Dr. Dehra Harris, Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, gives advice on how to know if your child is ready for kindergarten. For parents, Dr. Harris explains, it is important to understand that there is nothing magical about the cutoff date for your child to start school. It is far more important to think about if your child is really ready for kindergarten. There are a few things you can do to determine your child’s kindergarten readiness if you are unsure.
First, talk to your pediatrician. At every well child visit, your pediatrician will be doing developmental screenings to assess whether your child is on track and identify whether there are things you need to be concerned about. You can also get formal assessments from the school to ensure that your child has all the basics to be ready for the first day.
Next it’s important to think about what skills your child needs to get through a typical day in kindergarten. These include fine motor skills such as using scissors or being able to draw basic letters. Watch when you are working at home together and see if these fine motor skills are being used.
Social skills are another large piece of assessing whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Observe how your child plays at the playground or with cousins at family events can help you see if they are ready.
Another useful indicator of kindergarten readiness is analyzing how your child responds to challenges. Some kids need a lot of challenges to keep from being bored and sometimes these are the kids who are better off if they begin school earlier. Other kids need a lot of early ‘wins’, so waiting another year to enroll them in kindergarten would help them be much more confident when they start.
If your child get’s through the year in kindergarten and you still feel like they are struggling or falling behind, talk to the schools and get additional services to help or consider having your child repeat if necessary.