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Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Parents often ask me about their child’s readiness for kindergarten. It seems more common in different parts of the country to “hold back” younger five-year-olds rather than sending them on to kindergarten. In other words children who will be five over the summer, just in time to start school by the September 1 cut off.

I am often confused as to why it is becoming more common to “hold a child back”, as someone is always going to be the youngest in a class, just as someone is the smartest, the tallest, the loudest etc. At the same time, I know that there are circumstances when a child may not be deemed to be “kindergarten ready” but those cases should be looked at individually. I do not think that the birth date alone should not be the deciding factor.

All of a child’s experiences leading up to kindergarten are educational in some manner and help to promote school readiness. The R’s of reading (which I think should be started by parents while their child is still an infant), rhyming and playing (which probably does not include video games), setting routines, rewarding success (from potty training to learning to write their name), and lastly relationships are important factors in school readiness. Most children have developed these skills from some combination of family life, day care or preschool, church and friendships. The cumulative experiences of early childhood are the stones on the road to future learning.

The most significant developmental markers that predict success in kindergarten are both social and emotional. The importance of embracing a school community, respecting teachers, becoming self-sufficient while at school, and enjoying new friendships in combination with the love of learning are the developmental milestones to be achieved during the kindergarten year. Not every five-year-old is ready to read, and some are more fidgety than others, while some will write their full names and addresses on the first day. But kindergarten is still the “entry level” job and everyone needs to start there on the road to being a CEO. Unless there are “red flags” as to specific learning issues I would not recommend “holding “ your child back simply due to being young.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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