As a Kindergarten teacher, I get asked this question often. To be honest, there is no one right answer. Every child is different, with different passions and abilities and ultimately it comes down to you trusting your instincts. Still, there are many factors to consider so I’ve compiled a list of what I think can help you make the best decision for your child.
Does your child enjoy learning?
The biggest discrepancy I see of students in my class who are ready/not-so-ready for Kindergarten is a passion and drive for learning, especially using letters and numbers. Students who are engaged and eager to understand that letters have sounds and make words generally are more driven to try challenges and ask questions to cultivate their learning. Students who have a basic number sense (like five is more than two, how to count objects, etc.) get excited to problem solve. I don’t expect students to come in knowing all of their letters/sounds/numbers necessarily, but having a basic knowledge sure does help us get started in the learning process!
Can your child follow multi-step directions?
This is a big skill, but important for Kindergarten success. Students need to be able to hear a set of directions presented by the teacher and successfully follow those steps. An example I might say in my classroom is, “Please get out your scissors, glue, and folder.” Do you notice at home when you give directions that your child can *usually* follow them successfully? (And I say usually because, well, kids will be kids!) If you find yourself having to repeat directions more often than not, this is something to consider as you make your decision.
Does your child enjoy meeting new friends?
One of the sweetest things I find about teaching Kindergarten is how excited students are to make new friends! Of course there will always be children who are naturally more outgoing or shy, but overall ask yourself if your child will be able to play with others and have fun at recess and center time. If your child struggles with taking turns or engaging with others, it may be a sign that he/she could benefit from another year of play groups or preschool.
Can your child stay engaged in an activity for more than just a few minutes?
Kindergarten is loads of fun- we sing, dance, color, create, learn, play, and grow every day. But in the classroom setting, it is important for students to be able to stay engaged in the activity we are currently doing so that they can process what they are learning. As teachers we try to keep activities exciting and developmentally appropriate (we definitely do not expect students to sit all day and learn lecture style!) but we do need students to be ready to stay with us and focused on what we are learning for success.
Is your child becoming independent with basic life skills?
Transitioning to Kindergarten comes with lots of milestones, and being more independent is important. Your child should be able to put on coats/jackets by herself and zip them up, as well as take care of all bathroom tasks on his own (including washing and drying hands). While shoe tying can take some time to master, it is something your child should ideally accomplish during their Kindergarten year. I average 20 students in my class every year, and can assure you it helps everyone when we can get to the playground on time instead of me having to go through and zip jackets and tie shoes for my students! I also want to address the desire to be independent, which can go a long way in problem solving and critical thinking. I’m always so excited when I see students trying to do things on their own because I know this means they believe in themselves and are comfortable taking risks- ultimately also learning how to persevere.
What is the opinion of your child’s preschool teacher?
If your child went to preschool, I highly encourage you to talk to his/her preschool teacher for her opinion. While preschool is still very different from Kindergarten, it’s the first true classroom setting your child has been in that incorporates learning and social skills, so your child’s teacher will have an excellent perspective on how your child will likely progress in Kindergarten.
Of course there are still many factors to consider, but I hope this list helps guide your thoughts if you are a parent of an incoming Kindergarten student with a late birthday. At the end of the day, remember that you know your child best and trust your mama instincts!