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Ready for Kindergarten?

Too often parents don't consider the question of school readiness until their children are already struggling in kindergarten. How can parents help their children be more prepared for a structured classroom?

Though you won't be able to account for all the educational pitfalls children face their first year in school, there are a few ways you can improve your children's educational readiness. We will examine the four areas of development: cognitive, physical, social/emotional and verbal. To understand more about developmental milestones, please consult our Common Sense Parenting® of Toddlers and Preschoolers book.

How can I help my child be better prepared for kindergarten?

  • Cognitive or mental readiness is an important concern for most parents. Visit schools you are considering for your child and ask about the curriculum for kindergarteners. Ask the teacher what cognitive abilities she looks for initially, and what skills she expects a student to have by the end of the school year.
  • Physical preparedness would seem to be a much easier area for parents to measure readiness, but you'd be surprised at how many parents miss some important areas.
    • If you notice that your child is constantly having problems with incontinence, don't just chalk it  up to laziness or defiance. It could signal a more serious problem. Consult your child's pediatrician to  rule out a physical problem.
    • Lack of motor skill coordination can hinder children's success in school and signal other  developmental concerns. Observe how successfully your child uses his or her fine motor skills in  actions like holding crayons or pencils, and large motor skills in games and tumbling activities.
  • Social and emotional development can be a real problem for some children in a classroom setting.
    • Social skill training can help your child develop prosocial behaviors that will help him or her make a smoother transition from home or preschool or kindergarten.
  • Verbal skills can lead to negative issues for some children, even those who don't have a verbal disability.
    • Demands of the small-but-vocal cannot be tolerated in a classroom of 15 to 20 children. You will need to teach your child how to politely ask for what he or she wants, using an indoor voice with no whining, grunting or pouting.
    • Pronunciation can be a difficult skill for some children to master. They may not have all the words down by the time they enter the classroom door, but they should have a good handle on them. You can help your child by modeling, correcting and having one-on-one conversations to improve how he or she says certain words. 
    • Vocabulary is a gateway to the rest of the world. You can help your child improve his or her understanding of words by using flash cards, reading books and telling stories.

As a parent, the more you know about and work on your child's abilities in these areas, the better able you will be to make an informed decision on whether to send him or her to kindergarten.