Is my child ready for Kindergarten?

Written by Leny Grott

Is my child ready for Kindergarten?

This is a question parents always ask.  As a preschool teacher, I always tell parents not to worry.

  Some parents say Kindergarten is the new first grade and want their children to be able to read, write and be able to do simple math, but they forget the other parts of development which are absolutely important in 5yo children.

Parents are not always the best judge of readiness because they can be overwhelmed by worries. 

Some parents fear their child will get lost in a big classroom or will be seen as small and won’t get picked for sports teams.  Others just want their kids to have the best possible start to school by learning and maturing more at home or in a small pre-K setting.

The pre-K teacher or pediatrician should be able to provide you with an unbiased opinion.

Experts say no single or simple factor determines whether a child is ready for kindergarten.  

Instead, a child’s development needs to be evaluated on several fronts.

The ability to think logically, speak clearly, and interact well with other children and adults are all critically important to success in school.  A child’s physical development also needs to be considered.

In reality, very few children are equally capable in all these areas.  Many children who are advanced mentally may lag behind emotionally, while children who are extremely adept physically may be slower in terms of language development.

Your child is probably ready to start kindergarten if he or she:

  1. Follows simple directions.  It’s important that your child can listen to a teacher and complete instructions.  Be aware that children at this age should not be expected to follow complex instructions.  One or possibly two steps are about what young children can generally manage, simple instructions mean few items or steps and are very specific and concrete.
  • Sits still.  Your child should be able to remain in one spot long enough to listen to a story and participate in class activities.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that your child should be able to sit completely still for a period of time during class.  Sitting still really means that your child can listen to a story or participate in an activity without being a disruption.   A child who is fidgeting but listening to a teacher read a story is great, a child may be standing up and walking around as long as the child is not being disruptive.
  • Uses the restroom.  Your child should be able to know when they have to go to the bathroom and be able to manage it by themselves.
  • Recognizes some letters and numbers.  Believe it or not, it’s OK if your child isn’t reading when they start school.  But they should recognize some of the letters of the alphabet, along with some numbers.  There is no hard and fast rule as far as how many letters or numbers a child should be expected to recognize, so don’t focus on a specific goal here.  Once children start to learn a few letters, the rest soon follow. They can start by learning the letters of their name.
  • Works on fine and gross motor skills.  Your child should have some practice jumping and running, throwing a ball and holding a pencil and scissors. (see post on How to hold a pencil) https://storytimewithleny.com/pencil-grip/

Many children will have had the opportunity to practice these skills in preschool or in another early education program.  Children’s hand shapes and sizes work better with some tools than others, so writing with a large diameter pencil precedes holding an average size pencil.

No kindergarten teacher will expect your child’s skills to be refined at this point.

  • Gets along with peers.  Ideally, your child knows how to share and take turns, but these are skills that can take a lifetime to master.
  • Handles emotions.  It’s normal for a 5-year-old to break down in tears when he’s upset.  But it’s important that she knows her feelings and has coping strategies.  Young children usually cannot reliably name their emotions.  A better measurement is if the child’s emotional states — especially those that signal distress, fear and anger — are appropriate given the situation the child is experiencing, and that they change in response to intervention.
  • Shows an interest in learning.  He doesn’t have to be a little Einstein, but it helps if your child enjoys listening to stories, music and books and seems stimulated by the information.

In Conclusion

While many parents focus on the basics of letter and number recognition or reading skills, kindergarten readiness includes more than a few isolated skills. We need to look at the whole child and all the skills and strengths each child has developed. That’s what makes them unique.

Rather than worry about whether your child is ready to read and write, think about his or her skills as a whole. What can they do well that will help them succeed?  The quiet child who has reading abilities will find her way to the social butterfly.  The silly, wiggly child will find a spot as the classroom helper.  Rest assured, they will all navigate kindergarten together.

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