Two girls on their way to kindergarten
Image by EME

Two girls heading for kindergarten

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

For parents of children entering kindergarten in the fall, the summer before school begins can be an anxious time. For some parents, it seems the preschool years have slipped away too quickly; the child who was so recently an infant and then a tiny toddler may seem too inexperienced to take a giant step away from home. Other parents may be alarmed by stories about the increasing academic pressures on young children and wonder whether their children will be able to cope successfully. Even parents of children who have attended day care or preschool programs may worry about the giant step forward into kindergarten.

Many knowledgeable school administrators and teachers share with parents the desire for developmentally appropriate kindergartens. Such programs provide a pleasant, gentle introduction to school, respecting the close relationships between parents and children, while encouraging children to become independent learners. Parents in all communities have the right and responsibility to advocate programs of this kind.

Is your child ready for kindergarten? Kindergarten readiness is most apparent in children who:

  1. See themselves as capable and competent. Because they have had many experiences with success, these children tackle new demands with an "I can do it!" attitude.
  2. Have an open, curious attitude toward new experiences, such as going to a friend's house to play, exploring a park or finding new books at the library.
  3. Enjoy being with children of their own age as evidenced by conversations about playing with friends or looking forward to activities that involve them with peers.
  4. Can leave home and establish a trusting relationship with an adult (day care provider, neighbor, sitter, etc.)
  5. Are able to walk, run, hop, crawl and climb. (Many children with handicapping conditions will have a fine time in kindergarten if school and parents work cooperatively on necessary special arrangements.)
  6. Take care of their own self-care needs (dressing, eating, using the toilet, blowing his nose). It's helpful if they can also open and shut their lunch boxes, hang up their own jackets and use a water fountain.
  7. Have some experience with small toys and tools, such as building sets, puzzles, scissors and crayons.
  8. Express themselves clearly in conversations with friends and familiar adults. Some schools suggest that children should know their names, addresses and telephone numbers before starting kindergarten.
  9. Understand that symbols (letters, numerals, and shapes) are used to provide useful information. For example, combinations of letters can tell you a person's name, a "STOP" sign means that the car must stop and a certain combination of numerals on the remote control allows you to find a favorite TV program. This does not mean that a kindergarten child should be able to read.
  10. Love books, stories and songs and can sit still to listen to favorites. Reading books or telling stories about going to kindergarten is a useful, pleasant way to let children know what they can expect at school.

These 10 signs of readiness are more important than a child's chronological age and far more important than the ability to recite the alphabet or count to 100. Most children will be ready for kindergarten without special tutoring or "lessons." A relaxed environment with opportunities to explore a variety of objects and play experiences, supervised contacts with friends and relationships with adults who are interested in talking with and listening to children provide the most appropriate preparation for kindergarten.

Source: Jennifer Birckmayer, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, New York State College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 5

Last updated December 14, 2015