If your child is five years old or will be turning five soon, you might be wondering if it is time to sign him up for kindergarten. Age is what schools have traditionally used as the deciding factor to determine a child’s readiness for kindergarten. While age does play an important role in kindergarten enrollment, both preschool and kindergarten teachers are also now looking at a variety of skills and behaviors to determine if a child is ready.
Things for parents to consider.
Preschool is good practice. Kindergarten teachers recommend that before children start kindergarten, they attend a preschool or nursery school program for at least two half days a week. Preschool differs from daycare because it provides more structured, educational activities. In addition to simply practicing being away from their parents, preschoolers also learn how to participate in group activities, interact with other children, and listen to, understand, and follow directions. Your child should be able to sit through circle time or story time that lasts at least 15 minutes, understand the concept of sharing, and get along most of the time with other kids.
ABC's and 123's. It is recommended that children know all of the letters and numbers one through ten, are able to write their name when they enter kindergarten, and can recognize and name shapes and colors. However, just because your child does not know the alphabet or cannot count past five is no reason to hold her back from attending school. She should be eager to learn, enthusiastic about “reading” and being read to, and be able to answer when you ask her to describe what she likes or remembers about a story, event, or activity. It is recommended that you read to your child every day. In addition she should have some fine motor skills including being able to hold a pencil/marker/crayon and use scissors.
Teachers know their stuff. Preschool teachers often have a pretty good idea of whether children are ready for kindergarten. Your child’s teacher knows how he acts in the school setting. If he still cries after you drop him at preschool, he might not be ready to get on the bus to kindergarten. Do not hesitate to ask your child’s teacher for her opinion and advice. She might suggest something in-between, like a pre-kindergarten classroom that many public schools have. Also, be sure to visit a kindergarten classroom that your child might attend, talk to the teacher, and observe how the other children behave and interact. Many schools even have a time when you can bring your child with you to visit.
Physical development is important, too. In addition to consulting preschool and kindergarten teachers, you could also ask your child’s pediatrician if he or she thinks your child is ready for kindergarten. A child who is smaller or younger but has strong social and intellectual skills might be ready for kindergarten, whereas a child who is at the right age might not be socially ready.
Basic independence is key. Although letters and numbers are important, there are other basic things your child should be comfortable doing before starting kindergarten. Your child should be on the road to independence. Although it might be easier for you to hang up his jacket or help him in the bathroom, he will have to do it himself in kindergarten with little or no assistance. Your child should know his name, your name, his address and his phone number. These are things you can practice with him to get him ready.
Know the system. Many school systems start holding open houses and asking parents to fill out an enrollment form as early as January or February. While it is never too late for you to sign your child up for kindergarten in a public school, you should still try to attend meetings and pick up forms to find out about the process and important dates. You might have to rank your choice of schools if there is more than one in your community, and you will want to attend any open houses. If you are unsure about your child’s readiness, some school systems also offer an assessment. Even if it is not advertised, you should ask about it.
First day fears. Once you have enrolled your child in kindergarten, you should start preparing both her and yourself early for this big event! Be sure to take her to visit her kindergarten classroom. Many schools invite new students before the school year actually starts. This is a great opportunity for her to meet her teachers, and maybe even take a ride on the school bus! You can practice walking to the bus stop or to school with your child. Get a list of what she will need for school, and pick things out together, like a backpack, folder, or lunchbox. Practice the routine a few weeks early. Start waking her up at the time she will have to get up for school, and do everything that needs to get done in the morning, like getting dressed and eating breakfast. Pack her bag together the night before so that she knows what is in it and where to find everything.
If your child is not ready. If your child is not ready for kindergarten, do not be concerned! Even if he is five years old, you would rather your child be academically, socially, and emotionally ready to start school than have trouble later on. If your child’s friends will all be starting kindergarten, it might be best to take him out of his preschool program and put him in a pre-kindergarten program or even another preschool classroom so that he does not feel left behind and left out.
For more information, visit http://preschoolerstoday.com/resources/articles/kindergarten.htm orhttp://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=701 .
Reprinted with the permission of the One Tough Job campaign. © Children's Trust Fund of Massachusetts 2007. All rights reserved.