When is a Child Ready for Kindergarten?

by Marie on March 30, 2010

As a former Kindergarten teacher, I get asked a lot of questions from family and friends about their young school aged children. One of the most common questions is regarding if/when a child is ready to start Kindergarten. Is she ready? Is she big enough? Should he be the youngest in the class or the oldest in next year’s class? My answer is always the same: every situation is different and it depends on the child.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the child’s birthday is at the beginning of the school year or at the very end. What matters most is the child’s development in these 3 areas: emotional, social, and cognitive (educational). Here are a few things to consider if you’re making a decision about when your child should start Kindergarten:

  • Emotional: Going to Kindergarten can be a very big deal to a child. It’s a large school with lots of rooms and children. To some, it can be a scary place, so you need to decide if your child is ready for this type of environment. Your child’s day will be fill with structure and routines. It can be hard for a child to sit in a chair or at the carpet for more than 20 minutes. With many classroom rules like raising your hand, staying in line, and keeping to yourself, you will need to decide if your child is ready for this.
  • Social: Typically there are over 20 children in each class, all with different behaviors, backgrounds, and abilities. It can be a lot for anyone to deal with. You need to decide if your child is ready to interact, in some form, with his or her peers. Is your child shy, friendly, out-going, aggressive? These are all things to consider when getting ready to place your child in Kindergarten.
  • Cognitive: If your child is already engaged in learning aspects of his or her environment, they are well on their way to being ready for school. Some children are naturally inquisitive about everything, asking questions and wanting to figure things out. They will probably be successful in Kindergarten if they have an excitement for learning. Children come to Kindergarten with a wide range of education capabilities. Some children are already reading and some are just learning the letters in their name. Some of the  basic skills learned in Kindergarten include letters and their sounds, numbers and counting, so if your child has an interest in these areas, they may be ready for school.

As my own daughter is turning 5 in August with a very late birthday, she’ll be the youngest in her class. We’ve made the decision to put her through to start Kindergarten next year as we feel she’s emotionally, socially, and cognitively ready. Although preschool is not a prerequisite, my daughter has had the opportunity to attend, which has been very helpful in preparing her for Kindergarten.

Every child is unique, but know that children will succeed in almost any situation if they have the love and support from their caregivers.

Are you trying to make this decision? Have you already gone through this with one of your own? Please share your questions or what worked for you!

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