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New study highlights the benefits of all-day preschool

preschool kids
Javier Pardina/Stocksy

When it comes to our children, we’re often told we’re their first (and possibly most important) teacher. But a recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development found that the length of your child’s preschool program might also have a significant impact in the years to come.

“In a previous study…we found that full-day pre-k was associated with increased school readiness skills and better attendance at the end of the year,” Arthur J. Reynolds, PhD, told Parents. “In this study, we wanted to know if the effects on school performance and achievement were sustained through third grade.”

Reynolds, who is the study author and a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, and his colleagues surveyed almost 1000 children from low-income families from preschool through third grade. What they discovered was that children who attended full-day preschool programs had higher math and reading skills by third grade than those who only attended half-day programs. They also presented with better emotional development.

According to Reynolds though, it wasn’t just the longer hours that added to better outcomes for students–it was the strength of the program, the curriculum used, and the integration between preschool and elementary school.

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“What mattered most was the degree of leadership support at the school,” Dr. Reynolds told Parents. “Stronger leadership and school supports led to even stronger impacts of full day pre-k on third-grade reading achievement.”

This study is an interesting paradox to a 2022 study out of Tennessee that showed poorer outcomes for children who attend pre-k.

So what’s a parent to do when it comes to preschool? Remember that ultimately, you know your child best and the needs they have. When looking at a PK program, Harvard recommends making sure that the teachers are speaking to the children in an encouraging way. They also suggest making sure that play is the main focus of the curriculum and that more emphasis is placed on helping the children rather than punishing them. As your child’s first teacher, we promise you’ll make the right choice for your family, and that’s one of the greatest lessons you can teach them.