With back-to-school season here, many parents of five-year-olds have been asking me how they can tell if their child is ready to start kindergarten. Let me take on this assignment and provide a few tips.
First, there is no hard and fast rule about when a child should be considered ready for kindergarten. While many parents are often most concerned solely about their child's academic abilities, they should also make sure the child is socially and emotionally ready. The mastery of skills such as listening, sharing, and playing well with others may be more important than if they know their letters or colors.
That being said, there is no data to suggest that waiting a year for your child to start kindergarten, if they already demonstrate the skills needed to start, will result in a better overall school performance. Here are a few baseline measures that should help you decide if your child is ready for kindergarten:
Linguistically, children entering kindergarten should be able to ask a question, tell a story, and express a need. They should also be able to follow a three-step set of directions such as, Go to your room, get your sneakers, and turn off the light. And, ideally, they will be able to express themselves without wanting to talk constantly.
Regarding motor skills, most children should be able to balance on one foot for five seconds, use scissors to cut a line on a piece of paper, and hold a pencil.
Cognitively, they should know simple comparisons, such as big and small, and they should be able to recognize there is a difference between similar sounding words, like hat and cat.
Socially, they need to be comfortable in a group and have the ability to stay on task for at least ten minutes, hopefully 15.