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Questions About Kids

Is My Child Ready For Kindergarten?

When children turn five years old, many parents question whether or not their child is ready for kindergarten. There is a lot of advice floating about these days, and not all of it is helpful. Hard and fast rules such as "never send a summer birthday, five-year-old boy to kindergarten" are not appropriate.

School readiness is more complex than sex and chronological age.

School readiness is more complex than sex and chronological age. It is also not simply being able to recite numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. School readiness is a constellation or combination of many factors. Few children are complete ready or not ready for kindergarten, and most will fall somewhere in between on a continuum of readiness.

Here are some developmental skills to look for in a school-ready child:

Social Development

Emotional Development

Language Development

Motor Development

Intellectual and Academic Development

Researchers have identified elements of homes that prepare children for school. Indeed, the "academic culture" of the home appears more influential than either income level or parents' level of education.

Parents can prepare their children for school by communicating that school is important and by helping them develop the language skills and social behaviors needed for school.

It is important that parents feel and communicate that school is important and do their best to ensure their child's regular school attendance. Parents can model appropriate use of written materials, whether they be TV Guides, magazines, newspapers, or books. Using language often with children is important. This includes talking about events and feelings, in addition to giving directives. Finally, parent-child interaction which demonstrates social behaviors needed for school, such as complying with rules and expectations and delaying immediate gratification, is critical.

Obviously, it is important for parents to do their best to ensure that their children are healthy and consume reasonably nutritious foods in adequate amounts. Less obvious is the need for parents to monitor and control the amount and content of television watching in the household.

Children who watch excessive amounts of television are losing precious time that could otherwise be spent in more mentally and physically challenging activities.

Reading to children prepares them for school in a variety of ways.

Finally, parents who read to their children for as little as ten minutes daily at bedtime are giving their children a bouquet of important readiness activities. These include close body contact (which promotes security and independence), practice in learning and using language skills, vicarious learning about the world and its peoples, and maybe most important, the concept that reading is fun.

Additional factors may affect children's readiness for kindergarten, such as temperament and activity level. However, it is important to realize that not all kindergartens, whether publicly or privately sponsored, use developmentally appropriate teaching methods. Excessive dependence on worksheets and "seat work" which require children sit still, be quiet, and focus on abstract tasks for extended periods of time are NOT appropriate.

Children learn by doing, experiencing, and interacting with the people and objects in their environment. Therefore, the question is not simply "Is my child ready for kindergarten?" but "Is the kindergarten ready for my child?"

The “Question About Kids” series is published by the Center for Early Education and Development to provide state-of-the-art information about young children and families. They are reviewed by a panel of child development experts at the University of Minnesota. For further information, contact the Center at 612-624-5780.

University of Minnesota
Center for Early Education and Development
207 Pattee Hall
150 Pillsbury Drive S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Copyright © 2004 by Center for Early Education and Development

These materials may be freely reproduced for education/training or related activities. There is no requirement to obtain special permission for such uses. We do, however, ask that the following citation appear on all reproductions:

Reprinted with permission of the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota, 215 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive Southeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55455-0223; phone: 612-625-2898; fax: 612-625-6619; e-mail:, web site:

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