If you have a 4 or 5 year old, you may be wondering if they have the skills needed to start kindergarten — especially if they have a birthday close to their school district’s age cut-off date. While most children begin school by age 5, some parents feel like their child isn’t ready by then. For this reason, some parents choose to wait to enroll their child in school.
If you aren’t sure if your child is ready for school, you’re not alone. Kindergarten students have a wide range of skills and abilities. While some kindergartners are just learning their ABCs, others may already be reading independently. Fortunately, schools are aware of this and often prepared to educate students with different needs and abilities throughout their schooling.
As your child approaches kindergarten age, there are skills and developmental milestones you can look for and encourage that will be beneficial to them when they enter school.
How Do I Know If My Child Is Ready For Kindergarten?
Many parents wonder if their 5 year old has the cognitive, social-emotional, and developmental skills needed to start kindergarten. Afterall, early childhood development can vary greatly depending on the child, and there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to determining school readiness.
While some individuals and organizations may provide you with a kindergarten readiness checklist, there is no single agreed upon set of guidelines for determining if your child is ready for school. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that kindergarten readiness assessments should not prevent any children from entering kindergarten. Instead, school readiness testing should be used to support a child’s development and long-term educational success.
According to the AAP, schools should be prepared to meet the needs of every age-eligible child, whether they are “ready” to start school or not. This is especially true if they need additional support due to special needs or adversity. But, this doesn’t mean parents are off the hook, either. There are plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for kindergarten.
Below are a few skills to look for if you have a child who will be starting school soon. Keep in mind that these are not requirements for kindergarten, and your child does not need to have mastered all of these skills by the first day of school.
- Recognizes uppercase and lowercase letters
- Associates some letters with appropriate sounds
- Recognizes numbers 1-10
- Knows how to spell their own name
- Can retell a simple story
- Knows words for shapes and colors
- Holds a pencil or crayon
- Can draw some basic shapes
- Can use scissors
- Uses the bathroom independently
- Can get dressed on their own
- Can run and jump
- Listens and follows directions
- Waits for their turn
- Controls impulses and emotions
- Plays with other children
How Can I Help Prepare My Child For Kindergarten?
As a parent, your most important job is to provide your child with a supportive and secure environment. This includes meeting their physical, educational, and social-emotional needs. If you are worried about your child’s development, talk with their pediatrician about what you can do to help prepare them for kindergarten. You may even consider asking what kind of community resources are available if you need additional assistance.
Your child’s physical and nutritional well-being is linked to their success in school. Along with providing healthy meals for your child, make sure they are getting plenty of fresh air and exercise every day. This will naturally encourage their motor development. In addition to this, spend time with your child on activities that will improve their fine motor skills. Simple activities like playing with blocks or working on art projects are great for fine motor development.
One of the best ways you can support your child’s cognitive development is to read together every day. Take them to the library for story time or to pick out whatever books look interesting to them. Don’t forget to check with the children’s librarian for any educational or school readiness materials they might have on hand. Throughout the day, you can also work with your child on numbers, shapes, and color recognition by simply talking to them and asking questions about the things they see.
By providing your child with a supportive and loving home, you are already setting them up for academic success. While you want to encourage your child’s physical and cognitive development to help prepare them for kindergarten, it’s important not to push them too hard and make sure they are having fun and feel proud of their abilities. If your child is struggling to meet any of their developmental milestones or skills, just be patient and remember that all children learn and grow at different rates.
Kindergarten Readiness Resources
If you are looking for additional information and resources related to school readiness, there are tons of great free resources online. Some of these include kindergarten readiness checklists, kindergarten requirements by state, and educational materials that will help prepare your child for kindergarten. Below are a few of the best kindergarten readiness resources you can find online.
This site compares each state’s policies regarding kindergarten readiness and enrollment. For example, you can find information about your state’s laws regarding kindergarten entry assessments, age requirements or age requirement exemptions, and even teacher-to-student classroom ratios.
Reading Rockets has some really helpful resources for determining kindergarten readiness as well as improving reading skills. You can find articles about a wide range of topics about helping your child learn to read and preparing for school, as well as information on developmental and learning disorders that can affect some children’s reading skills.
The CDC has put together a detailed checklist for tracking your child’s development from infancy through age 5. You can download and print off the checklist to assess your child and discuss any concerns with their pediatrician.
PBS has some great free resources on their website, including a kindergarten readiness checklist, learning packet, and activity cards that will help you prepare your child for school with fun activities.
NAEYC has tons of helpful articles related to kindergarten readiness and preparing your child for school in both English and Spanish. Some topics they cover include transitioning to kindergarten and choosing a high quality educational program for your child.
The U.S. Department of Education has a page of parent resources including free learning resources, guidelines, and advice. Topics include early childhood education, special education, literacy, and helping your child learn.
If you decide to wait to enroll your child in kindergarten, spend that time working with them on developing their academic and social-emotional skills, whether that means enrolling them in preschool or working on these skills together at home. Attending a high-quality preschool is great for your child’s cognitive and social development, but if they aren’t going to preschool, be sure to attend activities like story time, read to them every day, and work with them on reaching milestones that will be helpful to them in kindergarten.