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Full-Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten: Which Is Right for Your Family? 

Depending on where you live, you might notice that elementary schools near you offer both full-day and half-day options for kindergarten. But what’s the difference between these types of kindergarten, and is there an advantage in picking one program over another?

Confusingly, requirements for kindergarten vary from state to state. Some states require public schools to offer full-day kindergarten programs, while other states only require that schools offer half-day programs. (Note: Full-day kindergarten is offered at all BASIS primary schools. Some of our Arizona campuses also offer half-day kindergarten in addition to full-day kindergarten.)

With how important kindergarten is, parents may feel overwhelmed as they try to find the right school for their child. To help you narrow down your options, let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both full-day and half-day kindergarten programs. 

Full-day kindergarten pros and cons


  • Full-day programs can provide a stronger academic foundation. Studies have shown that full-day kindergarten students often have an academic advantage compared to half-day kindergarten students. With more time spent in the classroom, students get an opportunity to further develop key skill sets.
  • Students will be exposed to a wider range of subjects. A few extra hours of instruction time each day means that your child’s class will have time to explore additional subjects. For example, at BASIS Charter Schools, all of our kindergarten classes (both half-day and full-day) study core subjects such as language and math, but our full-day kindergarteners have additional enrichment lessons in the afternoon. These lessons may include Engineering and Technology Foundation, Mandarin, Music Foundation, and more.
  • Your child will get into the routine of attending full-day school. Once your child starts grade 1, half-day school won’t be an option anymore. Full-day kindergarten prepares your child for the following year.
  • Full-day schedules can be easier to manage for parents with multiple school-age kids. With full-day kindergarten, you don’t have to worry about the logistics of your kindergartener finishing up the school day three hours before your second grader. 


  • Many full-day programs are fee-based. Since full-day kindergarten is not required in most states, schools often don’t have sufficient funding to offer these programs free of charge. Be sure to check in with schools that interest you to see if they have any financial aid options available.
  • Some students may have a hard time adjusting to full-day kindergarten. Parents often worry that their child will have trouble paying attention and keeping still for a full school day. If this concern rings true for you, keep in mind that most full-day kindergarten programs accommodate kindergarteners’ short attention spans by incorporating plenty of movement and playtime into their daily schedules. 

Half-day kindergarten pros and cons


  • You can ease your child into formal schooling more gradually. One of the main benefits of half-day kindergarten is that it allows students to become accustomed to attending school without diving straight into a full school day. A half-day program may be especially attractive if your child has not attended preschool or rarely spends time away from home.
  • Your child will have more time for other activities outside of school. With half-day kindergarten, your little one will have more time at home for unstructured play with family and friends. You may also be able to attend community events and activities (library storytime, playgroups, etc) that would otherwise conflict with school.
  • Half-day kindergarten is usually free. Many schools offer half-day kindergarten free of charge, whereas full-day kindergarten is more likely to have fees associated with it. 


  • If your child attended preschool, they may already be prepared for full-day school. Since preschool is designed to prepare kids for formal schooling, it often eliminates the need to ease your child into school with a half-day kindergarten program.
  • A half-day schedule can be challenging for working parents. Parents who work full time may have difficulty picking up their child in the middle of the day and may need to arrange for additional childcare in the afternoons.
  • Students may miss out on valuable learning opportunities. While half-day kindergarten tends to cover the same core concepts as full-day kindergarten, your child may miss out on extra enrichment activities or lessons. 

Which type of kindergarten is the right choice for your family?

Whether full-day kindergarten or half-day kindergarten makes more sense for your family depends on what your child’s needs are and what your schedule is like. Generally speaking, full-day kindergarten provides students with additional learning opportunities that could benefit them for the following school year. 

That being said, the quality of a school’s kindergarten program is often more important than the number of hours your child is spending there. Whether you’re leaning towards full-day or half-day, look for a kindergarten program that makes effective use of instruction time while still giving children the freedom to move around, play, and socialize throughout the day.

For more information about what to look for when choosing a new school for your child, check out our guide, “A Parent’s Guide to School Choice.”

Give your kindergartner the strongest start possible at BASIS Charter Schools

Kindergarten at BASIS Charter Schools is designed to enhance children’s natural instincts to explore, question, and discover. Our caring and knowledgeable teachers lead students through dynamic, hands-on lessons, helping them master grade 1 concepts by the end of the year.

Many of our Arizona schools offer both full-day (fees may apply) and half-day options, so you can choose a schedule that works for your family.

For a firsthand look at what makes our kindergarten program stand out, find a school near you and schedule a tour today. 

Amy Licht
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