Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?

kindergarten girl
Photo by eggeegg/Shutterstock

Q: One of my children is a summer baby and the other one is born in early fall. It seems that everyone is holding their summer or fall children back in school and starting kindergarten at age 6 instead of 5. Are there good ways to determine if your child should be held back or sent to kindergarten at age 5?

A: Yes, there are many ways to determine children’s readiness level. Do they like being in a classroom setting (i.e., preschool)? Do they follow directions well? How do they do with other children in a social setting? Do they have basic knowledge of letters and numbers? There are many factors that will affect your decision; your child’s educational, social, and emotional development should all be considered.

Kindergarten can be overwhelming; the classroom environment itself can be an adjustment. Sharing a communal space, including toys, school supplies and seating can be a unique experience. As a former kindergarten teacher, those children who had a hard time adjusting to this setting had trouble in school. It was not due to a lack of ability, but the adjustment issues served as a distraction, which hindered development.

If you have an idea that your child will not adjust well, it can be an indicator that they are not ready for traditional elementary school. This alone is not a reason to hold him back, though it should be considered.

Along with this factor, parents should also take note of their child’s emotional development. School is different than home; kids are not with parents or guardians, it is not their home, and there are different rules. Something as simple as learning to walk in a line or where to sit in the lunchroom can be difficult for some. Expressing a need for a new pencil or asking a question can be hard for a young child.

If your child does not deal with change or separation easily, it can be a sign that they need another year to get ready, to mature. If it takes the child time to warm up to a new situation, but you are confident that it will happen, you might be more inclined to start them and keep an eye out.

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Of course, educational development is a huge factor, but I do not believe it is more important than the other ones. Yes, if your child reads, whether in a conventional sense or just opens books and looks at pictures, colors, “writes,” and can identify shapes and numbers, these are great signs. Many of these children want to learn more and quickly come to understand that they are in school for a reason. These children enjoy listening to stories, answering questions and completing projects. Usually, they will adjust to the setting, even if it takes them a few weeks.

The desire to learn will motivate them to adjust to a formal school setting faster. In fact, they will thrive on this love of learning and enjoy sitting at a table as much as listening to a story being read aloud.

The most important thing to remember is that all three of these do not need to be aligned perfectly because no child or situation is perfect! What matters is that you feel your child is mature enough to handle being away from you, to problem solve on their own, and respect authority. If they are willing to learn, listen to others, and try their best, you are good to go.

As a teacher, I would much rather have a student who is still learning letters and numbers, follows directions, and gets along well with others than a student who can read and write, but cannot handle a classroom setting. I can teach strategies to improve reading development, but emotional development is not something you teach – it often just needs time to develop.

Be true to yourself and your child, and if your instinct is telling you that they are not ready, they probably need more time. If you choose to introduce your child to kindergarten, keep lines of communication open and be honest with your child’s teacher. You know your child better than anyone – never forget that!

Amanda Lehrman is a wife, mother, and educator of 17 years. For the past 10 years, she has been working as an educator in the gifted and talented program in the Edison Township public schools. She is also the founder of Noodle Notes which are child centered sticky notes focusing on motivational/inspirational messages or interesting animal fun facts! Amanda lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and daughter.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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