day program, enroll him in a shorter program. You can feel good about doing this because there are also advantages to young children spending more time with adults, as it encourages the development of speaking and vocabulary skills.

Your choice of preschools is enormous. You need to choose one carefully, as they vary greatly in quality. Highly effective preschool programs will have high standards and small class sizes, as well as staff that has received training in early childhood education.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is a reliable source for finding good programs. Its accreditation of a preschool shows that the school has met the highest standards. You can find a list of schools accredited by this organization on its website at www.naeyc.org.

Finally, in order to choose the right preschool for your child, you must visit it and see how the teachers and children interact. You should make sure the teachers are gentle and know how to involve all children in the activities. If you think your son will be happy at a school, you are probably right.

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