Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten? Here’s How To Tell!

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

It’s July, and that means, the beginning of school is (hopefully) around the corner.  If you’re like my wife and myself, you are desperately praying that schools open this fall!

If it’s time for your child to enter kindergarten for the first time, this may be a day that you’ve been looking forward to.  Or, for some of you, the thought of your child entering kindergarten might bring some anxiety.

It’s kindergarten! And it’s the first step in a long series of educational milestones.

However, as excited as you and your child might be, it’s perfectly normal to question if your child is ready for this big step. Today’s kindergarten classroom looks very different from the one you and I remember.  How can we as parents know if our little one is ready?

Most districts have a cut-off date for kindergarten enrollment.  When they reach a certain age, they must enroll.  There is a little bit of wiggle room that allows you to wait to enroll until the following year.  But, how do you know whether or not to hold them back?

As parents, we’re often not the best judge of readiness, simply because we can be plagued by anxieties.  We might worry that they’ll get lost in the crowd, not have any friends, get picked on by others, or not be able to keep up with instruction!

Keep in mind, there are some basic guidelines to help you determine if your child is ready.

You need to consider your child’s age and maturity.  Most of us think the magic number is the age of 5 for starting kindergarten.  Most children enroll at the age of 5, but just because your child is the right age, doesn’t mean they are automatically ready for school.

Let’s look at a list of signs that can help you determine whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten.

First, can they follow simple instructions?  The instructions do not have to be super complex, but your child should be able to follow one or two step directions.  It’s important to determine whether your child has the ability to listen to and follow through with a teacher’s instructions.

Secondly, is your child potty trained?  Does your child know when they have to go to the bathroom, and can they go by themselves?

Another criteria is whether or not they can sit still for prolonged periods of time.  Don’t get really worried about this one.  The children are not expected to sit in one spot for an eight-hour day, and your child’s school certainly doesn’t expect them to.  But, do they have the ability to remain in one spot long enough to listen to a story and complete a class activity?

Another milestone to consider, is whether your child is able to recognize some letters and numbers. It is perfectly normal if your child isn’t reading when they start school.  However, they should be able to recognize some of the letters of the alphabet and some of the numbers.  There is no rule as to how many they should recognize.  The important part is that the process of learning them has started.

Another point to consider is if they have developing fine and gross motor skills.  Have they had practice holding a crayon, marker, or pencil?  Have they had a chance to hold and cut with a pair of scissors?  Has your child had practice running and jumping?  It doesn’t have to be perfect and no kindergarten teacher will expect it to be refined at this point.  But your child should be familiar with the basic gross and fine motor skills.

Ask yourself, “can they get along with others? “can they socialize, take turns and share?  Sometimes, these skills can take longer to develop!

An important milestone to look for, is whether your child can handle his or her emotions.  It’s normal for a child at that age to cry when they’re upset.  However, does your child have and use his or her own coping strategies?  Don’t expect too much of a young child.  Just note whether the intensity of emotion, no matter what the particular emotion is, is at a level appropriate for the situation.

Finally, does your child show an interest in learning?  Do they want to go to school?  Are they excited about the prospect of school?  They don’t have to be little Einsteins, but an interest in school, listening to books, and singing songs certainly helps!

If you’re having a hard time deciding if your child is ready for kindergarten, talk to your child’s preschool teacher, Sunday school teacher, or anyone who is around your child on a regular basis.  They may be able to give you some insight about your child that you may not be aware of.

Also, reach out to your child’s future kindergarten teacher about your concerns.  They have seen it all and can be a good sounding board for you as you make your decision.

Whatever you’re are currently thinking, remember, you’re gut feeling as a parent is most often right!

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Jason Spear Miller