As the new year turns, parents of four and five-year-old preschoolers are looking back and looking forward and thinking: can it be that there is only half a year of preschool left? And then we're onto...kindergarten?!
And each one of us is also thinking: is my child ready for this? Am I ready for this?
Even though kindergarten is not necessarily so very different than a good pre-k program, it still feels like a big jump. The hours will be longer, no doubt, and the days more structured. But the biggest difference is that our little ones will be going to the same school as the really big kids! Preschool can feel like a cozy extension of babyhood.... Not so kindergarten. Sigh.
So maybe some of us parents are not quite ready, but that's not the truly important question, is it? Rather, this is a good time of year to begin asking whether or not our kids will be ready to make this big transition by the fall.
Your child's preschool teacher can give you most of the answer to this question, but as a parent it is useful to know what sorts of things a teacher looks for in a kindergarten kid. Overall, it is not so important that a child enter kindergarten with any particular set of knowledge, but rather that he or she be equipped and ready to learn in a school setting.
Most kindergarten classes have a significantly lower teacher-student ratio than in preschool, so it is important that the children be able to handle their own basic needs. Among these: wiping their own noses; using the toilet independently; washing their own hands; taking off and putting on their own coats, hats, shoes; eating unassisted; cleaning up after themselves; and so on.
Learning in a large group requires everyone's cooperation, so social skills are crucial. A child will do fine if he or she can separate comfortably from a parent or caregiver; follow an adult's directions; play well with a group of other children; sit and listen for short periods (circle time!); understand and follow basic rules.
Here is it important to caution that children learns letters and numbers and all the rest at dramatically different rates at this age, and generally most kids catch up to each other a couple of years down the line. When entering kindergarten, the key is that a child be comfortable in a school setting and express curiosity and eagerness to learn. Tell-tale signs of readiness are: an interest in books and reading; knowing some songs and rhymes; recognition and/or writing of some letters; pretending to read and write; knowing how to use pencils and scissors; expressing ideas through drawing; ability to retell a story; counting to twenty; willingness to try to complete a task.
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