Traits That Show Kindergarten Readiness

Does your child sit still for stories? How are they around other children?. Altrendo Images via Getty Images

 You have probably heard that kindergarten is the new first grade.  It is true that more academic skills are being taught in kindergarten with states adopting more rigorous standards like the Common Core State Standards.  You may be wondering how you can be sure that your child is ready to transition away from preschool and into their k-12 schooling.

Different states and school districts have different requirements for when a  child must begin school.

 Most states have a cutoff date between May and December of the year that would make a child five years old when they can begin kindergarten.  Some places require all children to begin school at this age, while others do not require children to attend school until they are seven years of age.  If your state allows you to wait an extra year or more before your child attends kindergarten, you might be wondering how to tell if they are ready.

Social And Developmental Skills And Traits That Show Kindergarten Readiness

These are skills that children develop as they grow older and gain some maturity.  I haven't included academic skills, such as counting and letter recognition, in this particular article.  While academic skills are certainly helpful for children to have, I believe that social and developmental signs are often a stronger indicator of readiness.  These are the signs that a child is ready for a classroom environment and ready to learn, rather than what they have already been taught.

1  They Follow 2 - and 3- Step Directions

School participation is based on being able to follow directions.  Your child will need to be able to follow a set of directions beyond 2 steps.  Multi step directions include such tasks as "sit down, put your things away, and listen to the teacher for instructions."  

You can work on this skill at home with your child by carefully giving them 2 or 3 step instructions.  Ask your child to repeat back to you what steps they need to take before setting them off for their tasks.  For example, you could ask your child to help you at dinner time by putting cups on the table, then putting forks on the table, and finally telling the other family members it is time for dinner. If your child can't remember all of the steps when you ask them to repeat it back to you, or they forget the rest of the instructions part way through the tasks, gently remind them what the next steps are.  Following multi-step directions can be improved through regular practice.

2  Uses The Bathroom Independently

Your child needs to be able to use the toilet, wash their hands, and be able to adjust their clothing appropriately for using the bathroom on their own.  Generally speaking, an occasional accident or need for some help with a zipper or jacket is to be expected during kindergarten.

 Most of the time your child should be able to manage these self care tasks themselves.  

Some of the same set of motor skills used for fastening clothing point to being able to properly hold a pencil for writing.  Independent bathroom skills are also needed for a busy classroom environment.

3 Can Sit Still To Listen To A Short Story

Does your child sit still while you read a short children's picture book?  It is good if they can, because they will be sitting still for many of these stories during kindergarten.  The ability to sit still and listen to stories or an adult talk for a few minutes is important so that your child can pay attention for classroom style instruction.  

If you have been reading regularly to your child, you have already helped develop this skill (along with many other skills.)  You can also help your child practice sitting for stories by taking them to library and bookstore children's story times.  These are often well attended by other young children, and are great practice for a classroom setting.  

4 Can Take Turns and Share With Other Children

Schools today know how important it is for children to learn to work together.  Children also tend to learn better when they can see other children performing the same tasks.  Not only will your child need to be able to get along with other children during recess, but also during classroom activities where they may be sitting at the same table with other children.  Kindergarten also requires children to share classroom toys and supplies.  

Does your child play well with other children?  Fortunately, most of the games that children like to play teach these skills.  Board games for young children, like Candyland teach children to follow directions and way for their turn.  Even simple outdoor games like tag or hide and seek teach children to take turns.

5 They Are Excited About Learning

Is yoru child telling you they are excited about getting to school?  Do they pretend to read, or try to write by making scribbles on paper?  Being excited about learning shows a readiness for learning.  While it is normal for a young child to feel nervous about starting at a new school or being away from home, most children are excited about being around other children and look forward to learning.  

You can help stoke this excitement by talking to your child about school in positive ways.  Many schools have a special round-up day where incoming kindergarteners can see the school they will attend.  You can also find children's books about a child's first days of kindergarten.  This can also help to alleviate any nervousness your child may have about going to school, as it will help them know what they can expect when they begin school.

Remember that these are really just signposts that show readiness.  If your child is struggling in one of these areas, they may be ready for kindergarten while just needing a little extra help or support to get started.  In some cases, a disability or developmental delay may be the reason your child hasn't developed one of these skills yet, and the school may be able to accommodate your child.  

If you would like to dig a little deeper to see if your child is ready for kindergarten, you can check to see if your school district has kindergarten readiness screening.  You can also ask your child's preschool teacher or daycare provider.  Often the people who work with preschool age children receive training to identify if a child is ready for kindergarten, and how to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten.

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