Should I Hold My Child Back from Starting Kindergarten?

It is normal for parents to become emotional when their “baby” is suddenly ready to start kindergarten.  Every parent hopes that their child will do well in school, will make friends, will have a wonderful time, and will develop a love of learning.  At the same time, parents can also be concerned that kindergarten might prove to be too much for their child to handle.  How do you figure out if you should hold your child back from starting kindergarten this year?

There are no hard and fast rules to help you make this decision. As a former substitute teacher, who has worked with many kindergarten students, I can recommend some things to consider in your decision making process. Answering the following questions will give you a good idea if your child is ready for kindergarten, or if you should hold your child back.

Is your child completely potty trained?

Kindergarten students are expected to be able to identify when they need to use the bathroom.  It will be assumed that every kindergartener will be able to get up and use the bathroom when they feel the urge to do so. Kindergarteners are expected to be able to wipe themselves, to flush the toilet, and to wash their hands afterwards.  They are expected to be able to take off necessary clothing before using the toilet, and to put it back on afterwards, without assistance.

Most kindergarten classrooms will have an attached bathroom that the children can use.  There are no changing tables in a kindergarten classroom.  The job requirements of the kindergarten teacher (and the teacher’s aides) does not include changing diapers.   Children who are still wearing diapers (or “pull-ups”), or who are having frequent “accidents”, are very likely to be teased by the other kindergartners who have mastered the skills involved with potty training.

Some schools will ask parents to remove their child from kindergarten if the child is not potty trained.  The implication is that the child is not yet ready for kindergarten, and could benefit from having more time to master potty training.  The school will understand if your child has one “accident”, but is simply not equipped to assist a child who is still wearing diapers.

If your child is fully potty trained, but sometimes struggles with the buttons or zippers on his or her clothing, he or she might be ready to start kindergarten.  Send your child to school in sweatpants, if that’s what it takes!  If you haven’t started potty training yet, then your child is not ready for kindergarten.

Has your child attended preschool?

Teachers can tell right away which children have been to preschool. These are the kids who know their names. They are the kids who might be able to recognize their name in printed form (or, at least, can recognize some of the letters in it). These are the kids who can sit down for an entire five minute story time, without getting up to go do something else, bothering their neighbors excessively, or talking over the teacher. These are the kids who can identify at least a few colors, can count to five, and have a favorite story. In other words, these are the kids who “get” how school works.

Children who have been to preschool have a definite advantage over their peers who have never been in any sort of preschool program before they start kindergarten. In addition to being familiar with the academic concepts covered in kindergarten, and the understanding of how the school day will go, children who have been to preschool have learned some of the social skills that they will need in order to start making friends.

Has your child been to some form of a preschool program? Does your child have a group of children whom he or she interacts with on at least a weekly basis? Have you been working with your child at home on letter and number recognition? Can your child sit through a five minute story you read to him or her?  Does your child easily separate from you when dropped off at day care, preschool, or a babysitter’s home?  If the answer to most of these questions is yes, your child is ready for kindergarten.

Is your child five years old yet?

Most schools have a “cut off date”.  Your child must have turned five years old before that date – or they cannot start kindergarten that school year.  Schools are not required to accept students into kindergarten if they are below the age limit.  Parents who are in this situation might want to consider another year of preschool instead.

What if your child is going to turn five years old before the “cut off date”?  There are some states where kindergarten is mandatory.  Your child will be required to attend.  If the state you live in does not require kindergarten, then it is up to you to decide if your child is ready.  If his or her friends are going to start this year, your child can benefit from going with them.

Image by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr.

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2 comments to Should I Hold My Child Back from Starting Kindergarten?

  • Donna Roldan  says:

    My child is 5 yrs old but correctly uses bathroom to urine but not poop so can she still asist kindergarten

    • Jen  says:

      Donna Roldan,
      I would recommend asking that question at your child’s school. Speak with the Principal and with your child’s kindergarten teacher. Those two people should have the answer to your question.

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