Kindergarten Readiness: A Checklist of Indicators

Medically reviewed by Aninda Das, MD, MPH, FAAP on November 20, 2015Written by Jessica Timmons on November 20, 2015
young girl going to kindergarten

With more parents debating the pros and cons of kindergarten redshirting, age alone isn’t always the best indication that your child is ready to begin his formal education.

So how can you make the best decision for your preschooler about kindergarten readiness? You’ll need to carefully consider your child and use your own intuition. You can also speak to your pediatrician, your child’s preschool teacher, or their childcare provider. Ask for their opinion about your child’s development and readiness for kindergarten. And use this checklist to help you determine whether your child is ready for the academic and social expectations of kindergarten.

Don’t be alarmed if you’re seeing skills your child doesn’t have yet. After all, some of these skills are developed in kindergarten. Instead, keep them in mind as you engage your child in your day-to-day activities and try building on these basics in an easy, fun, and engaging manner.

Remember that different school districts may have their own kindergarten readiness checklists. A few months before it’s time to enroll, contact your child’s school for information about kindergarten. While there are few explicit rules and regulations beyond cut-off dates for enrollment eligibility, there will be general expectations for incoming kindergarteners.

Your child is probably ready for kindergarten if they have these skills.

Listening and Following Directions

While all children misbehave at times, a critical skill for kindergarten is the ability to listen and follow the teacher’s instructions. Consider how well your child is able to both listen and communicate. Do adults and peers usually understand them?

Focus

Kindergarteners can get wiggly, but they should be able to sit still for story time and other classroom activities.

Letter Recognition and Beginning Sounds

If your preschooler recognizes some letters of the alphabet, that’s a great start. An easy way to begin building your child’s letter recognition is by making flashcards with two of every letter. Mix them up, and play a game of alphabet go fish. You can say every letter as you play to start building your child’s letter recognition. Point out street and store signs as well.

As your child grows more familiar with letters, you can begin pointing out words that start with the same letter. Emphasize the beginning sounds of the “stairs” and the “stove,” for instance, explaining that both words start with the letter “s.”

Developing Fine and Gross Motor Skills

A kindergartener should be comfortable running, jumping, and throwing a ball. Practice holding pencils or crayons, as well as using scissors and glue sticks.

Gets Along with Others

Sharing and taking turns are emphasized in kindergarten, so it’s helpful if your child already understands these concepts. They can be difficult for people of all ages, so remember to model good behavior.

Coping Strategies

It’s normal for 5- and 6-year-old children to cry when they’re upset. But it’s also important that they have ways of managing their feelings. Encourage this by asking your child to share his feelings.

Bathroom Independence

A kindergartener will need to be able to use the bathroom independently. This includes handling buttons and zippers on clothing, wiping, and washing hands.

General Independence

A kindergartener should be able to separate from you without becoming too upset.

Interested in Learning

According to the Mayo Clinic, mastery of specific skills is less important that your child’s readiness to learn. Is your child excited about school and learning in general? Do they enjoy listening to stories, reading books with you, listening to music, and learning new things?

It’s important for parents to understand that meeting and exceeding expectations for kindergarten readiness are two different concepts. No one expects incoming kindergarteners to be reading and writing and counting to 100. But children who are excited to learn, mature enough to focus, and comfortable being apart from you are the ones who are more than ready for kindergarten.

Preparing for Kindergarten

The Mayo Clinic recommends preparing your child for kindergarten by keeping them healthy with a nutritious diet and regular visits to the doctor.

Build a daily schedule so that your child understands your family routine and expectations. Work on basic skills like recognizing letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. Make learning fun with rhyming games, interesting outings to museums, and community events. Spend time every day reading to your child. Socialize your child by participating in group activities and inviting friends over. Reinforce skills like following directions, taking turns, sharing, and expressing feelings.

Above all, build excitement for kindergarten by talking about it, and make your child an active participant in preparing for it. They can choose a lunchbox or backpack, visit the school and meet their teacher, and go shopping with you for back-to-school clothes.

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