kindergarten readiness

With back to school season right around the corner, parents of 5-year-olds often ask me whether their child is really ready to enter kindergarten or if they should wait another year to give them a better start. 

There is no uniform time or standard by which a child should be considered for kindergarten. Instead the decision is really based on a child’s developmental readiness.  If your child is developmentally ready, there is no data to suggest that waiting an extra year for your child to start gives them any kind of advantage.  So what are some of the key kindergarten readiness skills?   

Language basics

From a language standpoint, a child entering kindergarten should be able to ask a question, know their name address and phone number, tell a story, express a need and follow a three-step set of directions such as go to your room, get your sneakers, and turn off the light.

Motor development guidelines

From a motor or movement standpoint, most children ready for kindergarten should be able to stand on one foot for 5-7 seconds, and more importantly use scissors to cut a line on a piece of paper, use zippers and buttons and hold a pencil.

Cognitive skills

Cognitively or academically, it’s less important for children to know their letters, numbers and colors before starting kindergarten. But, they should know simple comparisons such as bigger or smaller and recognize that there is a difference between similar sounding words like hat and cat.

Social considerations

Socially they need to be comfortable in a group, play well with others and be able to stay on task for at least 10 minutes and hopefully 15. They should also be able to dress themselves and go to the bathroom unassisted.

If your child meets these challenges and is 5 years of age or meets the minimal age requirement for your school district, then they are ready for the great adventure we call kindergarten.    


Lewis First, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children's Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.

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