Not sure if your child is ready to tackle the world of kindergarten?
For most of us the new school year is just around the corner and that means many children will be off to kindergarten for the first time. BUT is your 5-year-old really ready to start school? This question needs to be taken very seriously especially since so many districts no longer have half day kindergarten only offering full day, which is a load for many young emotionally developing children.
I routinely tell my clients that if your child has a summer birthday date, DO NOT start them. This additional year will allow your child to grow: physically, socially, and to gain the emotional maturity they will need to make their first experience at “real school” fun and enjoyable setting the tone for all future years.
In addition to summer birth dates, I also recommend that if your child has difficulty staying on task, or is developmentally delayed in language or motor skills, it might be wise to give them another year of pre-school to mature and develop. Other areas that are red flags deserving a second look at starting kindergarten next year include if your child is very shy or anxious in preschool and refuse to respond to their teacher, or your son is physically small but otherwise seems ready to go to kindergarten, would his small physical stature be an issue with his peers?
These are all tough issues, but ones that need to be examined by all parents
While many school districts rely on age as the determining factor, some educators believe that the most important aspect to determining if a child is ready for kindergarten is how much previous experience he or she has had in a preschool setting. The social aspects that children learn from preschool are invaluable. Children in preschool explore the world through play, information gained in this way becomes the basis for all areas of your child’s life. Parents may see play as just “fun”, but “play is serious work for a child”. Play helps your child acquire the tools he or she will need in kindergarten.
Here are some benefit from play
- Develop physical skills. Gross motor skills are developed as a child learns to reach, run, climb and balance. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys.
- Develop cognitive concepts. Children learn to solve problems (What does this do? puzzle piece fit here?) through play. Children also learn colors, numbers, size and shapes. They have the ability to enhance their memory skills as well as their attention span. Children move on to higher levels of thought as they play in a more stimulating environment.
- Develop language skills. Language develops as a child plays and interacts with others. This begins with parents playing cooing games with their children and advances to practical levels such as telling make-believe stories and jokes.
- Develop social skills. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are all-important skills learned in early games. These skills grow as the child plays. As a result, children learn the roles and rules of society.
What Your Child Should Know
Schools seem to expect the children entering kindergarten to know a lot more than their parents had to when they went to school. From soup to nuts, they are expected to know certain things when they walk in the door. It’s like they need to hit the ground running, not learn it once they get in.
Some districts test children before or shortly after the school year has started, using the pre-test which screens a child’s physical development, alphabet recognition and his or her knowledge of body parts, colors and shapes. It is just one indicator of their physical and cognitive development —the basic things that a 5-year-old child should know.
If your district has a pre-admission screening and your child doesn’t do well, you should request the test be performed again. If he or she still does not perform well, ask for your child to be re-evaluated three and six months later. That way, if there are any developmental or neurological difficulties, you can get a jump on them right away by contacting a child psychologist, play therapist, and or neurologist.
Kindergarten Readiness Checklist
This checklist will give you an idea on what areas your child is doing well in, and where they may need some extra attention. It’s a good idea to do the checklist, print it out and then work with your child in the areas they need extra help. In a few weeks, do the checklist again to see how much your child has improved.
Fine Motor Skills
1. Puts a 10- to 12-piece puzzle together Yes Not Yet
2. Holds scissors correctly Yes Not Yet
3. Holds a pencil or crayon properly Yes Not Yet
Gross Motor Skills
1. Runs, jumps and skips Yes Not Yet
2. Walks backward Yes Not Yet
3. Walks up and down stairs Yes Not Yet
1. Uses words instead of being physical when angry Yes Not Yet
2. Speaks clearly so an adult can understand him/her Yes Not Yet
3. Plays with other children Yes Not Yet
4. Follows simple directions Yes Not Yet
5. Expresses feelings and needs Yes Not Yet
6. Goes to the bathroom by him/herself Yes Not Yet
7. Waits his/her turn and shares Yes Not Yet
8. Talks in sentences Yes Not Yet
9. Asks questions about things around him/her Yes Not Yet
10. Enjoys having books read to him/her Yes Not Yet
11. Can tell a story about a past event Yes Not Yet
12. Says “please” and “thank you” Yes Not Yet
13. Can spend extended periods away from Mom and Dad Yes Not Yet
1. Recognizes shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle) Yes Not Yet
2. Can sort items by color, shape and size Yes Not Yet
3. Can identify six parts of his/her body Yes Not Yet
4. Understands concept words: up, down, in, out, behind Yes Not Yet
5. Counts from 1 to 10 Yes Not Yet
6. Recognizes five colors Yes Not Yet
7. Tries to write his/her name Yes Not Yet
8. Recognizes his/her written name Yes Not Yet
1. Knows his/her full name Yes Not Yet
2. Knows how old he/she is Yes Not Yet
3. Knows his/her address and telephone number Yes Not Yet
4. Knows his/her mother and father’s first names Yes Not Yet
If You Do Keep Your Child Out for a Year…
So what so you do if you decide to keep your child out of kindergarten for a year? What can you do to make sure he or she is ready when September rolls around again? Getting your child involved in other activities is key, You may think you are doing him a favor by keeping him home with you, but you are not. It could be one of the worst mistakes you can make.
And don’t forget that you the parents are your child’s first and most important teacher, but a parent also needs to know the expectations of the school system their child is going into. If your district has many schools with a variety of academic programs, it is important to look into all of them in order to determine which might be the best fit for your child.
If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com