How do you know if your child is ready for kindergarten?

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a child development psychologist and co-director of the Temple University Infant Lab, counsels parents against pushing their child into kindergarten too early. "It’s like the tortoise and the hare," Hirsh-Pasek says. "The fastest starter isn’t always best in the end."

Most school districts have a fixed cut-off date by which a child must have turned five in order to enrol, usually between May 1 and Oct. 1. But age isn’t the only indicator of readiness. A child’s physical, cognitive and social development are paramount. Children need to have emotional regulation and the ability to get along with others, Hirsh-Pasek says.

To help parents and teachers, many schools offer a kindergarten screening program that tests drawing and copying skills, visual and auditory memory, hand-eye coordination and reasoning and language abilities. The screening can tell whether a child is on the same developmental level as his peers.

Yet there are so many grey areas: A child may excel in academics and not have social skills, or he may have an amazing vocabulary but not have hand-eye coordination. How can parents know if their child is ready for school? First, don’t underestimate the importance of a child’s desire to learn. His motivation should weigh heavily in the equation.

Then observe your child as he plays, interacts with other children and confronts problems. His socialization skills and confidence are also important. Above all, pray for God’s wisdom as you decide the timing of kindergarten for your child. In the end, you, the parent, must make a decision, no matter what all the tests say.

Kindergarten checklist

Use the following guidelines to assess your child’s readiness for kindergarten:

Motor skills – Can your child . . .

  • throw a ball?
  • walk in a straight line?
  • colour, draw, use a pencil and scissors?

Academics – Can your child . . .

  • tell a short story in sequence?
  • count to 10?
  • recognize the basic shapes and colours?
  • spell her name?

Social skills – Can your child . . .

  • share with others?
  • play alone?
  • work around kids?
  • stick to a single task for several minutes?

Personal skills – Can your child . . .

  • use the restroom?
  • fasten her own pants?
  • wash her hands?
  • put on her own coat?

From Focus on Your Child’s Discovery Years, August 2008. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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