How Do I Know if My Preschooler is Ready for Kindergarten?

January 2, 2014

By Rachel Greenspan, Early Childhood & Family Engagement Director

Even though it is still winter, many parents of four and five year olds are already looking towards next fall, and thinking about whether or not their children are ready for a K4 or K5 program in either the public school district or a private school or preschool program. Starting kindergarten is a big step and an exciting rite of passage for young children and their parents. You love your child and want him to get off to a good start in school. Maybe you have doubts about his development, or you simply don’t know what will be required of him in the kindergarten classroom.

Below are some of the key developmental milestones a child may have reached by the time he starts kindergarten. These requirements aren’t set in stone, and not every child will have mastered every skill by the time he sets foot in the classroom.  When children reach the age that makes them eligible to start school, there is suddenly an expectation that they should all have the same skills and abilities.  While research has shown that every child goes through the same stages of development in the same order, it is important to remember that each child has his or her own unique rate and way of development.  Likewise, for each individual child, social development may differ from physical development; intellectual development may differ from emotional, and so forth.

Early childhood experts agree that kindergarten readiness involves four key areas of development: social/emotional, physical, intellectual and self-care.

Social and Emotional Development - School and learning involve more than academics. A key to success in kindergarten (and beyond) is being able to get along with others. In kindergarten, your child should be able and willing to:

      • Listen to an adult and follow simple directions.
      • Cooperate and play well with other children.
      • Sit still for short periods (15 minutes or less).

Physical Development - Kindergarteners use their bodies as well as their brains! To thrive in kindergarten, your child will need both small and large motor skills, such as:

      • Drawing with crayons, pens, and pencils, with control.
      • Copying simple figures and shapes, such as a straight line, circle, and square.
      • Running, jumping, and hopping.
      • Bouncing and catching a ball.

Intellectual Development - The ABC’s of academic success in kindergarten require that your child:

      • Is interested in books and reading.
      • Holds a book upright and turns the pages.
      • Knows some songs and rhyming games.
      • Identifies some letters (especially those in his name).
      • Identifies labels and signs at home and in the neighborhood.
      • Pretends to read and write.
      • Knows his first and last name, names of family members.
      • Can describe an experience and tell a familiar story.

Taking Care of Personal Needs - Taking care of one's personal needs is not only practical, it's also a sign of independence  and growth.  For most young children, it is a source of great pride! To start kindergarten, your child should be able to:

      • Use the bathroom without assistance.
      • Wash his hands.
      • Eat without help, using utensils.
      • Dress himself and work snaps, buttons, and zippers
      • Tie his shoes.
      • Recognize his own belongings (such as a jacket or lunchbox).

How You Can Help Your Preschooler Gear Up For Kindergarten 

As your child's first teacher - and her loving parent - you're in a perfect position to prepare her for kindergarten. If she attends preschool, make sure she's in a program that provides a fun and stimulating learning environment. Whether she's in preschool or not, you can help her grow if you:

  • Read to your child daily. Visit your public library for children’s story hour, and borrow books to enjoy together at home. Snuggle up and read bedtime stories.
  • Build her vocabulary with everyday conversation. Discuss your daily routines, interesting experiences, and feelings. Listen to what she says, and correct her gently when necessary. Avoid using “baby talk.”
  • Support her “social/emotional I.Q.” Classroom learning will require your child to listen and follow directions and cooperate with others. She’ll also need to manage her emotions – and be sensitive to the feelings of others. Be sure you provide clear guidance in these skills, and let her practice them one-on-one (with a sibling or friend) and in groups (both formal and informal).
  • Let your child play and create. Whether it’s exploring outdoors, building a castle out of Lego’s, or finger painting, play is a critical to developing your child’s imagination, creativity, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving ability.
Let the Professionals Weigh In
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s readiness to start kindergarten, don’t think you have to go it alone. If your child attends preschool, her teachers should be able to help you decide whether she needs extra time or special help to prepare. And your child’s pediatrician can also be a source of insight and information regarding your child’s development.

Gan Ami- Whitefish Bay's Kindergarten (K4) Open House on Monday January 6, has been cancelled due to the cold. It will be rescheduled for a later date which will be announced soon. Come learn about half day and full day options available at our Whitefish Bay Campus and explore our K4 curriculum. Questions?  Call us at (414) 967-8241. Click here to learn more about our Gan Ami Early Childhood Education Program.