Kindergarten is a time of great learning for children. Whether the morning or afternoon is better for learning is a question often pondered by parents and educators. In fact, it may be different for individual children. As adults, we often feel we get more accomplished either in the morning or in the afternoon. The same can be true for young children.
Morning as the Optimal Time
Many teachers and parents feel that their children are able to focus better on learning in the morning. Important tests and learning tasks are often scheduled in the morning. Children have more energy and are not as tired. Many kindergartners have only recently given up an afternoon nap, and some still nap. They are more likely to be tired in the afternoon, which can lead to an inability to focus on learning tasks.
Afternoon as the Optimal Time
Despite the belief by many that morning is a better time for learning for young children, a study done by the Center for Evaluation and Monitoring in England found that children learned more in the afternoon than in the morning. Eleven out of twelve tests slightly favored afternoon learning. The differences were not very large but do point to the fact of only small differences between learning in the afternoon as compared to the morning.
Individual children may differ in when their optimal learning time is. Some children will still be sleepy in the morning and need to wake up slowly. They may be ready for their best learning in the afternoon. Other children may wake up ready to go and by the afternoon be ready for some downtime. Carefully observing your child can help you make this distinction.
Type of Learning
It may be that the morning and afternoon are optimal for different types of learning. The morning may be best for more structured, focused learning. This may be the best time for reading instruction. The afternoon may be better for active, social learning. This may be the best time for science explorations and group math games. For children just giving up a nap, the afternoon may be best for read alouds or educational movies.
Katrice Morris is an educator based in Georgia. She has six years of classroom teaching experience in the primary grades and certified to teach grades Pre-K through 8 in the state of Georgia. She holds an Master of Education in instructional leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago.