Thinking About Kindergarten Readiness

Being ready for kindergarten doesn't depend on age alone
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Courtesy Sergey Noviko/

Although many parents think about a child’s entrance into kindergarten happening at a certain age, assessing kindergarten readiness and a child’s potential to learn in a group setting involves more than reaching his fifth birthday.

Determining kindergarten readiness evolves around two categories: skills and concepts, and social and emotional development. Knowing where your child falls in both categories can be helpful in determining if he or she is ready to begin kindergarten and, perhaps more importantly, what type of kindergarten program would best suit all of her developmental needs — cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.

Skills and Concepts

Measuring skills and concepts is a concrete, straightforward process. A kindergarten readiness skills and concepts checklist would likely include measuring the following skills:

• Gross motor

• Fine motor

• Cognitive

• Language

• Self-help

• Social (see below)

Social and Emotional Development

Children do not always develop evenly. Some children may be cognitively ready for kindergarten, but may still need support in their social and emotional development, or the other way around.

A child’s social and emotional development can be more challenging to measure, since growth tends to be more qualitative than quantitative and a child’s abilities in these areas depend upon a number of factors. For example, a child may have a harder time going to school when there has been a disruption to the routine at home (such as a parent traveling). For the purpose of kindergarten readiness, we suggest that you consider whether your child can do the following most of the time:

• Separate from parents for the duration of a school day without protest or distress.

• Show interest in school and a range of school-related activities.

• Not fear or resist going to school.

• Participate in group activities with joy and ease.

• Show confidence and make decisions independently.

• Follow a structured routine and be flexible about changes in the schedule.

• Focus on tasks in a settled and attentive way.

• Maintain self-control.

• Wait for short periods of time.

• Work independently.

• Settle disagreements verbally.

• Keep track of personal needs (e.g., toileting, dressing, taking care of personal belongings).

• Respect the property of others.

• Follow classroom rules.

• Show a willingness to try new things.

• Meet new people and visitors with relative ease.

• Get along with other children and show an interest in making friends.

You can find other checklists online or at your child’s preschool or daycare program. Your child’s preschool teacher serves as a valuable resource in thinking about kindergarten readiness and the ideal learning environment for all of your child’s developmental needs.

In addition, the Lucy Daniels Center plans to host several free workshops that are open to the public to discuss this and other related topics. See a full schedule of the free workshops at


The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families. Visit to learn more.


Categories: Education, Parenting