One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking times of being a mom is when your little one is beginning to show more independence and readiness for kindergarten school. So many questions and even worries come to mind such as whether your child is ready for kindergarten or wondering what the right age is to start kindergarten.
So, when does kindergarten start? In the United States, kindergarten age would usually begin at 5 years old. Some children would start as early as 4 or older than 5, but in general, children who are qualified to attend kindergarten should be turning 5 at the start of the academic year which is in August or September, but this also varies per state.
While kindergarten has a required age to start, it is all the more important to gauge if and when your child is ready for school on a physical, mental, and psychological or emotional level. Every child is unique and learns at their own pace which is why as a mom, I pay close attention to my child’s development and ensure that I give praise, correct when needed, and reward their progress no matter how small it may be. The smallest wins count the most for our little ones.
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
Many parents wrestle with the thought of how to determine whether their children are ready for kindergarten. There are many considerations to look into to know the readiness level of your child such as the following:
The Right Age
If your child is 5 or turning 5 in August or September (cutoff dates vary per state), then they are eligible to attend kindergarten.
Children at this age would normally experience separation anxiety when they have to be away from their moms or parents and would often cry or refuse to attend school. It could take some time like a few weeks or a month for children to adjust and acquire some independence in school. So, ask yourself: Can my child follow simple instructions? Can my child handle some degree of separation? Can my child complete simple tasks? If your answers to most or all of these is a resounding “Yes”, then your child must be ready for kindergarten!
Kindergarten school has evolved so much today that it is described to be “very academic” which means kids get to spend longer hours in school and must be able to participate in activities and complete tasks for the day. Kindergarteners are expected to know the alphabet by heart and can, at the very least, count to 10, and identify different colors and shapes.
Fine Motor Skills
Skip electronics for a bit and get creative juices flowing with writing and coloring activities at home. Grab some pens, crayons, and paper then let your child copy and draw a variety of lines and shapes. Check if they can follow your lead and practice constantly. Ask them to color the shapes or objects.. Check if your child can hold a pencil or a crayon with the right amount of control. Teach them to write their names as well as the alphabet and numbers.
Can your child understand simple and two-step instructions? Can your child pay attention, focus, and practice active listening? Communication is a two-way street so train your kids to listen and encourage spontaneity in conversations with them using clear and simple words. Check if your child can express their thoughts or needs in a way that can be understood by adults. Check how they sound out vowels and consonants. It doesn’t have to be perfect because they will learn and get better as they go. The goal is to keep on practicing their communication skills and build up their confidence to communicate effectively.
Social and Emotional Skills
Being emotionally or socially ready is critical to adjust and excel in kindergarten school. Does your child enjoy the company of other kids? Can they socialize and ease into new settings without much resistance? Do they know the value of sharing or waiting for their turn when playing with toys or reading books? Some children tend to exhibit social anxiety and throw tantrums especially when they’re introduced to unfamiliar people or new environments. This is considered normal and expected especially in the first couple of weeks of separation. Kids would normally adjust and be more sociable as they become at ease and gain some comfort and familiarity with their teachers and classmates.
Is your child trained to go the bathroom independently? Can they clean up after themselves when they eat their snacks? Can they fix their hair or tie their shoelaces? Basic self-care must be taught at home so you will have peace of mind that your kindergartner can take care of themselves with some guidance from their teachers, even when you’re not by their side.
A child’s attention span can be very short and thus, it poses a challenge for kindergarten teachers to be more creative and playful in presenting lessons. Incorporating humor, play, and even adding toys, art materials, costumes, or upbeat music can pull their attention towards you. More so, train your child early at home with proper courtesy and social etiquette in a classroom or any social setting.
Get your child ready for kindergarten at home by reading stories to them that require their full and undivided attention. Make sure that your child understands that there are rules for story time and that includes not interrupting or constantly moving around when you are still talking. Be interactive and ask questions so you know the child clearly understand the lessons. Pause and insert action songs, exercises, or activities to keep them engaged and energetic.
Can your child count to 10 without skipping a number? Once they master that, you can increase the numbers accordingly. Also, check if they can identify and group together objects from smallest to biggest, and identify shapes. Teach your child to understand the basic concepts of “more than” and “less than”.
How Can I Enroll My Child for Kindergarten?
Transitional Kindergarten (TK) or kindergarten is free because it is under the public educational system but there are also private and homeschooling programs available in all states. Enrollment for kindergarten usually starts in March and it is recommended to enroll early because schools are typically closed during summer. Below are the requirements you need to enroll your child to kindergarten:
- Proof of residency like utility bill, driver’s license, or proof of home ownership
- Proof of child’s identity and age like birth certificate, baptismal certificate, or hospital birth record
- Up-to-date vaccination and immunization records
- Medical or dental forms
- Registration and emergency forms
Can Parents Decide to Start Early or Delay Kindergarten?
Some parents opt to enroll their kids to preschool when they turn 2 or 3 to get them to warm up and get ready for kindergarten school, but this is is not required by law.
There are also those who choose redshirting or delaying kindergarten school in the belief that starting kindergarten at an older age like 6 or 7 gives their kids that competitive edge in terms of level of readiness and academic performance, as stated in a recent study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. This is more evident with working parents and those in the higher income bracket. However, a similar study contradicts such and states that there is no reason to delay kindergarten especially when the child is ready.
Is kindergarten required or mandatory to take in all states? According to the Education Commission of the States, kindergarten is required in over 17 states and including the District of Columbia. On the other hand, if your child has satisfactorily passed a mandatory assessment that qualifies his readiness for grade 1 then the child may skip kindergarten. Certain states have specific rules and guidelines that apply to this.
Are there standardized examinations or assessments that a kindergartener should take?
Assessments that range from formative, diagnostic, summative, and screeners for incoming kindergarten students are required in all 39 states and the District of Columbia.
What is the difference between a kindergarten from preschool or daycare programs? Pre-school and daycare education options usually entail fees but you can also enroll your child in a free pre-school, by the Head Start Program, which is designed to help augment the schooling of children from low-income families and also those with special needs.
Can a child with special needs attend kindergarten? Yes, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, “ a free appropriate public education is available to all children with disabilities residing in the state between ages of 3 and 21.” The state also supports equality and inclusion of children with special needs and disabilities to be schooled in the same regular school as everyone else or those children without any special needs.
So in summary to the question ‘when does kindergarten start?’ In the United States, the typical age for starting kindergarten is around 5 years old. While some children might commence at the age of 4 or even older than 5, the general criterion for kindergarten attendance is that the child should be turning 5 at the commencement of the academic year, typically in August or September. However, this timeframe can vary depending on the state regulations.