Starting kindergarten is a big milestone for every child.
When to start kindergarten is a big decision for every parent.
Is my child ready? Do they know enough? What if they’re the youngest? The oldest? Does it matter?
The short answer is “it depends.” Children between 4 and 6 vary greatly in terms of physical growth, cognitive development, and emotional maturity.
If your child is currently in pre-kindergarten, here are some considerations to help you determine when they’re ready for kindergarten.
A quality pre-k helps your child acquire the academic skills needed for kindergarten. Here are a few examples:
- Recognizing letters and numbers
- Counting to ten or greater
- Reading and writing his or her own name
- Speaking in short, complete sentences
- Matching rhyming words
- Retelling a short story
Like most kids, your child likely excels in some activities but may need more work on others. That’s okay! A good kindergarten teacher will be prepared to help students with a variety of strengths and challenges.
Physical Development and Independence
Many parents worry about whether their child is too short — or too tall — compared to other students. Please rest assured: kindergarteners come in all shapes and sizes!
More important than height are the other physical milestones your child reaches before kindergarten:
- Fine motor skills such as holding a pencil, writing, drawing or cutting with scissors
- Gross motor skills like running, jumping, throwing a ball and riding a tricycle or bike with training wheels
- Self-care such as using the restroom or fastening buttons independently
While academics are important, social skills also impact your child’s ability to learn new things and get along with teachers and classmates.
- Basic etiquette like sharing, taking turns and listening while someone else is talking
- Following simple instructions of 1 or 2 steps
- Sitting still while listening to a short story or participating in a lesson
- Ability to wait: this includes standing in line, raising one’s hand before talking and asking for permission to use the restroom
- Ability to verbalize one’s emotions and tell a trusted adult if there is a problem
Kindergarten Readiness Expectations
Kindergarten places new demands on children. A quality pre-k program helps your child get ready for this:
- New teachers and classmates
- New academic skills
- More structured lessons
- Ability to work independently
- Greater expectations for following directions
Talk to your child’s current teachers and pediatrician. They will provide a good assessment of your child’s development and when they are ready for the next level.
Investigate kindergarten programs in your area. Take a tour of local schools and talk to principals and teachers. Be sure to ask lots of questions:
- What are the academic requirements for new students? What new things will your child be learning?
- How is the program structured? Do the kids listen to lectures all day, or does the school provide a balance of formal lessons with free time?
- How much time will your child spend on group and independent activities?
- What are the behavioral expectations?
What About Redshirting Kindergarten?
Many schools require children to turn 5 before September 1 for fall enrollment in kindergarten.
As a result, kids with summer birthdays, especially August, will be about 20% younger than those with September birthdays.
Some parents “redshirt” their kids by waiting until they turn 6 to start kindergarten. But is this the right move for your child? So far the evidence is mixed.
- Some studies have found that redshirting may help with test scores and paying attention. One long-term study found that redshirted students had higher math and reading scores in 10th grade.
- Others have reported negative results for kids who wait too long to start kindergarten. For example, a 2006 study found that those who redshirted had lower test scores and were less likely to attend college.
So, what’s a parent to do?
The bottom line is that age alone does not determine kindergarten readiness. While some kids will be ready to go at a younger age, others may benefit from waiting a little longer. Most will do fine if they start right on time.
At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and Preschool®, we understand that every child is unique. That’s why we follow a development-based transition model. For example, our students move from the 2-year-old class to the 3-year-old class when they are ready.
We keep you fully informed about your child’s progress through frequent updates and regular parent-teacher conferences. That way, you’ll be confident that your child is truly ready when it’s time to start kindergarten!
If you have questions about our pre-k curriculum, contact a location near you today!
Related blog posts: