Kindergarten: ready or not?
Check these guidelines to decide if your child is kindergarten-ready.
By GreatSchools Staff
Starting kindergarten is one of the biggest milestones in a child's life. Here are some tips to help you decide whether your child will be socially, academically and physically prepared to start "big-kids" school.
School cut-off dates
School districts around the country differ widely in their cut-off dates for students entering kindergarten, a factor that is certain to cause confusion for parents, especially those moving from one state to another, or considering private as well as public school. Your child may be deemed ready in one state or type of school but not in another. In most states, a child must reach the age of 5 for public school, but the birth date can range from June 1 to December 31. To find out the cut-off date in your state, visit this kindergarten cut-off dates by state website.
Experts such as Donna Adkins, an Arkansas kindergarten teacher and recipient of the 2004 Arkansas Teacher of the Year award, suggest that parents look beyond their child's chronological age when enrolling him in kindergarten. "Most boys are better off waiting to enter kindergarten. However, some of the best boys I have ever taught had summer birthdays (which made them young for their class), and they are still doing very well in school many years later."
How do I know if my child is ready?
There isn't just one indicator that determines whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Experts agree that a child's development needs to be evaluated in several areas.
Some school districts use assessment tests to determine kindergarten readiness. Children are asked questions to test their cognitive abilities. They might also be asked to perform tasks such as drawing shapes and sorting objects. Experts advise parents not to make a decision based entirely on test results, but to consider observations by teachers, pediatricians and parents.
The following is a guideline that includes a range of social, academic and developmental factors to consider when deciding if your child is ready to enter school:
- Enthusiasm toward learning. Is he eager to explore and discover? Is he comfortable asking questions? Does he persist even when a task is difficult?
- Language skills. Does she communicate her needs? Express her feelings appropriately?
- Ability to listen. Can he follow simple instructions? Is he able to listen to an entire story without interrupting?
- Desire to be independent. Does she separate from parents for the school day? Is she starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings? Can she follow simple two-step tasks? Can she use the bathroom by herself?
- Ability to interact with children and adults. Is he able to share, compromise, take turns and problem-solve?
- Strong fine-motor skills. Is she able to hold and use a pencil? Cut with scissors? Is she learning to write her name?
- Basic letter and number awareness. Can he sing and recite the alphabet and recognize some letters? Can he count to 10 and identify numbers one to five?
Get advice and observe
- Speak with your child's preschool teacher. If your child has attended preschool, talk to her teacher. As an educator, she will have a good idea of how your child compares to other children at the same grade level and whether she thinks she is ready or not.
- Speak with your child's pediatrician. Your child's doctor will be aware of your child's physical and developmental maturity and will be able to offer his expert opinion.
- Visit pre-k and kindergarten classes. Spend some time visiting both a kindergarten and a pre-k class. Does the teacher focus on writing and phonics, or is the curriculum based on hands-on activities? Look for a setting that would best fit your child's personality, temperament and abilities.