Kindergarten Screening: What to Expect

Know in advance what will be asked of your preschooler

Kindergarten screening
Before starting elementary school, many preschoolers need to undergo a kindergarten screening. While it sounds like it could be scary, it's just a way to make your your little one is developmentally ready for kindergarten. Blend Images - KidStock/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Before your preschooler transforms into a kindergartener, there are a few things you'll need to take care of first. Yes, there are things you can do to help your child be emotionally and socially ready for kindergarten and there are even basic academics you can review as well. All of those things are important for child development, but there are some even more practical matters to attend to first, such as kindergarten registration and the kindergarten screening, which reviews kindergarten readiness skills.

Not all schools do a kindergarten screening, but it is fairly common. The purpose of a kindergarten screening is not to test how much your child knows, so much as to see if your child is developmentally ready to start kindergarten and if a child will need any additional support in the classroom. Kindergarten screenings are also a great way to familiarize your child with her new school.

A kindergarten screening will vary from school to school, and evaluate children in a range of developmental tasks from self-care skills to your child's ability to communicate and listen. They generally last 20 to 30 minutes and the parent or guardian does not stay with the child.

Please note, listed below are just some kindergarten readiness skills that may be tested during or after kindergarten registration. This list is in no way all-inclusive in terms of child development. Some schools may look for more kindergarten readiness skills than what are listed, and some may look for less.

Remember too, that even though these are kindergarten readiness skills, there is an age range for anything having to do with child development. Depending upon where their birthday falls, some children that enter kindergarten may be nearing six, while others may still be four. It's important not to compare your child's development to what other children are doing; rather, individually consider your child's age and situation when it comes to kindergarten readiness skills.

Also, know that some children are simply stronger in some areas and weaker in others.

Self-care skills

  • Can wash hands on own
  • Is fully potty trained
  • Can handle pulling up his own pants, including buttons and snaps
  • May possibly be able to tie his own shoes, but at the very least should be able to put shoes on and velcro them closed
  • Does well eating without assistance, from putting a straw in a juice box to opening a lunch box or bag
  • Can put on his own jacket, including pulling up the zipper

Language Skills

  • Can be understood by an adult who does not talk with the child every day
  • Speaks in compete sentences of at least five words.
  • Can follow directions that have at least two different steps -- "Find your coat and put it on."
  • Can answer basic questions: What is your name? How old are you? Are you a boy or a girl?
  • Can rhyme simple words.

Cognitive Skills

  • Can classify and identify objects by different variables -- shape, color, size, etc.
  • Knows how to hold a book the right way (reading preparedness) and may pretend to "read"
  • Can put together a small (less than 10 pieces) puzzle
  • Can recognize a pattern and identify the next items in the sequence
  • Can correctly identify four colors
  • Recognizes their own name in writing
  • Can identify some letter sounds
  • Can count up to five objects
  • Can name at least five body parts

Gross Motor Skills

Is able to:

  • Run
  • Stand and hop on one foot on each foot
  • Skip
  • Walk backwards
  • Throw and and catch a large ball
  • Kick a ball in a straight line
  • Walk up and down stairs using alternating feet (not stepping with one foot, then stepping with the other onto the same step)

Fine Motor Skills
Is able to:

  • Cut with safety scissors, holding them the right way.
  • Fit pieces into a puzzle
  • Hold and use a pencil the correct way
  • Draw a straight line, a cross, a square, and a circle
  • Can draw a person who has five body parts
  • Possibly write some letters and numbers, perhaps their name
  • Trace a variety of shapes, letters, and numbers

If you have any concerns about your child's development, talk with your child's preschool teacher or pediatrician. You may decide that holding back your child a year and starting kindergarten a year later might be a good option. For more information, read The Pros and Cons of Academic Redshirting.

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