Ready for longer days
Many New Zealanders will remember when kindergartens only took children at three and a half years old and ran 'seasonal' hours, where older children attended morning sessions and younger ones came in the afternoon.
But things have changed over the decades - there is now robust evidence about the benefits of participating in high quality early childhood education services, like kindergartens, at an earlier age and for longer hours.
While the government provides the first twenty hours a week free for over three year olds through the 20 Hours ECE programme, Kidsfirst strongly believes in the benefits of starting younger, and funds 20 Hours Free for two year olds, too. Many parents also choose to pay fees for another ten hours a week, even for those littlest attendees, who often become ready for longer days before their parents know it.
Kidsfirst Trengrove Head Teacher, Munira Sugawala, says tamariki, themselves, make it clear when they are ready for longer hours.
"The children who move on from half-days don't want to leave when their parents come. Then the parents decide ‘I think he or she needs to do a full day,’
She says longer days offer many more opportunities for learning and social development at a slower pace and provide more continuity for tamariki to build deep relationships with themselves and teaching staff.
Kidsfirst Vickery Street Head Teacher, Jenna Stone, says every child has their own path to full kindergarten days, but most make the move when their sleeping patterns change.
"It’s usually when they've finished with their afternoon naps. They're ready, their whānau is ready, and they're just full steam ahead - they move to a six hour day, and they are thriving. You can just see them grow."
Like everything, though, there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to longer days. Not all tamariki are ready at two, and not all are cut out for a full six hours a day of kindy.
“It just depends on the child,” Jenna says. “How they are, how secure they are. That’s where the teaching team comes in. They ensure that sense of wellbeing, that sense of Manawhenua - that belonging feeling, and getting them feeling safe to get into that mode.”
Kidsfirst Hokitika teacher Jo Wood said that whānau can usually tell when a child is ready for longer days.
“Your child may be ready for longer days and this will often come from a variety of observed or shared indications, such as, tamariki or whānau feedback and professional teacher intuitive knowledge.”
“Some other factors may include your child having a great sense of belonging, where they are happy for you to drop them off at kindy to bid you farewell and resume play. The tamariki have ceased an afternoon sleep, and have plenty of energy for the rest of the day. Or there may be special bonds forming with other children and your child is comfortable in the kindergarten setting.”
She said another factor that may influence a child being ready to embark on longer days is fellow tamariki.
“If your child's friendship group is attending longer hours and your child, they may be unhappy to leave earlier than them, they may verbalise their desire to stay longer.”
The best thing to do when considering whether your child is ready to take on longer days at kindergarten is to talk with their teachers.
“Have a chat with the kaiako to share your thoughts about increasing the session time they are attending. Teachers will be able to give you advice and indicate whether they feel it is the right decision.”
A few ways to help your child adjust to longer days at kindergarten may include:
- Talking about the routines in the longer session, and what your child can expect from this
- Take a trial session of a day or two to help tamariki adjust out of their regular routine
- Parents and whānau could offer to do some kindergarten helper jobs like gardening or reading to tamariki, as they try out their longer days
- Increase their session times one day at a time, so it isn’t a shock to their energy pack
- Plan earlier nights for tamariki who are new to longer days
Kidsfirst kindergartens are open for six hours a day - just the right amount of time for pre-schoolers. Head Teachers do a great job of helping parents and whānau make the decision about what is right for their child, and will often let parents know if they think children are ready for longer hours. Whānau don't have to commit to longer days or a full, 30 hour 'kindergarten week' right away - teaching teams understand that every child is different, and will work with you to find the right solution for your tamariki.
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