By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
Sending your child to kindergarten is a bittersweet juncture, filled with mixed emotions ranging from anxiety to pride to excitement! But how do you know your little preschooler is ready to make the jump? Every child’s rate of development is different, and you may find that your child picks some tasks up quite quickly, while others try your patience. Here are a few skills that tell you your big kid is ready to board the bus:
Social Skills: Dressing your child and rushing out the door on time is akin to an Olympic sport at times. Now imagine the teacher dressing 20 children. Consequently, kindergarteners should be able to perform simple self-help tasks including getting jackets on and off, going to the bathroom independently, eating neatly, etc. They should also be able to play well with others. Promote sharing and taking turns in your home to help develop these skills. Kindergarten teachers expect students to be able to listen to instructions and follow them promptly.
Fine Motor Skills: Every day crafts in kindergarten will require students to color, cut, paste, and hold a pencil. You can build strength in tiny hand muscles with fun activities such as making bracelets with beads and elastic.
Language Skills: Read, read, read to your child daily. More than learning how to read, your child builds a vocabulary and the ability to tell a story. When turning pages, pause and ask your child what he sees—a dog, a flower, a little girl. Now ask him to describe the dog, the dog’s color, the expression on the dog’s face, and so forth. And use words from your own vocabulary. You may need to explain yourself, but you don’t need to “talk down” to your child. You will be amazed at how much your child can learn and retain every day.
Make Learning Fun! Your child will learn to read and write in kindergarten, so to prepare for these skills, she should be able to recognize most letters, count to 10, identify numbers 1 to 5, and know some shapes and colors. But, more than individual skills, she should develop an eagerness to learn. Make learning fun by telling stories when you go out. Counting apples you place in your cart at the grocery store, finding the letter P on store signs when taking a walk, or picking out all the red trucks while in the car are some games to play to help foster an enthusiasm for learning.
Although this list is not complete, if your child can do most of these tasks all the time and the rest some of the time, he is probably ready for school. If you’re still not sure, talk to his preschool teacher or family members who have had children in school already. And, of course, never hesitate to visit with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s development.
If you need a pediatrician for your child, visit The Children’s Hospital website at http://www.chofsa.org/findadoc to learn more.