How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten

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Parent's question

What recommendations do you have for parents who are unsure if their children are ready for kindergarten?

Our answer

Determining whether a child is ready for kindergarten is a rather inexact science. There is a lot of talk about holding kids back, especially boys, who have a summer birthday. This is so popular in some communities that as high as 60 percent of all summer birthday boys are held back.

On the other hand, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends that all kids start school when they are age-eligible to do so. The organization believes that it is the duty of the school to take children no matter what their readiness level is and provide them with an appropriate education.

On the other hand, some think it's a great mistake to place any summer birthday child in kindergarten – especially since kindergarten in so many school districts is more like first grade used to be. Research does indicate that there is some disadvantage academically for some younger children – not all. How long the effects of youngness last is questioned, with some thinking it is over by third grade and others believing it lasts through high school.

Another way to look at readiness for kindergarten is to use a checklist. Most school districts offer them; they identify skills expected of kids entering kindergarten. Parents definitely should look at these as soon as possible. Even if your child is not ready now according to a checklist, he or she may be by August – as young children change so fast. So be sure to look again for readiness, if necessary.

You also will get a good idea by talking to your child's preschool teacher and asking about his or her readiness level. This is an informed opinion that you need. And finally, go visit the preschool classroom. Notice how your child is handling the experience – socially, emotionally and academically – compared to the other students. It will give you a good idea of how well the child would handle kindergarten.

When it comes down to making the decision about enrolling your child in kindergarten, remember: You are the one who best knows your child. Factor in age, checklist results and preschool experience in making your choice.

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