Kindergarten: Is Your Child Really Ready?

Spring is the season when many schools begin to hold orientations for incoming kindergarteners and their parents. If your child is five or will be turning five soon, you're probably beginning to think about where your child may be attending kindergarten and how to prepare them. But is your child ready for kindergarten? It's not uncommon for parents of kindergarteners to complain that much more is expected of their child than was expected of them at that age, or even than was expected of their older children. It turns out that this isn't an exaggeration: researchers have found a marked increase in academic expectations for kindergarteners, resulting in classrooms where kindergarten is now basically equivalent to first grade. This should prompt parents to take a close look at whether their child is really ready to handle the rigors of the kindergarten classroom.

Communication Skills

Kindergarten classrooms are a very verbal environment, and good verbal communication skills are an important part of kindergarten readiness. Can your child make themselves understood by using only their words? For example, if they need to go to the bathroom, can they express that in terms that adults other than their parents would understand?

In addition to their ability to make themselves understood, their ability to listen and comprehend directions is important as well. If you ask your child to complete a task that involves several steps, can they complete it or will they need to be repeatedly reminded of the next step in the sequence? Being able to follow multi-step directions will help your child succeed in a classroom setting.

Literacy Skills

Of all the academic skills that are emphasized in the kindergarten classroom, the one that gets the heaviest emphasis is reading. If your child isn't showing signs of reading readiness, they may struggle in kindergarten.

There are several important signs that will let you know if your child is ready to read. Do they show interest in books and stories? Do they show signs of print awareness? Print awareness means that they understand how to read books – they can identify the cover, they know how and when to turn a page, and they aren't holding the book upside down or sideways. They should also grasp the concept of sounding out words, even if they can't do it themselves yet. They should also be able to identify letters and rhyming sounds. If your child isn't showing any of these signs, they may not be developmentally ready to read just yet.

Social Skills

Much of the work done in kindergarten (and beyond) is done in large or small groups. However, it can take time and practice for children to gain the ability to work in groups. If your child hasn't spent very much time with other children, in a pre-k program or in informal settings like playdates, they may not have had the chance to develop this ability yet.

Observe your child with other children. Can they share a toy? Take turns? Are they happy to play cooperatively or do they prefer playing alone? If your child has difficulty with group or one-on-one interaction with other children, they may need more preparation before entering kindergarten.

If Your Child Isn't Ready

If you know or suspect that your child isn't ready for kindergarten, you do have options. Some schools offer kindergarten readiness screenings, which can give you an informed idea of where your child is struggling and what you need to work on. However, it's also perfectly acceptable to use your own observation and knowledge of your child to make a decision about kindergarten – you know your child best, after all.

If your child is not ready, you can decide to keep them home for an additional year and work on increasing their kindergarten readiness yourself. This practice is known as redshirting. Or, you may decide to enroll them in a pre-kindergarten program to help prepare them for the classroom. You may also want to look into private kindergarten programs in your area, even if you were otherwise planning to use public schools. Private kindergartens can set their own standards and curricula, so you may be able to find one that's run more like kindergartens in the past, with more focus on play and learning to navigate the classroom and fewer academic expectations. This can be a particularly good choice if your child is on the border – not quite ready for kindergarten, but too advanced for preschool or bored at home.

Only you can decide what kindergarten option is best for your child. What's important is that you take the time to honestly evaluate your child's readiness and consider all of your options before enrolling them in their first classroom. For more information about the process, contact a company like Triple R Child Care.