Many parents wonder if their child is ready for kindergarten at age five. School readiness is complex. It is more than chronological age or the ability to recite numbers, letters, and colors. Expectations of children who enter kindergarten can vary from school to school. These are some general guidelines about the skills children should develop by the time they start a kindergarten program.
Questions to consider
Here are some questions to think about as you decide if your child is ready for school:
- Is your child socially ready? Does she trust other adults and children? Can she play in a group? Can she follow classroom and school rules? Can she listen carefully and follow instructions? Does she know personal information (name and age)? Does she respect other's property, share, and take turns?
- Is your child emotionally ready? Does she have some degree of independence and self-direction? Does she have self-control (for example, is she able to wait when there is a delay)? Is she reasonably confident and willing to try new things or ask for help when needed? Does she feel comfortable in a group?
- Is your child physically ready? Can she dress, eat, and toilet herself? Can she hop, skip, run, and jump? Does she have a sense of space and balance? Can she manipulate small objects? (holds pencil, buttons shirt, etc.)
- Is your child linguistically ready? Can she understand directions? Is she able to express her needs to adults and other children? Can she express her thoughts in sentences?
- Is your child intellectually ready? Is she able to focus and concentrate on an activity for 10 to 15 minutes? Does she recognize and name the letters of the alphabet? Does she recognize letters in print that she sees often, such as letters in her name, on signs, and in logos? Can she remember simple routines? Is she able to stick with and solve simple problems? Can she hold and look at a book correctly? Is she ready for the early stages of learning how to read? Does she speaks in complete sentences of 5-6 words? Can she count to 10?
When in doubt
If you’re not sure whether your child is ready for kindergarten, here are some actions to take:
- Discuss your concerns with your child's pre-school teacher.
- Discuss your concerns or ask questions with your child’s future principal and kindergarten teacher.
- Tour the school and observe a kindergarten classroom.
Above all, trust your instincts as a parent. You know your child best. Listen to others, then think about your child and what is best for him or her.
How to prepare
One of the best things you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten is read to him or her. Reading to your child for as little as ten minutes a day helps to do the following:
- Develop security and independence (through the close body contact, sitting on mom or dad’s lap).
- Practice using language and learning concepts.
- Develop an interest in the world and its people.
- Develop the belief that learning can be fun.
Colorín Colorado. (2008). Is my child ready to enter kindergarten? Arlington, Virginia: Colorín Colorado, WETA.
Graue, M. E. (1993). Expectations and ideas coming to school. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 8(1), 53-75. doi: 10.1080/0013188870290205
Ohio Department of Education. (2014). Helping your child make successful transitions: Home to school.
Tours, S. B., Dennis, L. R. (2015). Easing first day jitters: Strategies for successful home-to-school transitions. Young Children, 70(4), 84-89.
Engaging Families in the Transition to Kindergarten (VIDEO — National Center on Parents, Family, and Community Engagement — This video provides concrete strategies to support children and their families as they transition into kindergarten. It highlights the important role that developing strong partnerships between families, programs, and schools play in making this important transition successful.
Early Learning/Kindergarten Readiness — Minnesota Department of Education — Find out about early learning programs in Minnesota and get parent guides for Minnesota Early Learning Standards in six languages.
Reviewed in 2018