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Most parents assume that their child is ready to go to kindergarten according to a certain chronological age; however, a child’s birthday is not the best readiness marker. Children develop at different and uneven rates so there is a difference between a child’s chronological age and developmental age. All schools have an age requirement to enter school but the decision of when to send a child to kindergarten is ultimately up to the parents.
School readiness can be defined as the ability to cope, learn, and achieve without undue stress. What a child knows is not as important as how information is processed and what the child can do with the information once they learn it. For example, as a child learns to write, they are developing the eye-hand coordination and fine motor necessary to hold a pencil correctly. Then the child will learn to copy shapes and letters. These skills are part of the markers for readiness.
Readiness markers include more than academic knowledge. Bonnie Bruce, co-founder of Chancy & Bruce Educational Resources, indicates that we must look at the whole child to better understand their developmental readiness. Rather than asking a child if they know their ABC’s, educators are better able to assess a child’s readiness using what Bruce calls “pathways to learning”. These pathways include: gross and fine motor, visual discrimination and memory, auditory discrimination and memory, receptive and expressive language, comprehension, and social-emotional development.
Gross and fine motor development readiness markers include being able to hop on one foot, catch a ball, copy shapes, and string beads. A child that is ready for kindergarten will be able to visually discriminate by completing puzzles, noticing same/different and biggest/smallest, and recalling a missing item. It is also important that a child is able to use auditory discrimination in identifying beginning sounds and rhyming while using auditory memory to repeat syllables and numbers, recalling story facts, and following 3-step directions.
Language plays a substantial role is determining a child’s readiness. Children that are ready to enter kindergarten will be able to name common objects, answer questions, identify described pictures, and define simple words. The child will be able to use descriptive language about a completed art project. Comprehension is an important part of language development. The child will be able to follow a sequence of events and name consequences by understanding cause and effect.
The last pathway to learning is often overlooked. Social-emotional development is crucial to school success. The child should interact with peers appropriately by helping, sharing, and cooperating. The child will be confident enough to separate from parents easily and should be curiously seeking new experiences.
Since growth is uneven, some children may excel in some pathways to learning while struggling in others. A common question that parents may ask is “what can I do to get my child ready for kindergarten?” A child cannot be forced to learn but they can be provided with an environment that promotes learning and exploration. Our next edition will give ideas of how to provide this environment and what activities are helpful to promote learning.