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How do I Know if my Child is Ready for Kindergarten?

Diana Bocco
Updated Feb 02, 2024
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If you have a child who is more than four years old, you are probably faced with the decision of sending him or her to kindergarten. Whether or not you are ready to let go of your baby, the truth is that the most important question to ask yourself is whether or not the child is ready for kindergarten. Not all children develop at the same rate, and not all are ready to face long periods of time in a strange environment. Think about you child's maturity level, and things like his or her ability to concentrate and share with others.

Kindergarten has changed radically over the past ten or 15 years. Many schools have minimized crafts and games, and instead, they are concentrating on academic subjects, introducing kids early to computers and foreign languages. Many kids who are four or five years old are ready for kindergarten and the pressures that come with it.

Other children are not developed enough at four or five years old to deal with complex subjects. Whether your child is ready or not has little to do with chronological age, so consider your child's aptitudes, including adequate motor skills, the capacity for concentration, curiosity, and social skills, including the ability to share and follow a routine. You may want to have your child take a kindergarten screening test. This is available at some kindergartens free of charge for all prospective students, and it includes simple activities such as drawing, auditory memory, use of language, and body movements.

If you believe your child is ready for kindergarten, you can make the process even easier by helping him or her build social skills from early on. You can make reading a preferred activity at home and create games to teach the alphabet and other basic academic skills. Even putting puzzles together and playing with building blocks can help prepare your child for kindergarten. There are books to help you teach your child basic skills that can make the transition to kindergarten easy on everybody.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By anon332102 — On Apr 26, 2013

I have a five year old I know is not ready but the preschool said she needs to go on because she will be six in October. It has been a real battle with the school system.

My child only knows the first letter of her name, cannot write only knows some colors and shapes. The child has 22Q deletion syndrome and many delays. I want her to start kindergarten on a positive note, not negative. I need support and suggestions. I know she needs another year to mature but preschool says they will not take her back. I want the best for her.

By anon144713 — On Jan 20, 2011

My son turns five at the end of September. Connecticut's cut off is 12/31, but they are changing it to 10/1 in the next few years.

My son's social and behavior skills are there, but fine motor are behind, I think. I don't want to set him up to struggle/fail. I will have conference with preschool teacher, and ultimately, if she has any doubt or says he is truly behind in any one area, then we wait. But it breaks my heart.

By anon131187 — On Dec 01, 2010

As a mom who started her four year old (he turned four this October. Our cut off date is Dec 31). this past September, I really have to agree with the preschool teachers comments above.

Alex still has meltdowns and is therefore having a hard time adjusting to kindergarten. I am so worried about it, that I think holding him back a year until he is hopefully more mature may have been the best thing to do.

The worry that comes along with having a child who is not fitting in and performing as expected is intense. The whole thing creates a negative situation, that I wish I wasn't in. So think twice if you aren't sure, and consider following the advice above, "when it doubt, don't."

By anon65961 — On Feb 16, 2010

There are a lot of arguments from both sides (advocates of earlier or later admission). No one should forget that parental care, especially in early years of young children, is something that could not be overestimated. It is not only the matter of education, but also the emotional development of the child.

By anon60021 — On Jan 11, 2010

If your child is right around the cut-off age, talk to your child's preschool teacher. Does your child play primarily with the younger children in the class or the older children?

His preferred playmates will give you an idea as to his social maturity, whether he is ready to start. Also, at home does your child play well with older siblings/cousins?

By anon23577 — On Dec 29, 2008

As a former kindergarten and preschool teacher, I used to tell my parents, "when in doubt, don't!" There isn't a down side to holding your child back, but there is a huge down side to sending him forward when he may not be ready. A child who still has meltdowns may have a tough time in kindergarten, and be socially blackballed by the other children who are trying hard to show how "big" they are.

By stare31 — On Jul 29, 2008

I recently heard that overall attainment levels in education have flattened out. A couple of economists (Deming & Dynarski) think it might be a result of "Kindergarten Redshirting" -- holding your kid back a year so he or she is older than the other kids in the class giving him or her some perceived advantage. Interesting argument. Something to think about. Especially in these times of great competitiveness between kids, perhaps spurred by well-meaning parents.

By axelrose — On May 14, 2008

it depends on the state you live in, but some states have earlier/later cutoff dates to enter kindergarten. in kansas, where i live, the cutoff is August 31st. i think that states with later cutoff dates most likely have more children who are unprepared socially and emotionally for kindergarten. my son will turn 6 a couple months after school starts, and i have to say that i am grateful that we have an early cutoff date. by all means, if you feel that your son is not ready for kindergarten, wait another year-that is your prerogative as a parent! you definitely don't want to set him up to struggle (emotionally and socially ) so early on. if you wait another year, he can start off his academic career better prepared.

By bluesky941 — On May 14, 2008

My question is this:

I'm not worried about whether my 4 year old (5 in October) is ready academically, its the emotional maturity that worries me. How do I know he can emotionally handle Kindergarten? He's supposed to be going to K'garten in the fall, but he still has major meltdowns at preschool now.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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