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Kindergarten Readiness


Sue Dinwiddie

MA Human Development

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Is my child ready for kindergarten? What are the readiness factors for kindergarten? Should I send my child with a late summer or fall birthday to kindergarten, or should I wait another year? These are some of the questions puzzling parents as they look ahead to elementary school.

To answer these questions it is helpful to look at your child as well as the kindergarten your child will attend. Children who fit comfortably into their kindergarten have a rewarding and productive year, thus beginning their elementary school years with a positive attitude about academics.

California public kindergartens are mandated to be "Developmental Kindergartens." But what does "Developmental" mean? Programs which fit the curriculum and expectations to the developmental level of each child, rather than expecting the child to be ready for the demands of the curriculum are developmental. When the kindergarten is truly developmental, four-and-a-half-year old children as well as older five-year-old children will be met with the education stimulation appropriate to their learning needs and abilities. However, diminishing funds often lead to large class sizes and fewer support personnel for teachers, making it more and more of a challenge to realistically meet the needs of a broad range of children. Therefore, it is beneficial for parents to get some information about the kindergarten. Pertinent questions to ask include:

What procedures do you follow to make this a developmental kindergarten?

  • How many children are in this year's class?
  • What is the age range of this year's class?
  • How much support is available to the teacher, such as aides and volunteers?
  • How and when are they trained?
  • How does the class assure children learn at their own pace? What techniques are employed to teach children who assimilate concepts faster or slower than the average?
  • Many parents call the school and make an appointment to visit and observe a kindergarten. Parents of children currently or recently in the kindergarten possess a wealth of information about specific programs. Parents with values or goals similar to yours will be your best source of information.

Ideally the kindergarten should be ready for the child rather than getting the child ready for the kindergarten. If your school is not strongly developmental in practice, you can see if your child fits the profile of children who have a successful experience in any kind of kindergarten by answering the following questions. Compare your home observations with those of your child's Nursery School Teacher. Sometimes children's behavior is different in a group than at home; kindergarten is a group experience.

Does my child....

  • have strong self-management skills?
  • work independently?
  • make his/her own choices without teacher or parent interaction?
  • show willingness to try something new , is not apprehensive about new situations after a short adjustment period?
  • wait his/her turn in a group situation in play, during snacks, sharing materials?
  • interact well with other children on an equal footing?
  • negotiate most of his/her own social problems fairly successfully?
  • express his/herself well to communicate what he/she does and does not understand?
  • have strong self-confidence and self-esteem?

If your child does not yet meet the above profile, give some thought to your options. If the program is truly developmental, your child will learn at his/her own pace and develop during the year. If you do not believe the program is developmental in practice (for example, there is a big emphasis on academic skills such as reading ), you may decide to give your child another year to develop. Think about how your child will spend this time. Some productive alternatives include: a stimulating and nurturing nursery school, a young five's program, or a junior kindergarten. Staying at home with no opportunities to develop independence and successful peer interactions will not be helpful, nor will a program which forces academics on the child who is not yet ready. Talk to this year's nursery school teacher and next year's kindergarten teacher and listen to their opinions.

Kindergarten is a significant step on the path of education. A little consideration and planning on your part can make this step a rewarding and successful time for your child.

Suggested reading

  • Butterworth. Your Child's First School. A Handbook for Parents. NY:Walker & Company. 1992.
  • Peck, McCaig. Kindergarten Policies: What Is Best For Children? Washington D.C.:National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1988.
  • Woolever ed. Your Child Starting School. Des Moines Iowa:Meredith Corp., Better Homes and Gardens Books, 1989.


copyright 1999 Sue Dinwiddie

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