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December 6, 2022 / Blog

Ways to Measure Your Child’s Kindergarten Readiness

“Is my child ready for kindergarten?” Most parents measure kindergarten readiness by considering their child’s age and academic skills—but it’s equally as important to consider their social and emotional readiness

For example, a child might seem ready for kindergarten because he loves sitting and listening to stories, following directions, and staying on task. But, he has a late summer birthday, is young compared to the other children, and has a difficult time managing his feelings and impulses. Maybe he is shy or anxious about new people or places. 

So, how do you know if your child has the kindergarten readiness skills to succeed?

Expectations to Measure Kindergarten Readiness

Deciding if a child is ready for kindergarten is a huge task. The decision typically rests on the shoulders of parents, who know their child best. Talking to the people most familiar with their child (current teachers, child caregivers, and their pediatrician, along with their potential future kindergarten teacher) will provide the best information in determining if your child is kindergarten ready. 

It’s also important to consult the child’s teacher during the kindergarten readiness assessment to learn whether the developmental milestones have been met or if the standards the state or school has set forth have been achieved.   

The requirements and laws about starting kindergarten vary across the country, but local school districts often post their own kindergarten readiness checklist on their websites. It would be wise to check out the requirements several months before deciding to enroll so that you have enough time to decide if the child is ready for kindergarten.  

Although there are no hard and fast rules about when a child is ready for kindergarten, there are some common kindergarten expectations for each child. Determine if your child meets the standard kindergarten readiness assessment by reviewing the checklist below.

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

When determining if your child is ready to undergo the transition to kindergarten, measure their kindergarten readiness skills to see if your child: 

  • is self-confident 
  • can handle separation 
  • can manage his or her feelings and impulses 
  • can follow directions and rules  
  • can participate well in a small group or one-on-one play 
  • can join another child’s play and develop friendships 
  • can communicate his or her needs to the adult in charge 
  • can take turns and share  
  • can complete tasks 
  • can answer and ask basic questions  
  • can put on their coat including zipping and buttoning 
  • recognizes the need to go potty and make it to the bathroom 
  • can wash and dry their hands 
  • can open containers that may be in their lunch box 
  • can recite the alphabet and count to 10 
  • can hold their pencil with a functional grasp (3 fingers) 
  • can cut continuously along paper for 8 inches 
  • is interested in books and is interested in being read to 
  • can transition to new activities without upset 

The child doesn’t need to meet all of these kindergarten expectations to be ready to begin school. However, these kindergarten goals and expectations can help see the bigger picture of a child’s social and emotional readiness. 

Examples of Common Kindergarten Expectations

Let’s narrow it down and look at some common examples of these kindergarten behavior expectations. The child is probably kindergarten ready if he or she can: 

  • Follow simple directions. One of the many kindergarten classroom expectations is that a child should be able to listen to a teacher and complete instructions. These instructions should be simple one or two-step directions that are very specific and concrete. Children at this age should not be expected to follow complex instructions.  
  • Recognize some letters and numbers. The kindergarten reading expectations for these children is not that they can read when starting school but that they can recognize some of the letters of the alphabet, along with some numbers.   
  • Work on fine and gross motor skills. Jumping and running, throwing a ball, and holding a pencil and scissors are some kindergarten readiness skills the child may have mastered by this age. Fine motor skills are dependent on anatomy and physical growth as well as practice. For example, the shape and size of a child’s hand will work better holding a large-diameter pencil before an average size pencil. The kindergarten expectation is not that these skills will be refined at this stage but that the child will have practiced them prior to kindergarten.  
  • Sit still. Another one of the kindergarten behavior expectations is that the child should be able to remain in one spot long enough to listen to a story and participate in class activities. This does not mean that the child needs to sit completely still, but rather, the child can listen to a story or participate in an activity without being a disruption. A child may be fidgeting but listening or maybe even standing up and walking around, which is fine as long as the child is not being disruptive. 
  • Get along with peers. The child knows how to share and take turns and can join in play and make friends.  
  • Handle emotions. It’s normal for a four or five-year-old to break down in tears when they’re upset, but it’s important that they know their feelings and have coping strategies to self-regulate. Although it is sometimes hard for a young child to name their emotions, he or she should be able to have appropriate emotions given the situation and that they change in response to intervention. 
  • Show an interest in learning. A child shows an interest in learning if he enjoys listening to stories, music, and books and seems stimulated by the information. 
  • Use the restroom. Unless there is a medical or developmental reason, the child, if he or she is kindergarten ready, should be potty trained and able to know when they need to go to the bathroom and able to manage by themself. 

Kindergarten Readiness Is a Team Effort

It can be overwhelming for parents to measure kindergarten readiness for their child. They may lose their sense of perspective, so reaching out and having conversations with other adults that have worked with their child helps to establish and maintain a kind of learning support community. This community helps nurture the child and family when the child is in the process of transitioning into kindergarten.