Categories: Family

How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten

How do you know if your child is ready for kindergarten?

My son turns 5 in October. I’ve been contemplating if I should send my 4-year-old to kindergarten because he seems ready. The hard part is, I’m not sure if I’m the best judge of his readiness because I’m his mom. Of course, I think he’s great. Of course, I think he’s super smart. So is he really ready? I did some research to figure out how to determine if your 4-year-old is ready for kindergarten.

I take education very seriously. I have a Ph.D. in education, I’ve worked in higher education for the last decade and both of my parents are retired teachers. Education is such a big part of who I am that I want to ensure I’m setting my own kids up for educational success. A lot of people I’ve talked to have opted to hold their kids back until they are 5 (or in many cases, 6). So why would you hold your kid back if they are actually old enough to start school or they seem ready to go?

Does Holding Them Back Give Them an Advantage?

There is a lot of research about holding kids back until they are 6 and there is very little research that says holding them back gives them an advantage. According to this article, holding kids back is a fad in upper-middle-class circles because parents believe in giving their child every advantage and they want their kids to be ahead of their peers.

Although holding them back would allow them more time to prepare for school, most sources I read reiterated that age does not determine readiness. Instead, it is better to get kids reading and writing as soon as possible. If your child seems ready socially, cognitively and emotionally, there is very little evidence to suggest they will have an advantage by holding them back a year.

Age Does Not Determine School Readiness

Many websites I’ve searched mimicked that age does not determine school readiness. Most educational related websites talked about two factors to determine if your child is ready 1) Social-Emotional Development; 2) Cognitive Ability.

According to this site, your child needs to have the following skills to be ready:

Language & Literacy. Talking and listening to adults and other children. Speaking clearly. Understanding stories. Identifying letters and some letter sounds.

Physical Well-being & Motor Development. Running, jumping, climbing, and playing ball. Buttoning a shirt or zipping up a jacket. Using scissors. Drawing. Writing numbers and letters. Using good health and safety skills.

Mathematics.Counting. Sorting things by color and shape. Copying patterns. Solving problems.

Social Foundations.  Getting along with others. Following rules, routines, and multi-step directions. Handling emotions.  Staying on task.

Questions to Consider to Determine School Readiness

If you’re looking for resources to determine school readiness, I located this list of questions. I could easily answer yes to all but one of them. This is a good resource to start thinking about whether your child is ready. I also loved this website below that included 8 signs your child is ready.

8 signs your child is ready

Here is another resource to consider. If your child meets these 8 signs, he/she might be ready.

  • Follows simple directions – your child must be able and willing to listen to the teacher and follow simple directions.
  • Sits Still – your child doesn’t have to sit still for long periods but should be able to sit still long enough to listen to a story or participate in classroom activities.
  • Uses the Restroom by themselves – your child must be completely potty trained and able to manage the bathroom duties without assistance.
  • Recognizes Some Letters – your child doesn’t need to be able to read before starting kindergarten, but they should know letters.
  • Works on Fine and Gross Motor Skills – your child should have practice with gross motor skills like running and jumping and fine motor skills like holding a pencil and scissors.
  • Gets Along with Peers – your child should know how to get along with others, how to share and how to take turns.
  • Handles Emotions – most 4 or 5-year-olds will still break down in tears from time to time but your child should have coping skills to manage their emotions.
  • Shows and Interest in Learning – it is important that your child likes to listen to stories, sing songs and seems stimulated by information.

Have Your Child Tested

I opted to have my son tested by his home school district. This April, he will undergo a one-hour test to determine if he is ready to start Kindergarten as a four-year-old. Although I’m not sure what this test involves and I don’t know if he will pass, this seems like the best step to determine if he is ready. The school district is familiar with early testing and they have much more experience with educating kindergarteners than I do. I’m going to trust them and their test to determine his readiness, while at the same time, listening to my gut by getting him tested in the first place.

Trust the Experts

The early childhood educators in my school district work with young children all the time. I am relying on their system to determine if he is ready. I’m also going to speak to his preschool teacher to get a sense of her thoughts on his readiness. Although she is not a kindergarten teacher, she has worked with a lot of young children and I think she will have a good sense of his abilities. Further, I have done a lot of research to determine whether age is an important factor, and again and again, I read that age is not what is most important.

Talk to Your Child

Besides all of the other steps, it is important to actually spend time with your child and really pay attention to their interest in school-related things. My son loves to read books, tell and listen to stories, and color and draw. He also loves to point out numbers and letters. All of these are signs he enjoys learning and is curious about the world around him. Earlier this fall when he received his first homework at preschool, he was excited to get started on it the minute we got home. All of these are signs he is ready to learn.

How Parents Can Help

There are a lot of things parents can do to help their children develop academic, social, physical and emotional skills to be ready for school. Some of the most important ways include: reading, talking to your children, singing songs together, playing with your children and letting them be active and engage in problem-solving.

I’m still not sure if my son will start kindergarten at four. Although I do believe he is ready, I’m going to wait to see what the test says and also spend some time talking to his teacher and the early childhood educators in our district. I want to ensure I make the best decision for my son to ensure he is ready and excels in school and flourishes in life.

Stacey Freeman: I am a Style Maven, Mommy, Educator, and Traveler.

View Comments (2)

  • I don't think readiness for school should be the only factor in determining whether you should enroll your child in kindergarden. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I was the youngest child in my class. I didn't turn 17 until Halloween of my senior year. I was VERY ready for kindergarden when I was four but it was a mistake. I always out performed my classmates academically but adolescence and high school in general was difficult for me as was my freshman year of college. I was put into situations that I wasn't emotionally mature enough to handle. Puberty and young adulthood is hard enough, but it's even more difficult when you're a year younger than all your peers.

    Now that I'm a parent I would never start my kids in school at four. I frankly think it's ridiculous and my husband and I value education greatly. We both hold post-graduate degrees but agree that children need time to be kids and play. Why rush it?

    I've also reasearched this topic and it seems that studies are now showing that instructor lead learning at very young ages are actually detrimental to children's learning later on in elementary school. Play plays an important role in how our kids learn about the world and process information later on. Replacing play with instructor-lead learning may ease working-mommy guilt and give you short-term bragging rights about how bright your little one is but I would really implore parents considering putting their four year olds in school to seriously reconsider this. What's ok for your four year old may be terrible for them when they're 15.

    Life is a marathon, not a race.

    • Stacey Freeman says:

      Thanks for your comment Lindy. I completely agree with you that academic readiness is not the only thing. Emotional and social readiness are equally important and I believe I touched on that. I also can understand your personal experience being the youngest. Interestingly, I've spoken to many people (mostly women) who were much younger (over a year) than some of their classmates, and it was not really detrimental to their schooling experience or development. I absolutely am taking my son's emotional and social development into account and have had conversations about whether he will be stigmatized because he would be a whole year younger than some kids. Much of what I've read has led me to the conclusion that age alone does not determine readiness or ultimate academic (or social or emotional) success down the road. Each child is an individual and ultimately, each decision should be made on an individual basis.