The Kindergarten Conundrum: Is My Child Ready?

It’s likely that your memories of kindergarten consist of learning letters, numbers, colors, and how to sit quietly on a rug during story time. But with the advent of more rigorous academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the modern kindergarten curriculum now reflects the fact that academic testing begins as early as first grade. Today’s kindergarteners don’t only learn how to share with others and take turns, but they are also taught fundamental math and reading skills.

As a mother of a preschooler, you’re probably making yourself crazy wondering if your child is prepared for the full academic experience. Your decision may be even more difficult if your child’s birthday falls close to your local school district’s age cut-off date. So how do you determine if your son or daughter is ready?

I Can Do It Myself!
As a parent, you’re probably most concerned about your child’s social, academic, or emotional readiness. But a child’s physical readiness is just as important. Small and gross motor skills develop at different speeds. By kindergarten, your child should be able to bounce a ball, skip and run, hold a crayon, and wield scissors. He should also be able to manage a trip to the bathroom on his own, including being able to manipulate his zippers, buttons, and belt.

I’m A Big Boy Now!
Is your child capable of sitting and focusing for a reasonable span of time? Does he listen to adults and follow through, at least most of the time, in what is asked of him? Are her language skills sufficient to communicate effectively with the teacher and fellow students? Has he developed reasonable control of his physical and emotional impulses? Has she learned how to follow rules and play well with others? A student with advanced social and emotional skills will thrive in a kindergarten environment.

I Want To Do It Myself!
One of the most important indicators of readiness is enthusiasm. Is your child dreading the first day of school, or is he excited about the new experience? Some children take longer to develop the self-confidence to step out alone. Is he curious about the world? Does he ask questions and listen to explanations? Does he show a twinkling of independence by taking some initiative in self-care, such as putting away his toys, hanging up his backpack, or kicking off muddy shoes before he runs into the house? If a child is excited to learn, he’ll advance by leaps and bounds.

Choosing whether to send a kid to kindergarten or to “red-shirt” him for a year is the first academic decision you’ll make for your child. Though you can find many kindergarten readiness checklists, remember that no list of milestones can trump the sharp instincts of an active, aware, and loving parent.

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