When Should a Child Start Kindergarten
Success in school is influenced by when a child starts kindergarten. There is no "right age" for every child. In Minnesota, a child must be age 5 by September 1 but age cannot guarantee readiness for kindergarten. It is only one of many indicators. If your child just "squeezes in", consider these questions:
- Can my child be alone in a strange place outside the home without crying or being overly fearful? (examples: birthday parties, baby sitter's home, preschool)
- Can my child attend to personal needs without difficulty? (examples: use the bathroom, ask for or get a drink, put on and take off a coat independently, tie shoes.)
- Can my child listen to spoken directions and follow them, particularly several given at one time? (example: "Go to your room, get your truck, and shut the door after you, please.")
- Can my child focus attention on a task long enough to finish? (examples: putting away a pile of blocks, looking through a 12 page picture book, listening to a story) Aim for a ten minute attention span.
- Can my child play with other children and meet adults without being overly shy, fearful or aggressive?
- Can my child take turns, share, follow the rules, and play fair?
- Does my child have any family chores?
- Does he or she put toys away after using them?
- Can my child tell people his needs with a clear, loud-enough voice and use the right words.
- Can my child give his or her own name and address, and the name, address and telephone number of parents?
- Can my child tell where his or her mother or father works?
- Does my child know whom to ask for help?
- Has my child been allowed to go a short distance from home alone?
- Can my - child look all ways before crossing a street?
- *Does my child want to go to kindergarten?
If you can clearly answer "yes" to all the previous questions, your child seems ready to begin kindergarten. A firm"no' to even one question, however, should you give pause.
Readiness for kindergarten, contrary to most parents' believe, does not mean ability to recognize alphabet letters and numbers. Even a child who can almost read many not be emotionally and physically ready for the demands of a school environment.
Consider these points:
- The younger a child starts school, the more stress he or she will experience.
- It is always better to be at the top of the class than struggling to keep up.
- It is easier to wait a year to start kindergarten than to end up needing to repeat first grade.
- Waiting a year gives your child a twelve-month edge in both physical and mental growth.
- Many parents start their children in kindergarten, perhaps due to pressure from friends or relatives, before they should. Hold firm!
You can help your child prepare for school by working on the following skills:
- Say first and last name clearly
- Take care of toilet needs
- Put on shoes, coat, hat and boots
- Zip/button/snap coat
- Tie shoes
- Handle scissors, crayons and pencils responsibly
- Spend short periods of time without a parent present
- Recognize first name when printed (first letter capitalized, others lowercase)
- Print first name
- Follow simple directions
- Express thought understandably
- Play in a group
- Say address and phone number