Kindergarten readiness used to consist of making sure that your child was potty trained and appropriately dressed for school. It didn’t matter if your child could read or count, most parents simply packed their five year old off to school, took a few pictures, and trusted that the teacher would teach him or her everything that he or she needed to know. The world has become much more complicated, however, and today kindergarten readiness covers a whole list of skills that kids are expected to have mastered before stepping foot inside a school. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for Kindergarten.
Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten
It comes as a shock to many parents when they learn that they now need to prepare their child to be ready for kindergarten. When Kindergarten was first introduced in the United States, it was presented as a way to get young children ready for school. However, as the list of skills that children have to master before graduating high school has grown, schools are looking for ways to increase the amount of time that their students will actually spend learning. Because they are often unable to add time to the school year, many of them have decided to start kids on the path to mastering essential skills as early as kindergarten.
To accomplish this, many schools have released a ready for kindergarten checklist, testing students during the first week of school and placing them in classes according to how prepared they are for class work. While a kindergarten readiness assessment test seems daunting to many students and their parents, they are nonetheless being used in schools all over the country. In some cases, recommendations about whether or not a child is ready to start school are based on these tests.
In order to make sure that their child is getting ready for kindergarten, a lot of parents have turned to kindergarten readiness activities such as games, books, and kindergarten readiness worksheets. Determining what a child actually needs for school readiness, however, can be challenging.
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
The best way to determine the skills your child needs for kindergarten is to the review the curriculum of the school he or she will be attending. Many schools will also issue parents a kindergarten readiness checklist when they enroll their child in the school. Today, many of these standards are based on Common Core guidelines. These are a set of curriculum guidelines created in collaboration with governors from many different states in the hopes of creating one common national curriculum. Based on these standards, many states tend to recommend that children come in to kindergarten already having the following kindergarten readiness skills:
Be able to eat on their own without help. There are no longer lunch time assistants who can help children with cutting food or other common issues.
Dress, undress, and use bathroom facilities without assistance.
Follow group directions such as stand in a line, sit in a circle, etc. Kindergarten used to be thought of as a place where these skills were first introduced and taught. Today, however, many teachers prefer that kids come to kindergarten already familiar with these types of directions. Since these are not normally associated with the home environment, it’s not uncommon for teachers and administrators to recommend group day care or preschool in order to become familiar with these types of directions.
Be able to sit still and work on a task for up to half an hour. For many years it was thought that being able to concentrate on a task for this long was something that more children were incapable of. Today, however, a lot of kindergarten classrooms are more focused on worksheets and testing than playing and creating. That means students will need to sit down and work on their own for longer periods of time than in the past.
Be able to be separated from parents for at least six hours. Long gone are the days of half-day kindergarten. Most classes are as long as standard elementary school days.
Count to ten. In some states, teachers would like students to count to twenty or higher, but nearly everywhere expects kids to count to ten on their own.
Know their letters and the sounds they make. This used to be the focus of many kindergarten classrooms. In fact, most adults in this country remember a kindergarten class centered around learning a different letter every week. Today, kids are expected to know their letters based on sight and be able to tell the teacher the sound or sounds that the letter makes.
Write their name. While this doesn’t have to be perfect, most classrooms expect students to come in knowing how to spell and write their own name.
Be familiar with colors and shapes. Children should be able to recognize eight basic colors on sight as well as identify a square, circle, triangle, and rectangle.
Keep in mind that this is a very general list of kindergarten readiness skills that American students are expected to have. Many schools and districts have added to this list.
What if My Child is Not Ready for Kindergarten?
Because each child develops at his or her own pace and the list of required skills for entering kindergarten is long, it is increasingly common for parents to be very anxious about their child’s readiness for kindergarten. Of course, it’s important to realize that not every child will be able to demonstrate all of these skills when he or she is of the age when they can attend kindergarten.
Fortunately, there are a number of solutions to this problem. In many cases, parents who know that their child is lacking in essential skills can enroll their child in a kindergarten preparedness program. These programs are often offered by daycare centers and pre-schools, and focus on the skills and knowledge that students are expected to have in order to enter school. In addition to being taught the basic concepts, these programs give kids a familiarity with the school environment. If a year-round program isn’t right for your child or your family, a growing number of school districts and private academies are offering summer workshops aimed at kindergarten preparedness.
Some parents choose to work on the skills needed for kindergarten at home. There are a number of curriculum based workbooks, and even DVD programs that are designed to prepare kids for school. If your child shows no interest in a particular set of books or program, consider looking for alternatives. Also keep in mind that many children will develop skills at different times. That means that if your child shows no interest in learning to count, wait a few weeks or months before introducing the skill again.
One of the best ways to prepare your child for school is to look for ways to incorporate the skills into his or her daily routines. For example, count buttons as he or she is getting dressed in the morning, talk about the shape of various breakfast items such as plates and toast, and point out the colors of toys as you work together to tidy a room. Constantly working with these concepts will help your child a lot more than simply being introduced to them through books and television.
If a child comes to kindergarten missing some of these skills, it is important to realize that a teacher can work with him or her to help them catch up. Often, children who are missing just one or two skills can quickly get to where they need to be with some extra assistance both in and outside of the classroom.
Finally, some parents decide that it’s a good idea to wait a year before introducing their child to kindergarten. This gives a child an extra year to develop emotionally and gain the maturity needed to deal with the school environment.
Today, kindergartners are expected to come to school with many of the skills that first graders were expected to have in previous generations. Passing a kindergarten readiness test is relatively new, and many teachers and administrators are struggling with the new requirements. That means that kids today will need to spend a lot more time getting ready for school. Starting early and focusing on basic skills is the best way to ensure your child is ready for kindergarten.