Niche Resources

How to Know If Your Child Is Ready for Kindergarten

How do I know if my child is ready for kindergarten? It’s a question every parent or guardian asks him/herself as their child approaches the time when kindergarten looms. As parents and guardians, we want to do everything we can to make sure our children start off their educational career on the right foot.

But what can we do to best prepare our children for kindergarten? What signs should we look for that indicate our child is indeed ready to begin kindergarten, or that perhaps you should redshirt?

While getting the input of a respected experienced educator who is familiar with your child is helpful, it’s important for parents and guardians to know they can play a role in preparing their child for kindergarten.

Skills a Child Ideally (But not Necessarily) Demonstrates by the Time They Enter Kindergarten

Emotional Skills Academic Skills
Emotional Skills Ability to separate
Academic Skills Interest in reading
Emotional Skills Ability to transition from activity to activity
Academic Skills Familiarity with the alphabet
Emotional Skills Ability to advocate for oneself
Academic Skills Understanding of numbers/quantity
Emotional Skills Curiosity
Academic Skills
Emotional Skills Gets along with others
Academic Skills

Emotional Readiness

The first step to being ready for kindergarten resolves around emotions. Alina Adams is a school consultant and the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten.” She works with dozens of families every year to find the best school for their child, speaks to groups and contributes to a national blog, New York School Talk. Adams points to a few things for children to do to show they are emotionally ready for kindergarten. These include separating, transitioning from activity to activity, and advocating for oneself. While these skills are important, Adams notes that if a child cries occasionally when separating, or periodically struggles to separate, or does not always advocate for him/herself, it’s not a problem. “If a child categorically does not do these things, it could mean he or she is not ready to be in a kindergarten classroom.”

Sascha Mowrey, assistant professor of early childhood in the childhood education and family studies department at Missouri State University, also spent eight years in the classroom working with children. Mowrey believes curiosity is an important indicator that a child is emotionally ready for kindergarten. “Does the child engage with the world around them, ask questions, show curiosity about other kids? These are things parents should see in their children as they reach age 4 and 4-and-a-half to indicate the child is emotionally ready for kindergarten.”

After 36 years of experience in a kindergarten classroom, serving as an instructional teacher leader, and being an intervention specialist, Judy Smizik has seen just about everything an educator can in the kindergarten classroom. According to Smizik, a key indicator that children are emotionally ready for kindergarten is if they can get along with others. “If children can get along with other children their age, participate in group activities, share and have empathy for others, then they are emotionally prepared for kindergarten,” says Smizik.

“When coming into kindergarten, there’s a large chronological age difference between the youngest and oldest children, so there are different expectations regarding readiness.”

What if your child does not have these traits that the experts noted above? All of them preach caution and suggest parents not overreact. “When coming into kindergarten, there’s a large chronological age difference between the youngest and oldest children, so there are different expectations regarding readiness,” says Smizik. “As the year progresses, teachers are looking for progress and development in the children to see if the child is ready to move on to next level.”

Parents can also help children develop skills. One key way to do this is modeling. For example, if your child is not showing curiosity about the world around him/her, you can do some things to show him or her how it’s done. You can ask questions about things going on and voice your curiosity. You can also offer your child a range of experiences and turn each errand into a learning experiences. While playing with your child, you have an opportunity to model behaviors you want to see in the child including taking turns. Role playing situations with your child is another time to model desired behaviors. “Modeling actions can inspire children as kids learn through actions,” says Mowrey.

Academic Readiness

The experts noted that academic readiness is secondary to emotional readiness when it comes to being ready for school. “Teachers are less concerned with what children know coming in, and are more concerned if children can come in, sit down, and follow multi-step directions,” says Adams. Mowrey concurs, “The child doesn’t have to be ready academically as the goal is to introduce information in kindergarten.”

However, there are things a parent/guardian can do to help their child academically. Number one on that list for Smizik is reading to a child. “One of best things to create a love of learning and literature is to read to a child,” says Smizik. “When the book is done, ask questions about the story which is what will happens in school and therefore prepares the child for a classroom situation.” She also says a familiarity with the alphabet and number sense (understanding of quantity) are helpful. However, a child can be successful even if they do not have these skills.

The Bottom Line

So while ideally your child will exhibit certain traits and have some skills, not all children will be in the same place. This is to expected. Success can occur with time, modeling, and growth. By the way, remember transitions take time. Experts say those first days, weeks, and even month are about learning routines. Give the experience some time and most children will adapt just fine to kindergarten.

Find a great kindergarten in your area

Author: Larry Bernstein

Larry Bernstein lives in North Jersey with his wife and two sons. In addition to serving as an adjunct and tutor, Larry is a freelance writer who focuses on education, construction, and retail. He has been seeing green rainbows since his beloved Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl.