How Do I Know When My Child Is Ready for Kindergarten?

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My sister called a while ago because she wanted to know how to tell if her daughter was ready for kindergarten. She had heard all sorts of stories about kindergarten readiness: a friend had told her that her child needed to be able to read to enroll in kindergarten; a neighbor had said that her daughter should be able to count up to 100! She was worried because her child could do neither of these things.  I told her to not worry.

 There is really no one “list” that can be used to assess readiness.  In fact, different schools look for different criteria to assess readiness. However, I have never heard of any public school(at least here in the United States) that would not enroll a child unless she could count to 100 and read proficiently!

You may also be wondering how to assess if your child is ready for formal schooling.  You can gauge your child’s readiness for formal schooling based upon their ability to perform certain skills.  They include:


Your child should be able to at least count up to 10.  They should also understand that a number is a representation of an amount of something.  For example, some pre-schoolers can count up to 10.  They have no idea what numbers actually “mean” though.

Reading Readiness

Your child should know at least some of the alphabet.  Some schools want your child to be able to recite the entire alphabet.  Your child should also have some understanding of phonetics.  That is, they should understand that letters make sounds and that words are made up of different sounds.

Self Care Skills

Your child should be able to use the bathroom independently.  They should also be able to zip and unzip a coat and put their shoes on independently.

Social Skills

Your child should be able to interact with other children their age comfortably.  She should also be able to separate from a parent or caregiver with a minimal amount of emotional distress.

Listening Skills

Your child should be able to follow simple commands and should also be able to listen to a short story without interrupting.  Your child should also be able to understand and obey classroom rules with minimal direction.


When I was small, I knew many children who were in kindergarten at the age of 4 because age guidelines were less strict.  Now, the schools are very particular about ages. 

Most schools want your child to be at least 5 when she enrolls.  Some schools are willing to make exceptions in certain cases.  However, I really discourage parents from enrolling young children in a formal educational program. 

 I noticed that many parents felt that they had “bragging rights” if their children were attending kindergarten at a young age.  Sadly, many of these children ended up repeating kindergarten because they had trouble grasping the concepts or because their social skills were lacking.  Repeating a grade can be very traumatic for a child.  For that reason, I encourage parents who are questioning their child’s readiness to wait.

If you have questions or are unsure if your child is ready for formal schooling, contact the school.  Many schools have testing programs to assess school readiness.


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