Column: Is your child ready for kindergarten?

By Ashley Underwood
Youth First Inc.

As the mother of a child who will start kindergarten this fall, there's been a nagging question in the back of my mind: "Is he ready?"

Beginning kindergarten is typically the start of formal education for most children, which can be an extreme transition from life at home or even pre-school/daycare environments.

The academic, social and emotional demands are much more intensive for children in kindergarten than what was previously expected. Despite these new demands, kindergarten is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn new things, meet new friends and experience growth.

So, what are some indicators that your child is showing readiness for kindergarten? According to the Mayo Clinic website, these areas are some common readiness milestones that children can show:

• Demonstrating a curiosity or interest in learning new things

• Being able to explore new things through their senses

• Taking turns and cooperating with peers

• Speaking with and listening to peers and adults

• Following instructions

• Communicating how they're feeling

• Empathizing with other children

• Controlling impulses

• Paying attention

• Limiting disruptive behaviors

While many of these skills develop between ages 4 and 5, there is not a set age limit at which children obtain these skills. Some parents choose to wait until age 6 to send their child to kindergarten to allow more time for further maturity.

What are some things we can do to help prepare our children for kindergarten before they begin? The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides a list of tips for preparing your child for kindergarten.

1. Help them develop independence at home. Encourage your child to dress himself, take his coat on and off and hang it up, use the bathroom without assistance, wash his hands without constant reminders, and put on his own shoes.

2. Teach responsibility. Start transferring small responsibilities over to your child, if you haven't already.

3. Develop and follow routines. Set up morning routines that will transfer into a school setting. Getting up around the same time every day, getting dressed, and having an early breakfast together is a great way to transition to a school schedule.

4. Read aloud to your child. Read a variety of books, read the captions under pictures in the newspaper, even share the comics. Just read together!

5. Engage them in meaningful literacy activities. Encourage your child to help you with thank-you cards, shopping lists or notes.

6. Acknowledge their feelings. Your child may express being nervous, not wanting to go or, alternately, feeling very excited to start school. Whatever they feel, take time to acknowledge and appreciate where they are.

It is a big deal to send your child off to school for the first time, and parents want to make sure they are doing everything to ensure their child's success and happiness. Chances are you're already practicing many of these skills your child will need for kindergarten. Remember to keep it fun and don't make it stressful for you or your child.

Additional information about kindergarten readiness from the Indiana Department of Education can be found at: https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/earlylearning/k-readiness.pdf

Ashley Underwood, LCSW, is the Youth First social worker at Loge Elementary School and Sharon Elementary School in Warrick County. Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master's level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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