Will my child be ready for kindergarten?

My son is four-and-a-half and will start kindergarten this fall. He's in preschool now and isn't real interested in art projects or writing. Can you give me an idea of the types of skills children should have, both emotionally and intellectually, before attending kindergarten?

Question:

Kindergarten readiness can be measured in many ways: socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children who are developed in these areas generally tend to adjust to kindergarten more easily than their less developed counterparts.

Each state has a kindergarten cutoff date -- the date by which your child needs to be five-years-old in order to enroll in kindergarten.

There is a wide variety in the type of kindergarten programs across the country. Some schools favor a development approach while others have become more academic in nature.

You may want to visit the kindergarten class that your child will potentially be enrolled in so that you can see what the curriculum and expectations are like. While observing the class, try to envision your child in that environment. Take note of the aspects of the curriculum that you think he will particularly enjoy as well as the things that you think will be challenging for him. If you find more of the latter, you may want to rethink your decision to enroll your child in that particular school, or you may even want to wait an additional year, especially if his birthday is in September or later.

Your child is developing valuable social skills in preschool. Learning to share and communicate with others is an important life skill that will benefit him in kindergarten. The preschool experience is also allowing him to see what it is like to be without you for part of the day. This should be helpful to him as he transitions into kindergarten. Children without preschool experience seem to have more difficulty separating from their parents, so it is good that you have given him this experience already.

It appears that your child may have some difficulty in the cognitive area of kindergarten. You've indicated that he shows little interest in school projects. Those types of projects involving cutting, gluing, coloring and other fine motor skills will continue in kindergarten. It would be helpful for your child to be working on these skills now so that it won't be an issue later on.

Encourage your son to do some fine motor projects at home. To make the task more attractive to him, try tying it in to something he likes. For example, have him create a collage of his favorite toys, using pictures cut out from catalogs and advertisements. At the top, give the collage a title such as "Danny's Favorite Toys." Have your son trace the letters in the title using a brightly colored marker or crayon.

One of the more difficult tasks for kindergartners is learning to sit still for extended periods of time. You can help your child to adjust to this by slowing increasing the amount of time that you spend reading to him each night. Start with a short book or nursery rhyme of two to three minutes in length. Each week, extend that reading period by about one minute until you reach at least fifteen minutes. Only go beyond that time if you think he can stay focused. Once he starts fidgeting, you know it's time to stop. While you read to him, make comments about the story elements, such as characters, setting and important events. Acknowledge his opinions and observations, too. This will help him become more involved in the story.

Best wishes for a pleasant kindergarten experience!

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