Preschool or Kindergarten?

Starting kindergarten is a big step for little kids – and it can be hard to know when your child is ready for this new challenge. For some kids, another year in preschool will make the transition to kindergarten go much more smoothly. But for other students, this move is something they are already well prepared for. How can you know which path is best for your little learner? 

 Carrie Bucksath, pre-primary teacher at The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori in Madisonville, says schools can vary in what they are looking for when it comes to a child’s kindergarten readiness. “Academically, at our school, when deciding if a child is ready for kindergarten, the teacher will consider a variety of skills. The child should recognize basic shapes and colors. He/she should also be able to rote count, recognize number symbols to approximately twenty, and match the numbers and symbols correctly to at least ten.” Some letter name and sound recognition is a bonus. A child’s attention span and ability to stay on task are other factors to consider, too. 

Social and emotional maturity also play an important role in a child’s ability to be successful in kindergarten. Bucksath is interested to see if a student uses eye contact when greeting adults and other children, can speak clearly, and follow multi-step directions. “We look to see if a child is independent in caring for him/herself and in choosing and completing activities as well,” she says.   

No two children are exactly alike in their development, so drawing from the experience of your child’s preschool teacher for their insight on your child’s readiness for kindergarten can be very helpful.  

Laura Morgan, a kindergarten teacher at St. Thomas School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, says that the collaboration between preschool and kindergarten teachers is key when considering a move forward. Teachers at their school in both levels use a type of assessment called Brigance to help evaluate a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Morgan says, “In preschool, the preschool teacher gives the students an assessment at the end of the year to gauge whether or not they should move up into another preschool class or if they are ready for kindergarten.”  

Kindergarten teachers Alisa Forman, Darla Belcuore and Rachel Hebert at Hyde Park Public School say kindergarten readiness skills can include a child’s ability to: 

  • Write their name 
  • Hold and use scissors 
  • Follow directions and complete a task 
  • Use complete sentences to express thoughts, wants and needs  
  • Take turns when playing games with peers 

They also say that in order to be successful in kindergarten, students should have some experience being away from their parents for several hours at time. Having familiarity with books, counting and interacting with peers are all helpful as well. It’s also important to remember that kindergarten is a time of immense growth for students – academically, socially and emotionally – and teachers are there to encourage and guide young learners along the way. 

Maybe one of the most important factors to having a positive experience in kindergarten is a child’s own eager anticipation of it. “As a kindergarten student walking in the door, we hope to see a child who is curious and has a willingness to learn,” says Bucksath.   

Determining when to move your child from preschool to kindergarten is an important decision. If you’re unsure of what the best call is for your student, talk with your student’s preschool teacher for their insights and experience. You can also reach out to your local elementary school and ask to speak with their staff about kindergarten readiness. Armed with this knowledge, and your unique understanding of your child, you’ll be equipped to make the most informed decision possible. 

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