Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?

It's quite common to wonder whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten. There are a lot of factors involved, and it's not always easy to know what the best choice for your child's well-being is.

Common Reasons for Waiting to Begin Kindergarten

Many parents choose to hold their kids back from kindergarten, for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is simply that their child has a late birthday, and the parents must choose whether their child will be the youngest in the class or the oldest. Similarly, the child may have been a premature infant, and is actually younger, physically, than her age suggests.

Parents commonly wait to enroll their child in kindergarten if the child has a developmental delay of some sort, or if he or she struggles with behavior problems. The child may have problems related to their speech and language development, or a physical disability. Any of these might be a good reason to wait before having your child start kindergarten, but you should do your research before making a final decision.

Before You Decide...

This is an important decision, one you don't want to make too hastily. Before you decide one way or the other, you should meet with your child's current teacher (his or her preschool teacher), and ask some questions:

How is your child doing when compared with his peers? Is he struggling in only one certain area, or is he falling behind across the board? If he is falling behind, what interventions has the teacher tried, and how well did they work? Can your child attend a summer program to catch up? If your child does stay behind, what will the teacher do to help him improve? Does the teacher suspect a learning disability of some sort, and should your child be referred for testing?

Additionally, you should also talk to your child's potential kindergarten teacher. Ask what the teacher will do to help students who are falling behind, and what resources are available to support your child's development.

How to Tell that Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten

Again, this issue of deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten is influenced by a huge number of variables, and there is no one right answer for everyone. However, children who thrive in kindergarten tend to share some common traits, which you can watch for in your child. If your child displays some or most of these traits, chances are he'll do just fine in kindergarten. Children who are ready for kindergarten are:

  • Making measurable progress in preschool
  • Developmentally on target, when compared to their peers
  • Able to adapt to difficult tasks
  • Able to use the bathroom, wash their hands, and dress themselves independently (or with little assistance)
  • Able to use scissors correctly, and can cut out simple shapes and figures
  • Able to listen and attend for as long as twenty minutes
  • Able to speak in short sentences (which include a verb and a noun)
  • Able to follow simple directions
  • Able to understand common household words
  • Able to understand and follow stories
  • Able to draw common items and objects, and can trace at a simple, beginner level
  • Able to follow routines

In Summary In the end, only you can decide whether your child is ready for kindergarten or not. Even if you think your child is not ready yet to move on, make sure you speak with his teachers (both his current teacher and his kindergarten teacher) to discern what level he's actually at, and whether he could succeed with some assistance. If waiting turns out to be the best choice, find out what additional help your child needs, and make sure he gets it. Holding your child back now, very early in his educational career, is typically much easier, emotionally, than holding him back further down the road.

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