The transition to kindergarten represents a major milestone, for both you and your child. Five is the minimum age for kindergarten, but cutoff dates for turning five vary by state. Simply meeting the cutoff date does not mean your child should automatically begin kindergarten. Several factors determine a child’s readiness to start kindergarten.
The skills and abilities of five-year-old children vary significantly. While five is the minimum age, it is more a general guideline. If your five-year-old lacks certain readiness skills, he is more likely to struggle in kindergarten. A child who is too far behind and remains behind the entire year will probably end up repeating kindergarten. While there is nothing wrong with repeating a grade, the experience could be emotionally difficult on a child.
The kindergarten curriculum covers the basics, but some knowledge of letters and numbers gives your child a head start when she starts school. Scholastic suggests a child should be able to recognize most letters, count to 10 and recognize numbers one to five. Shape and color recognition is also a way to determine your child’s readiness for kindergarten. Rather than drilling your child, try finding letters and numbers in your surroundings to assess your child’s knowledge. You might ask her to name letters on a sign or read the numbers on your home.
The skills your child exhibits also play a role in determining readiness for kindergarten. He needs oral language skills to communicate thoughts and knowledge. Language skills also aid in learning to read. Listening skills go along with language skills. Your child should be able to listen to basic instructions and carry them out. Kindergarten requires lots of drawing, writing, coloring and cutting with scissors, so fine motor skills to control the necessary tools are another indicator of school readiness.
A lack of developed social skills affects a child’s kindergarten experience in many cases. A child needs a sense of independence for using the restroom, dressing and feeding. The ability to interact positively with peers is also key for kindergarten children. Watch your child interact with other kids her age. Look for things like taking turns, sharing and solving problems when they arise with peers.
If you’re unsure about your child’s readiness after assessing his skills in the different areas, consider a trip to a kindergarten classroom. Seeing other kindergarten students in the classroom gives you a chance to evaluate how well your own child might fit in. A kindergarten teacher in your school district might also help you figure out if your child is ready.