Is your child ready for kindergarten?

April 1, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary

The following story was first printed in Parent Today in March 2013.

When our daughters were young, we had no questions about kindergarten readiness. Both girls were born in March, and my husband and I knew that by the September following their fifth birthdays they’d be more than ready for the half-day program offered in our district.

The decision was not quite as simple with our son, whose September birthday raised different questions about readiness. Ultimately, we decided to send him, knowing that he was prepared for the academic challenges, physical requirements and social aspects that the half-day program our district still offered would provide.

I wonder if we would have made the same decision had the district we lived in had full-day kindergarten.

Kindergarten is, in many ways, the gateway to a child’s educational voyage. While kindergarten is not mandated in New York State, the increased educational demands brought about by the new Common Core State Standards mean there’s even greater emphasis on learning in kindergarten. More than one half-day kindergarten teacher has lamented the fact that there’s simply not enough time for play when kindergarteners are only in school for a few hours a day.

Kindergarten has become more rigorous because first grade is now more rigorous … because second grade is now more rigorous … and so on.

With kindergarten registration and orientation on the horizon in most districts, there are many factors that go into deciding whether to send a child to a full-day program.

The first, of course, is birth date. In New York State, your child must be 5 years old on or before Dec. 1, 2015, in order to attend kindergarten for the 2015-16 school year.

But the simple fact that your child will be 5 by the designated date may not mean he/she will be ready for kindergarten. Some other things to consider:

  • Does my child have the fine motor skills necessary for writing? Can he zip or button a coat? Can she use a pair of scissors?
  • Does my child have the attention span to listen and follow directions? Can my child follow two-step directions, and remain seated for periods of time?
  • Can my child speak in complete sentences, and communicate their needs in words?
  • Does my child have self-control? Can he be separated from a parent or other caregiver for long periods of time? Does the child respect authority figures?
  • Does my child have the social skills needed to join in on conversations? Does he call family members and peers by name? Can she play with others and put toys away?
  • Does my child have gross motor skills needed to run, jump, hop, walk in a straight line; catch and bounce a ball; walk down stairs; and stand on one foot for 10 seconds?

There is no definitive checklist to help you determine whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten. As a parent, you know your child best, and this may come down to you trusting your instincts.


Here are some other sources of information to help you through the process:

Karen Nerney has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. She is mom to two daughters, 19 and 17, and a son, 10, all of whom fondly recall their kindergarten experiences.

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