Is Your Preschooler

Ready for Kindergarten?

By Colleen Kraft, M.D.

Your child’s social, emotional, academic and behavior skills are equally critical to school success, and too many U.S. children start kindergarten without them.

What does “school readiness” mean?

The idea that some children are “ready for school” by 4 or 5 and others are not is controversial. Just as children begin to walk or talk at different ages, they also develop the psychological and social skills needed for school at varying ages.

When you’re deciding when your child should start kindergarten:

  • Look carefully at your child’s development. Is your child able to communicate? How are his listening and social skills? Would he be able to get along with other children and adults? Is he toilet trained? What about physical skills like running, playing, or using a crayon or pencil?  
  • TA word about kindergarten screenings or readiness testing:

Some schools may conduct their own tests to evaluate your child’s abilities. So-called “readiness tests” tend to look mostly at academic skills, but may evaluate other aspects of development, too. The tests are far from perfect; some children who do poorly on them do just fine in school.

So, if the test or screening identifies some areas where your child seems to lag behind, use the information to help you and the school plan for the special attention he may need in the year of kindergarten ahead.

You are your child’s best advocate. By sharing information with your child’s teacher and other school staff, you can help them be ready for your child. At the same time, you are establishing a partnership for your child’s education that can and should continue throughout her childhood.

School readiness milestones

Important development milestones that help school go smoothly for children include:

Sensory development―the ability to use touch, sight, and hearing to explore and figure out the world around them.

Social, emotional, and behavioral development―such as being able to:

  • focus and pay attention
  • control impulses and emotions
  • take turns
  • cooperate and follow directions
  • make friends
  • empathize with others
  • control and communicate emotions
  • limit aggressive behaviors

Early language, literacy, and math skills― such as being able to talk, listen, and understand concepts like sound-letter associations, numbers, shapes, and how objects are related to each other.

How to promote school readiness:

Let Your Children See You Reading

If your children see you reading regularly, there is a good chance that they will follow your lead and sit down with a book themselves. Set aside some time to talk with them about what each of you is reading. If you have been regularly reading aloud to your children, by school age they’ll probably want to read aloud to you, too!

Talk About Your Day

Find time to talk with your children about your respective days—in­cluding what they did at school. Even on a night when you are particularly busy, you should still be able to find a time and place to talk. This gives your children a chance to re-teach you what they learned that day.

Encourage Art & Writing

It is great for children to write and/or draw without any ed­ucational purpose in mind other than to express themselves. For example, you can encourage your children to write original stories, cards, letters, and invitations to friends and relatives. Keep paper, pencils, crayons, markers, and tape in a convenient lo­cation so your children can sit down and use them easily. Research has shown that writing improves a child’s reading skills—and vice versa.

Plan One-on-One Time with your child

Plan some activities that you can do with your child—such as an art project. Keep phone call interruptions and media use to a minimum during this special time. Make it a time you are spending with each other. Some children say they wish they could call their parents on the phone, because a phone call or mobile device always gets first priority.

“Educational” Apps: Use with caution

Even though tablets, computer games, and apps are advertised as “educational,” the truth is most of them have not been tested to show that children actually learn from them. They teach very basic skills, so don’t assume an “interactive” game will be a good learning experience. Children learn better through creative playtime—where their brain takes the lead, not the app or computer game.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.