Enrolling your child in kindergarten is a big decision. If you enroll him before he’s ready, he could struggle to keep up or quickly fall behind, which could affect his confidence, love of learning and enthusiasm for school. If you wait to enroll him past the point of readiness, you risk him getting bored and becoming disinterested in what’s happening in the classroom. Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding if it is the right time for your child to start kindergarten.
Does my child meet the cutoff date? The first big question is will the school allow your child to enter kindergarten. The school’s cutoff date is the date your child must be five years old to be able to enter kindergarten. This date is established based on the school’s experience of how old kids generally need to be to succeed in school. This cutoff date may or may not reflect how your child will do. However, if he misses the cutoff date, you’ll be forced to wait another year whether you want to or not. If he makes the cutoff date, then you should look at other factors to decide if he’s truly ready.
Does he have the social skills necessary to navigate the classroom setting? Kindergarten teachers are much more concerned about a child that doesn’t have adequate social skills than a child who may not be able to recite the alphabet. So what kind of social skills are needed? Your child should be able to understand and follow the basic rules of the classroom and playground. You’ll have a chance to review the rules with your child before school starts. The key is whether your child has the self-control to follow them. Your child should also be able to successfully play in groups. This means he should be able to share, take turns, ask for what he needs and be sensitive to the feelings of others. Of course every child is going to have trouble with these skills from time to time, but overall your child should be comfortable being part of a group. You’ll be able to gauge this pretty well by how he’s done in daycare, preschool or in a regular play group.
Is your child ready to separate from you? Separation comes easily to some kids and is a struggle for others. Your child’s ability to separate from you and be fully present and happy in the classroom is the key to school success. If your child is in daycare or preschool now, he’s had great practice in separating from you every day. If kindergarten will be your child’s first regular drop off and pick up situation, practice this daily routine by enrolling your child in a camp or enrichment program.
How did your child do on the assessment test? Some schools use standardized assessment tests to evaluate a child’s cognitive ability. Your child will be asked to do things like draw shapes and sort objects. These tests can be helpful in determining your child’s readiness, but you shouldn’t rely solely on them. They’re just one piece of the kindergarten puzzle.
Does your child have strong fine motor skills? There’s lots of coloring, painting, writing, cutting and other activities that require fine motor skills in kindergarten. Your child will need to be able to grasp and manipulate pencils, crayons, scissors and similar items to keep up with classmates and enjoy all the fun things he’ll be doing. If your child is behind in this area, the good news is that kids can generally catch up pretty quickly if they don’t face any delays in this area.
Does your child have fundamental letter and number awareness? Your child doesn’t need to be able to spell his name or count to 100 to do well in kindergarten. However, he should be able to sing along with the ABC song, count to 10 and recognize some letters and the numbers one to five. With this basic understanding, his teacher will have a strong foundation to build on.
Is your child excited about learning? Kindergarten is very much about encouraging every child’s love of learning. It’s helpful if your child enters school already excited about the idea of learning. Is he enthusiastic about exploring his surroundings? Does he have a natural curiosity about the many different things in his daily environment? Does he love learning new things? If your child is excited about entering school, that’s an important sign of readiness.
Deciding when to enroll your child in kindergarten is a big decision. Ask yourself these key questions, then listen to your instincts. Remember, you know your child best.