This is the first in a three-part series on Kindergarten readiness.
How do you know if your child is ready to start Kindergarten? Most children enter Kindergarten around the age of five, but since some states like New York do not mandate Kindergarten, children can be anywhere from four to six years old when they begin. In some schools, your child may not be eligible to attend before the age of five.
Beyond age, children experience the most success when they are developmentally ready for the challenges of a structured Kindergarten program. Depending on their maturity and academic readiness, many parents are opting to postpone Kindergarten for a year. This practice is called redshirting and gives the child another year to develop the social, emotional, and behavioral skills necessary to meet the demands of a Kindergarten program.
For kids who need the extra year, parents invest in preschool programs that serve dual purposes; they get your child kindergarten-ready and prepare them for the structure and routine of a more formalized classroom environment. A good preschool program also teaches students the social, emotional, and language skills that serve as a foundation for sound decision making, confidence building, and developing a positive sense of self.
So how can you determine if your child is ready to start?
Nine signs your child is ready for Kindergarten
In Kindergarten, your child will be asked to follow the rules and directions, focus on school work, and pay attention. Here are the nine most common traits that demonstrate that your child is poised for success.
- Sits still and stays quiet for short periods of times
- Separates from parents
- Plays with peers
- Makes eye contact
- States their first and last name
- Recognizes and writes their first name
- Knows basic colors and shapes
- Shows an interest in learning
- Demonstrates self-help skills
Partner with your preschool teacher to determine readiness. They can give you an honest assessment based on their interactions with your child.
How can I prepare my child for Kindergarten?
Almost everything you do at home is a learning opportunity. Brain development occurs at a rapid pace between the ages of 0-6 years old. At age 3, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size. Therefore, your interactions have an exponential impact on prepping your child for Kindergarten. Here are some ways you can support your child’s natural curiosity:
- Read and talk about books. Visit your local library to see what captures your child’s attention. Books with repetition, bright colors, animals, and things that “go” are often popular at this age. See if your child can predict what word will come next based on the pictures to engage them in the reading process further.
- Play board games. Board games teach children how to take turns, talk to each other one-on-one, and how to practice good sportsmanship whether they win or lose.
- Talk, talk, talk! Have conversations about a variety of topics. Exposure to topics such as nature, the way things work, and differences and similarities in a community help children’s language explode.
- Develop routines. Choose regular times for your child to eat, play, and sleep each day. Routines will help your child know what to expect and what is expected of them. It will also help them feel confident and safe while giving them the tools to handle changes to the routine.
- Read, rhyme, and play games with your child. Language development is critical for children, and natural curiosity will begin to develop with exposure. Games that ask children to find matches, similarities, and differences or beginning word sounds all are great for kids at this age.
- Encourage socialization. Promote your child’s social development by signing them up for group activities, inviting friends to go on outings, and hosting supervised playdates. Formal and informal social opportunities are the most significant ways for children to learn through play.
- Let your child feel success and failure. Don’t wrap your child in bubble wrap. Give them age-appropriate tasks that challenge them in different ways. Skinned knees and spilled milk are good for kids. It helps them manage their feelings when you are not there. Let them be proud of what they can do on their own without your help.
- Enroll your child in preschool. Preschool introduces children to an educational environment and will teach them the academic, social, and emotional skills that will give them an advantage in Kindergarten.
What if my child is not ready? Does that mean there is something wrong?
Preschool teachers are masters of this age and communicate with families about readiness. Together you and your preschool teacher can meet the child where they are and create a personalized plan. You can also consult with your pediatrician to assess readiness. At Rippowam Cisqua School, we work with families to assess the individual needs of each child and determine the best fit for the long term success of your child. Our early childhood program provides two preschool programs (Junior PreKindergarten and Senior PreKindergarten) for ages 3-6 that serve as pathways for students to enter Kindergarten when they are developmentally ready. Remember, there is no rush to attend Kindergarten. Keep the big picture in mind.
What if my child is gifted? Should she start Kindergarten early?
In almost every case, children should not start Kindergarten early even if they are gifted. Academic success is a critical part of the school experience, but social success is equally as crucial. Choosing a program that can extend learning is what matters rather than racing your children along before they are socially ready to do so. The gift of time can be everything for a child, and they’ll get where they need to by the end of their academic journey.
If you need additional help evaluating whether your child is ready for Kindergarten, contact the Rippowam Cisqua School Admissions. Early childhood education is our specialty, and we are masters at extending learning. We can help you determine readiness and, if not, introduce you to our Junior and Senior PreKindergarten programs.