Kindergarten readiness is about so much more than your child being 5 years old by your state’s cutoff date. If you’re agonizing about whether to send your child to kindergarten next year or to a transitional kindergarten program, here are some guidelines to consider.
Even if your preschooler already knows the ABCs and can count to 50, there’s much more to school than academics. Is he also physically, socially and emotionally ready to succeed in kindergarten? Can he take care of his own potty needs, sit quietly without jumping around, and tough it out through an entire school day?
The Gesell Institute of Child Development, a nonprofit agency that has studied how children grow and learn since 1950, says many children of the same chronological age may differ remarkably from one another in their rates of growth and development. Institute experts suggest thinking about the following questions and discussing them with your child’s teachers. Is your child able to:
• Comfortably be away from you for an entire day?
• Talk about ideas and feelings to adults other than immediate family?
• Accept minor disappointments without crying?
• Listen to and follow directions?
• Take turns patiently?
• Work independently without constant adult supervision?
• Find ways to resolve conflicts with peers?
• Make simple decisions when given a few choices?
• Take care of personal belongings and toileting needs independently?
• Retell familiar stories, nursery rhymes and songs?
The institute says that evaluation of a child’s growth should be gathered from a variety of sources: parents, classroom observation, portfolios, developmental screening and other appropriate records.
A national survey of public school kindergarten teachers revealed that school readiness is not about alphabet recitation at all. Instead, the top three qualities the teachers identified were: Children come to school physically healthy, well-rested and well-nourished; children are able to communicate their needs, wants and thoughts verbally; and children are enthusiastic and curious in approaching new activities. The survey also said that kids cannot be pushed into being ready for school.
Parents can help by recognizing their child’s developmental stages, skill levels and learning styles, says Amy James, an educator and author of the “Success Series” of books, including “Kindergarten Success” (Jossey-Bass, 2006).
James’ partial checklist for kindergarten readiness reflects the need for listening skills, impulse control and self-sufficiency. Among other things, she says that kindergartners should be able to:
• Use complete sentences to recount an event.
• Put on a coat.
• Separate easily from parents and caregivers.
• Approach new activities with enthusiasm and curiosity.
• Follow two-step directions.
• Run, hop, walk, skip and throw a ball.
• Hold crayons, pencils and scissors properly.
For kids in their last year of preschool, a lot of growth -- in all areas -- can happen between springtime parent-teacher conferences and the time kindergarten starts in the fall. Your child’s teacher should be able to share how your little one is doing at reaching milestones -- or not -- and make suggestions for parental encouragement.
If your child has trouble with non-academic issues such as getting dressed, keeping up with belongings, opening his lunch or taking care of toileting needs, show you’re a team player by committing to work diligently on these at home before kindergarten begins.
A teacher of 4- and 5-year-olds suggests that parents take time to eat packed lunches at home with their child to see what they’re able to manage, and simplify or practice opening containers or wrappers. Also, at dinner time, set the expectation that your child will sit and eat without hopping up and down.
Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510
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