The Value of a Full Day Program for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Many parents question whether or not they should invest in a full day program for toddlers and preschoolers.
Understandably, some parents prefer to keep children home in the early years and limit exposure to school experiences. These are precious years, and there is tremendous value in spending quality time together.
Some parents worry that full day or full week programs are "too much" for young children. The assumption might be that young children tire easily from school or that they need a break from the school experience.
And of course, there are always financial considerations when choosing a full day program over a half day option. Nannies often play into the decision, particularly when there is more than one child.
There are numerous reasons to consider a full day program for a young child, who is experiencing a unique learning window that will never repeat. At Battery Park Montessori, we offer only full day programming because the full day experience, offered with our unique and nurturing approach, capitalizes on that learning window in ways most programs cannot.
What should you know about a full day experience at Battery Park Montessori?
Full Day Programs Accelerate Social and Intellectual Development
The brain is growing at an exponential rate until approximately age 6. That means that every element of children's development is significantly impacted by what they do and the stimulation provided in their environments during that phase of growth.
By remaining in school for the full day, children are exposed to additional social interactions with friends and to additional structured learning opportunities, with teachers observing and facilitating.
A Continuum in Learning Makes Learning Richer and More Lasting
The most important component of a learning experience is that it is supported by a continuum. Learning is richest and more likely to be retained when it is done as part of a continued, building and layering experience, as opposed to a single experience that has no relationship to what was done before or after. Traditional schools rely heavily on "one offs" in which all children do an isolated activity intended to teach a targeted skill, but disconnected and empty of context.
Learning through isolated activities, or learning in spots of time, is similar to opening up a book and reading one page. Without the benefit of having read prior pages, and without the benefit of continuing to read, the experience is confusing and empty. What is read on that single page is not likely to inspire you, nor is it likely to be retained for very long.
When a child attends for a full day, there is greater opportunity to experience a continuum, both in building friendships and social understanding as well as in building confidence and skill in using a particular tool or work.
The full day continuum socially connects morning interactions across a host of different types of activities, providing children with a broader and richer scope in which to experience relationships and collaboration. Morning meeting, work cycle, neighborhood walks, music class, lunch setup and lunch table socializing, togetherness during rest and reading time, and then extensions of those experiences throughout the afternoon with the fresh perspective that rest provides but with the continuum of the day still present.
The same applies to intellectual development in the full day. Work that children explore in the morning inspires curiosity. Children are likely to become absorbed in the challenges of a particular work and often wish to return to it in the afternoon with new ideas for problem solving. Walks, lunch with friends, and rest provide a bit of distance, and then children find it pleasing to be able to come back to what provoked them earlier in the day.
In the same way that a full day experience provides children with a powerful learning continuum, a 5-day experience has even more impact.
Young children struggle to adapt when each day is different, when schedules are constantly changing and it is difficult to anticipate what activity will happen next. Schedules in which each day is different make a young child feel less stable, and this sense of instability and uncertainty often manifests in negative behaviors.
A child is most calm and cooperative when the routines are firmly in place and easy to predict.
In addition, keep in mind that time is processed quite differently for small children than it is by us as adults. A day for us is like a week for a child. In that 24 hours that seems to fly by for us, a child is processing a galaxy of new information while the brain is expanding and developing thousands of new connections.
That means that a child who is away from school for 24 hours is losing connection with school and forming new connections with new experiences. This explains why children who attend 2-day and 3-day preschool programs struggle with parent separation for most of the year. That 1 or 2 day gap creates a cognitive distance for the child that is difficult to correct.
This is why we only offer 5-day programs. We know that children thrive most in a learning experience that is routine and steady, that supports a continuum of learning versus one-off isolated activities, and that offers a rich diversity of activities so that learning can be applied in different ways, different settings, and under different circumstances.
Full Day Students Receive Substantial Teacher Observation
A full day student is observed for 6 hours each day by our teachers, who are child development experts. Parents of full day children benefit from the substantial insights teachers have when observing children across a full day and across the full spectrum of activities (eg, morning meeting, work cycle, walks, lunch, rest, etc.).
Practical Life Curriculum Is Magnified by Full Day
The power of the Practical Life curriculum in Montessori cannot be overstated. Practical Life activities help children develop coordination of their movements (fine and gross muscle control) and as a consequence of that control, they gain independence. Independence leads quickly to self confidence. Practical Life is also about contributing, taking care of your environment, doing your part. So, it is a fundamental part of the Montessori experience and key to the success of the approach.
Full day gives Practical Life a boost by inviting children to participate in activities such as lunch setup and cleanup, preparation for and cleanup after rest time.
These are key collaborative moments in the day where Practical Life exercises advance children's skills on every level.
Full Day Children Have Increased Exposure to Languages
As a trilingual Montessori school, language is core to our program. Children who participate in our full day program have substantially more exposure to language. Add to this benefit the fact that our children are in a critical development zone for learning language, and the value of full day is even greater.
That learning window for language begins to close around age 6. If there is a time to invest in a learning experience, it is when the child is in this developmental phase.
The power of our language program is further enhanced in the afternoons by the addition of our "Farm to Table" program, which integrates language learning with farming (at our dedicated farm plot at Urban Farm) during the spring and with cooking from our garden during the winter.
Full Day Programs Build School Stamina for Children
Most New York parents intend to send their children to Kindergarten, which is typically a robust and challenging experience. Children moving from a half day program to a full day Kindergarten program often find that transition quite difficult. We recommend engaging a full day program sooner rather than later to build your child's stamina for a full day of social and intellectual engagement. Being grounded and ready for Kindergarten will make all the difference in a child's success thereafter.