What does my child need to know before kindergarten?
How to recite the alphabet? Count to 10? Tie shoelaces? Or is there something more to this puzzle?
For many parents, the first 5 years seem to fly by overnight. Before you know it, it’s time for kindergarten! A high-quality pre-k curriculum can help ensure that your child is ready for success in school and in life.
But what, exactly, is kindergarten readiness?
According to one early childhood expert, kindergarten readiness is an interactive concept. It includes a child’s individual level of development across multiple domains and a school’s readiness to address every child’s unique learning needs.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The reality is that there is no single definition of kindergarten readiness. It must be assessed on an individual basis.
Here are two big things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Every child is unique. What if your child picks up a large vocabulary quickly, but takes a little longer to get the hang of addition and subtraction? No problem. Children develop at varying rates, and every child will begin kindergarten with a different set of needs.
- What is your state’s kindergarten entry age? Many states require a child to turn 5 before September 1 to enter kindergarten, but exact cutoff dates vary by state. What if your child has a late summer birthday that would make them the youngest in the class? That’s okay! A high-quality school will be prepared to serve kids with varying levels of development, including those who are younger than their peers.
Consider Overall Development
Academic skills are important, but don’t just focus on how many questions your child can answer correctly! Kindergarten readiness includes overall development across many different areas.
It also bears repeating: By the first day of kindergarten, most kids will not have “mastered” all of these skills. Some will have made significant progress in some areas while still needing work in other domains.
- Physical development. This isn’t just about how tall your child is. Physical development includes gross motor skills like jumping, dancing or hopping one foot, as well as fine motor skills like writing and painting. Kindergarteners will also be expected to be independent with self-care routines like handwashing, getting dressed and using the restroom.
- Social skills. Kindergarteners should be able to develop positive relationships with peers and know how to ask adults for help. Other important social skills include taking turns, sharing, and showing concern for the feelings of others. It’s also fine if your child is not a big talker. It’s normal for some kids to be outgoing while others are more reserved in social settings.
- Emotional skills and self-regulation. Closely related to social skills, emotional development includes the ability to express one’s feelings appropriately. Kindergarteners are generally expected to pay attention, follow simple directions, and participate in activities appropriately.
- Language and literacy. By kindergarten, your child will have an ever-expanding vocabulary. Other kindergarten-level language milestones include recognizing letters, reading short sentences and writing simple words including one’s own name!
- Math and science skills. Kindergarteners will be expected to be able to count — but it’s normal if some kids can go higher than others! Other important math and science skills for kindergarten include naming numbers, recognizing number shapes, measuring and comparing small quantities, and recognizing spatial and positional relationships.
- General cognitive skills. Learning isn’t just about memorizing facts and formulas! By the time they start kindergarten, most kids have also started developing intellectual skills that will help them in all subjects. These include problem-solving, exploring cause and effect, working with patterns, sorting objects and reasoning abilities.
Choose a School that’s “Child Ready”
Finally, it isn’t just kids who need to be “kindergarten ready!” The National Association for the Education of Young Children offers a few tips for selecting a kindergarten that’s well-prepared to meet your child’s needs.
- Does the curriculum build on prior learning? Look for a school that offers meaningful learning experiences with an emphasis on hands-on activities. A quality program will also have a good balance of child-directed and teacher-guided experiences.
- Does the school account for individual differences? Your child needs a school that’s prepared to meet them where they are. Great kindergarten teachers know that all kids will be further along on some skills than others, and will know how to build on strengths while addressing challenges.
- When selecting a kindergarten, ask about teacher training and resources. Do the teachers have knowledge of child development and education? Are classes small enough to give adequate attention to individual students? Do classroom materials promote curiosity and active engagement with the lesson?
As you can see, kindergarten readiness is a multi-faceted concept. It includes an assessment of many areas of your child’s development, as well as a prospective school’s readiness to provide a great learning experience.
At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool ®, our Pre-Kindergarten program sharpens the skills your child will need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond!
If you’d like to learn more, visit a location near you today!
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