How can you know if your child is ready to start school? Here’s the rundown on how readiness for school is determined.
In the United States, is children must be enrolled in an educational program by a certain age. This can include traditional school systems or alternative options. Although it can vary by location, the usual age is five (5) years old to start kindergarten and six (6) years old to start the first grade.
The skills needed to start school
But are these laws, what we know about children’s psychological and social development? It has been a hot topic of debate lately. To evaluate a child’s readiness for school we have to consider:
- Social kills – how your child gets along with other
- Physical skills – from running to handling a pencil
- Communication skills – including listening and dominion of language
There are some guidelines that help us know what to expect as for a child’s development in these areas according to age. Kids certainly do not develop at the same rate. However, that is why developmental milestones surveillance is based on age ranges and not on a set age.
For kids who are not there yet
In a typically developing child, the necessary skills to start school are by the ages mentioned above. However, some children need additional screening and evaluations to make sure that they are meeting all these criteria. It is especially important if the parents or caregivers have concerns about the rate at which the child is developing.
Your child’s pediatrician will be very happy to evaluate your child to screen for any red flags that suggest a child may need additional help with these skills so that school can. Some schools provide this evaluation as well.
If a child is found to require help in developing a particular skill milestone, services can then, so that they can start receiving the help as soon as possible. The earlier we start intervention, the better! Remember though, the screening tests mentioned are not completely perfect, and some kids who do well in the screening tests can later have some trouble in school. That is why caregivers should always keep an open eye in case they note any lag in skill development presenting in the future.
Things that parents can do at home to help school readiness
There is a
- Learn to say their name, address and telephone number
- Potty training – knowing to use the toilet on their own
- Ability to use buttons and zippers
- Paying attention and staying quiet during story reading time
- Playing well among other children without crying or fighting
It is also very helpful to read to your child from an early age and expose them to rich learning experiences frequently around the community early on.
Delaying school entrance
Some parents consider delaying kindergarten on purpose beyond the recommended age, but this is not always a strategy that will make sense. It has been found that children who enter school too young do tend to run into more academic trouble than their older counterparts in the same classroom. Kids who are significantly older than their class peers also have also been seen to have problems in school, especially behavioral issues in adolescence.
Get resources to guide you
There are many great resources that guide parents throughout the process of childhood development, and knowing what to expect in every stage is a good way to notice when something does not appear to be developing typically.
One classic that I enjoy for this purpose is the book Ages and Stages: A Parent’s Guide to Normal Childhood Development by Charles Shaefe, which guides you through child development up to age 10. You can get on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle. Your pediatrician will always be your best friend when you need to discuss child development, but keep a quick reference book in your home can help you feel empowered during your kid’s growth and development.
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