When my youngest child first stepped on the bus for kindergarten, I was amazed at how calm I felt. I stood and waved as the bus drove down the road, pleased that I hadn’t started crying as soon as he hiked up his little sneakered foot to climb the stairs onto the big yellow school bus. I turned and walked a handful of steps back up the driveway when the significance of what had just happened hit me. My baby was starting school.
The tears I had claimed victory over moments before streamed down my cheeks. Did we make the right decision? I asked myself, tossing around in my head for the umpteenth time the question of whether we should have held back our September baby another year. Is he really ready? I wondered.
It’s a question parents wrestle with every year, particularly in spring as kindergarten registration and orientation take place. Those of us whose children turn 5 sometime between about August and the Dec. 1 cutoff date poll each other as registration day approaches in an effort to gauge how many parents are sending their children and how many will “redshirt” them – or start a year later.
There are certain developmental milestones that serve as benchmarks for making the decision. These include physical, socio-emotional, intellectual and self-care skills that, ideally, your child will have when they start kindergarten. Of course, every child is unique and has strengths in different areas. Not every child possesses every skill, but they are factors to consider in making your decision.
Benchmarks to consider
- Social and emotional development: Can your child listen to and follow directions? Do they play well with others? Are they able to separate from you without becoming upset?
- Intellectual skills: Is your child interested in learning and trying new things? Do they pretend to read and write, hold a book right-side up and know some letters and numbers? Are they interested in books and reading?
- Physical development: Can your child hold a crayon and color? Are they able to run, jump, hop and bounce a ball?
- Self-care skills: Can your child dress himself, use the bathroom without help and wash his hands? Can she eat without assistance?
Obviously, if your child is in preschool, his or her teacher can share insight on whether they think your child is ready for kindergarten. Your child’s pediatrician can also be another good source for feedback.