Registering your child for Kindergarten can be incredibly exciting. There’s just so much to look forward to! Your kiddo will take their first steps towards learning in a formal environment, discovering new words, bigger numbers, and wondrous ideas.
But parents and their children both may also experience feelings of reluctance and anxiety. After all, is your child ready for Kindergarten? There are so many social, emotional, and cognitive skills that kids need before they even set foot in a classroom. Given that many families have the option of deferring Kindergarten for a year, it’s no wonder there’s some hesitation. So how can you know if your child is ready?
Most specialists recommend using several touchstones and goalposts to evaluate whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Using concrete criteria can help you decide whether to send your kiddo to school or hold off for a year.
Getting your Child Ready for Kindergarten
As families start considering formal education, many experts recommend looking at some cognitive and social benchmarks to determine whether your child is ready for the big leap to school! Some of those benchmarks include the following:
Every child develops speech-related skills at a different pace. Before your typically developing child enters Kindergarten, therefore, most experts recommend that your child:
- Demonstrates the ability to listen and follow instructions: Kindergarten teachers are specially trained to help young kids follow directions and pay attention. Still, getting your kid ready for Kindergarten means ensuring they can follow simple, one or two-step instructions. Three to four step instructions.
- Can get along with peers: Ideally, before your kiddo enters Kindergarten, they will be able communicate with their peers. Examples of successful communication could be something as simple as taking turns, playing cooperatively or sharing a favorite toy. Your child need not be an expert in these skills, of course, but Kindergarten teachers would likely appreciate some displayed competencies are important
- Recognize some letters or numbers: Kindergarteners do not need to be proficient in reading before enrollment! However, it is beneficial if children in this age group are able to recognize some letters, sounds, and numbers.
- Is able to communicate with adults and peers: Your child doesn’t need to be a communications expert by any means. But most children who enter Kindergarten should be able to communicate practically–though not necessarily fully–both with peers and with adults.
Pre-Kindergarten curriculum will vary from state to state. However, most parents should keep an eye on the following academic benchmarks when it comes to getting your typically developing child ready for Kindergarten:
- The ability to write the child’s own name.
- Demonstrated ability to independently count to 10.
- An expressed curiosity or demonstrated interest in certain topics.
Your child’s ability to use and control their body will have an impact on their learning in a formal setting. Experts recommend considering the following benchmarks:
- Impulse control: It’s normal for young children to have trouble with impulse control. Ideally, impulse control skills will have developed at least enough to allow kids to pay attention and limit disruptive behaviors.
- Sitting still: While teachers may try their best to keep a classroom an active place of learning, a fair amount of education still happens when a child is sitting. As a result, your typically developing Kindergartner-to-be should be able to sit still and attend for the duration of a story or a short lesson (this doesn’t mean their attention doesn’t wander, of course).
- Using the restroom: In general, most schools require that your child be able to use the restroom on their own. Again, children don’t have to be perfect, but they should be mostly self-sufficient before they begin Kindergarten.
- The ability to use scissors and glue: If you remember anything about Kindergarten, you probably remember the sheer number of craft projects. As a result, children should demonstrate the motor skills necessary to use basic implements, such as pencils, safety scissors, and glue.
As you get your child ready for Kindergarten, there are some other behavior benchmarks you may want to stay aware of. In general, parents may want to pay attention to how well their kids express emotions and empathize with other children. It’s also helpful if your child is actively stimulated by learning new things–even if those things are in areas where your child already has an interest.
What Can Parents Do to Help?
Parents can play an especially important role when it comes to getting their kids ready for Kindergarten. Learning and enrichment in the home environment can give Pre-K students the confidence to tackle concepts introduced in Kindergarten. But the help of parents need not be confined to practicing math problems or reciting the alphabet. There are many ways you can help get your kiddo ready for Kindergarten.
Health and Wellness
One of the first and most important steps is ensuring that children stay happy and healthy. Usually, this means keeping up with wellness visits and promoting good health with age-appropriate nutrition and exercise.
Scheduling regular wellness visits will also give your child’s pediatrician the opportunity to examine your Kindergartener-to-be for motor, speech, and emotional development. Charting your kiddo’s progress can help make sure that your child is physically prepared for Kindergarten. And, if deficiencies are found, your pediatrician will be able to recommend therapies and remedies.
In terms of academics, one of the single most influential things parents can do is read aloud to their children. This has demonstrably been shown to significantly increase aptitudes for reading and language development over time. In fact, reading to your children can promote many Kindergarten-readiness skills, including:
- Encouraging the understanding that printed words have a meaning behind them: Children will learn, essentially, that written words have a meaning on par with spoken language.
- The recognition of similar sounds: Rhymes are a common example of how children can pick up on similar word sounds.
- The recognition of numbers, colors, and shapes: These are represented in a wide variety of ways in children’s books.
- Emotional skills: Kids can learn empathy and social and emotional skills from stories and books.
- Vocabulary skills: Children can learn all kinds of new words from listening to their parents read.
- Letters and sounds: By trying to read along or becoming familiar with stories, kids can begin to associate certain letters with specific sounds.
All of these skills can help Pre-K children get ready for Kindergarten. That’s why parents are so strongly encouraged to read regularly to their children.
Getting your kid ready for Kindergarten could also include taking advantage of structured learning possibilities that come along. Enrichment opportunities could include everything from swimming lessons to small group activities to online class on a topic that energizes the child. These enrichment activities are often community based, giving your soon-to-be-Kindergartener an opportunity to blend academic development with social and emotional learning.
Examples of community-based enrichment activities could include:
- Organized story times at neighborhood bookstores and libraries
- Trips to zoos or museums.
- Community programs based in local city or county parks.
- Playgroups with local neighborhood kids.
- Formal preschools or Head Start programs.
Seeking out enrichment opportunities within your community can give your kiddo a safe, relaxed way to practice their independence in short increments. This approach can help your child get used to the idea of structured learning slowly–and comfortably.
Kindergarten is Just Around the Corner
If you want to know more about your child’s journey to Kindergarten, or if you have concerns about ensuring that your child is ready, consider contacting us to schedule an appointment. We offer pediatric speech therapy, pediatric occupational therapy, and pediatric nutritional support services to children in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. You can also take advantage of our free virtual office hours to chat directly with a speech language pathologist about getting your child ready for Kindergarten!