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Kindergarten Readiness

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > School & Preschool > Kindergarten Readiness


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Seeking resources to determine if child is K-ready

Sept 2012

Hello - I have a child who will be turning 5 in late Sept. 2013, thus eligible for public school K next fall; however, I'm not sure if they will be ready. What resources should I consult to help us decide? Our preschool teacher? The prospective elem. school's K teacher and/or principal? the district staff? (We are in WCCUSD.) Online websites? State of CA?? Nat'l Dept. of Ed? Advice on resources welcome (but please don't tell me what you did with your own fall b-day kid because that stresses me out! every kid is different, sigh :/ ) Thanks! Worried Parent


If you have a good rapport at all with your preschool teacher, they should help you. I would talk to them first. If you do not feel confident based on what they tell you, you should look at some resources that might help you decide. The kindergarten readiness info in ''Your Five Year Old'' by Louise Bates Ames is useful, as are some of the online readiness tests (you can google Kindergarten Readiness to find resources). Please realize that most Kindergarten teachers are more concerned about social skills (the ability to follow directions, take turns, sit still when asked, and share, for example) than specific academic prereading skills. Karen
I attended a talk by Lynne Mobilio who has done extensive research in readiness. It was great! Here is a link to a PDf file of her slides. Google her namem for papers and other info. Start at about slide 10 in this ppt file. In summary, self-regulation is much more important than alphabet. https://www.sccoe.org/depts/preschool/docs/UtilizingKindergartenReadinessObservation.pdf past K
I would definitely start with the preschool teacher(s). They have many years' experience with kids heading off to kindy and they can see where your daughter (did you say daughter?) falls on the spectrum. BUT, also, I do believe that many of those people in a position to give you advice have a bit of a vested interest in your choice. Our preschool told us that our June-birthday girl was probably ready for kindy, but that it would be even better if she did kindy at her preschool (which offered a kindy option) because then she'd get another year of being in the older, more experienced group of kids at school, rather than at the bottom of the totem pole again. Of course, that would have meant another $12K for them also. I think the elementary teachers and principal will advise holding her back, but their interests are different. They want an older, better-behaved student body who is more likely to raise their test scores. I know I sound so jaded. But I love the preschool that gave me the advice to hold my daughter back and I love the elementary school that is advising me to hold my younger daughter back. LOVE them! But they do have their agenda. So I guess my advice is to seek input, but don't necessarily take any one person's recommendation as the absolute truth. Mom of 3

Supporting kindergarten readiness at home

Oct 2010

I'd like to start helping my son prepare for kindergarten by cultivating some of the skills he'll need. We're happy with his play-based preschool, but I want to supplement the social and emotional development he's getting there with some more specific academic and pre-academic learning. I plan to do this at home for the next 1 1/2 years. I ask for your suggestions for activities, workbooks, or other fun, age-appropriate resources that can help us work on fine motor skills, focus and concentration, and other skills needed for kindergarten. My son will be a young five-year-old when he starts K, and we don't want to red-shirt him; we simply want him to be ready, and we believe we can help him. Advice from kinder teachers and parents who have done this already is especially appreciated! Mom who believes in preparing


As the mom of a now older kid, I would say gross and fine motor skills help a lot with kindergarten readiness because they provide self-confidence and independence. Some 5-year-old milestones are tying shoes, buttoning buttons, snapping snaps, going to the bathroom without help, swimming basics, riding a two-wheeler, opening and closing lunch containers, getting dressed without help, and following directions with multiple steps (such as brush teeth, put clothes in hamper, put on pajamas, pick out a book). Then just read together every day and have some sort regular structure to your day. You don't need to focus too much on actual academics. -- a mom
I'm a reading intervention teacher at a public elementary school. While I don't have a ton of experience with kindergarten, my sense is that academically- speaking, the biggie is reading readiness. They start reading in kinder, or at least that is the expectation in Oakland. And in first grade the reading instruction comes fast and furious. Not all kids are ready. I'd say the best thing you can do is read and talk to your kid. Level of spoken vocabulary has a strong correlation with later academic success. Vocabulary growth comes with exposure, and children's books are extremely rich in vocabulary. Also, the more positive associations your child has with reading, the more willing he will be to put in the effort to learn how to read.

It is helpful if your child knows at least some of his letter names and corresponding sounds, but they will focus a lot on that in kinder, so I wouldn't worry if he doesn't know them all. You can help his phonemic awareness (ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words), with rhyming games and oral word play. There is not nearly enough instruction and practice with penmanship in kinder these days, so you can get him activity books that help him practice holding and using a pencil (tracing lines, etc.) Teach him how to hold scissors and give him a bunch of paper to cut up.

If he is interested, you can start pointing out high frequency words in the stories that you read to him; words like ''the'', ''a,'' ''said,'' etc. Another fun activity may be to have him dictate a short story to you. You then write the story for him. Then read the story back to him, pointing to each word as you read.

Of course there is all the social readiness stuff, but you asked about academics. Pre-school should take care of the social stuff.

Whatever you do, don't push him. Let him take the lead; Keep it fun and light. teaching mama


Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?

Feb 2009

My 4 1/2 years old daughter just completed a private school kindergarten assessment (sort of). She cried and we left the first time. The second time she refused to do it and we left again. We were given a 3rd try and we thought she completed it. We just met with the principal and found out she refused to do the written parts at the beginning of the assessment but later warmed up and did the other activities, except she didn't play with the other kids (strangers) and she didn't want to answer the teachers questions about a story. She did answer other questions when one-on-one. She has always been slow to warm up and hardly ever speaks to or plays with strangers. Does this mean she's not ready for Kindergarten?

Based on what she did complete, she definitely has the cognitive and academic skills. She listened very nicely to the story and was not disruptive. Her preschool teachers say she is definitely ready. This principal says she's not emotionally and socially ready. She's not mature enough and she's young (she'll be turning 5 in August). She recommends a pre-K or developmental kindergarten, but will not accept her for kindergarten there. Not the school for her or not ready for Kindergarten? Any good pre-K or developmental kindergartens that also have space? mother of a shy girl


Hi, I sounds like your daughter is definitly not ready for this specific kindergarten, but maybe something else will be perfect for her. While your daughter is on the younger side she is within the birthday cut off for entering kindergarten in the fall. So if you are really wanting to put her in kindergarten in the fall, then I would look into what the principal suggested, a pre-K or developmental kindergarten or maybe another kindergarten that is able to help kids overcome shyness. The principal most likely has a fair amount of experience with shy children and probably is recommending the right thing with your childs best intrests in mind. I think social maturity can be just as important as academic maturity. If a child feels discouraged and unhappy in school from the get go then it may carry with her for the rest of her school career. Also sometimes children can be mean so if she is teased or whatever at school because of her shyness it could be scarring. With a pre-k or developmental kindergarten your daughter will probably be with a lot of other children shy like her and feel more comfortable in the class room and want to participate more without any coaxing. Also the teacher can then spend more time on developing her socially along with the other kids and she may then get over some of her shyness. Also check and see if once she has matured a little socially, if she can go from the pre-k/developmental K straight into the first grade. Not really sure how it works, but look into it, that way she/you will not feel like she was ''held back'' and she can contiue school with kids who are her age, biologically, academically and socially.

I do not know of any schools to recommend but ask the principal if she has any suggestions and hopefully you can get some from your posting also. Good luck and don't get discouraged! another loving mom


Park Day School in Oakland, a wonderful, warm, progressive and diverse school has started a Bridge-K program. I am always so impressed with how child-centered the staff are. The play area is beautiful and varied. Check it out on their website: www.parkdayschool.org I heard that they are still accepting applications for the Bridge-K program even though there is a deadline on the website. anon
I would say not the right school, rather than not ready for kindergarten. After all, the preschool teacher knows your daughter well. Since you're already looking at private schools, you might like Walden School in central Berkeley. At the Walden kindergarten visit, if a child is not okay with her parent leaving, then the parent may stay. The kindergarten teacher, and in fact all of the Walden teachers, appreciate that some people are quieter than others and know how to make all children feel welcome and happy in school. As a former shy child myself, I feel strongly that shy does not mean unready! Jennifer
My daughter, a September birthday, went to Step One's pre-K program a few years back. It was really really terrific. According to the newsletter, they still have openings. Ann
It sounds like that school is not the right fit for your daughter at this time. There are a wide range of private schools in the East Bay and their assessments differ as well. You could consider applying to other schools, particularly those with smaller class size and attention to social/emotional development. Ask to speak to parents of kids like yours. I know of a kid with similar experience to yours who is happy at Windrush. (I wouldn't worry about missed deadlines. In this economy, I'm guessing that many will have openings.) You can also consider starting K in a year. Our daughter has a Sept. birthday and missed the 9/1 cut off. Even though she would have been ready a year earlier, particularly academically, it has turned out to be a great situation for her to be one of the oldest in the class (especially b/c she is the youngest at home.).
I am sorry to hear about you and your daughter's experience. I'm not sure if you have had any other private school ''assessments'' yet but I just wanted to let you know that not all kindergarten ''assessments'' are like the one you have just described. My son started kindergarten this past fall at Tehiyah Day School and his ''assessment'' actually referred to as a playdate was quite the opposite from what you described. My son was allowed to visit the classroom in advance, hang out and play with the toys and even happened to meet the teachers before the kindergarten playdate. This allowed him to not only become familiar with the room but to also be excited about coming back so he could play more with their toys. I remember during this visit he constructed a lego space ship and the the Director of Admissions, Amy Utstein, even kept in her office until the playdate (a transitional object of sorts which he was very excited to have at the playdate ). During this kindergarten playdate there was absolutely no one-on-one assessment! Instead this small group of prospective kindergarteners came together for an hour, had free choice of activities to engage in, had a short circle time where they sang songs, and then shared a snack together. I was also told and was comforted by the message that if it was just ''one of those days'' then the kindergarten teachers would visit the preschool to see him in his familiar and comfortable environment. That being said, this wonderfully sensitive approach is mirrored in Tehiyah's development approach to teaching. Needless to say my son is thriving there, he can't wait to get there in the morning, and we as a family couldn't be more thrilled! Feel free to contact me if you like. You can also contact the Director of Admissions, Amy Utstein she was wonderful throughout the whole admissions process! Renee
My son is a Kindergartner at Archway off Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. I am not aware of any of the kids in the class being particularly young, but the class is very small - 7 kids - and so each child gets loads of love and attention. My son is reading at a first grade level, and comes home chirping about electricity and gravity. The entire lower school only has about 60 students, so there is a real laid back, family atmosphere. I think it would be a great place for shy student who might need a little extra time easing in. Feel free to contact me if you want more information. ann

Four-year-old reader won't be ready for kindergarten

Dec 2007

Even though my 4.5 year old daughter has been making great progress at her new preschool, her teachers and I think that she will not be ready for public kindergarten next year. She needs a lot of extra attention and help with her emotions and impulse control, as well being very high energy. We will most likely enroll her at the Kindergarten program at Step One (her current school), where all the teachers know her and are equipped to help her achieve. Once she graduates from there, she can go to public school K or 1st grade, depending on her progress. Here's the dilemma: she is also exceptionally bright. She is reading already (English and some Hebrew) and has shown a lot of interest in math and science, and she is dying to perform on stage (singing/dancing). I fear that she will become bored in kindergarten (especially if she has to go for 2 years). However, the prgram she'll be in next year isn't heavy on academics, so she may not be academically ready for 1st grade, even if her emotional behavior is on target. I'm hoping that I can do my own work with her around reading, math, etc so that she'll be more prepared for 1st grade, but I don't know where to start. What can I be doing with her? Where can I find supplies? How do I incorporate academic learning into her life without pushing her too hard? I don't want an Uberbrainchild; I just want to encourage and stimulate her and help her prepare for the challenges of K and 1st grade.


Please send your child to real kindergarten, not step one's program for late birthday kids - she'll even be on the old side for that program. Do you really want your child to be 6 when she starts K? I think she will defninitely be bored, considering she is already reading. That is what the kids are working on right now in K. I'm on the other end of the spectrum - my kid has a late november birthday and I sent her when she was still 4 and she's doing great. I don't find her public school ''academic'' at all and I don't see why people are so afraid of challenging their kids a little. They have dance, art, music and garden class every week. The ''homework'' generally consists of gathering leaves on nature walks, reading with parents, etc. - stuff you would do anyway. I think one of the K classes actually still take naps. I found the transition from preschool to K to be pretty easy. The K's are always separate from the older kids, you still drop off and pick up in the room, and parents volunteer everyday - much more than in preschool where parents weren't even allowed in most days. All in all, I've found K to be a much more enriching program than I had ever imagined. Maybe your child is even bored now and that is why she is having difficulty emotionally. She sounds ready to be engaged in more activities geared towards older kids, not toddlers. anon
Few 4-year-olds are ready for kindergarten. I hear you about her reading, BUT it is highly unlikely that she will get bored. I suggest that you don't push her AT ALL in the academics. She is progressing there on her own. Instead, and especially if her teachers feel this way, focus on her emotional and developmental growth. Sounds like for a child like your daughter, that kind of focus will help her most in the long run. amom
Gosh, I bet the people at Step One are bummed to hear that you don't think their kindergarten program prepares kids for first grade! I am sure it does. Think about it this way, all the other kids are going to go from that step one k class to public and private first grades and probably a lot of them don't already read. I am sure she will be fine. Really. anon
I don't think 4-year olds grasp the concept of boredom. They usually move from one thing to another when they have had enough. Parents suggesting to their kids that they must be ''bored'' causes children to learn to say they are bored, even if they don't know what it means--exceptionally bright or not. zzzzz
I can't believe the preschool teachers are saying your child won't be ready for kindergarten next year. It is DECEMBER!! You have 8 or 9 months before school starts. So much change can happen in that period of a child's life.

As politely as I can, I'll add that you are way over-thinking this at this point. I think too many parents wait to start their kids. The only time it is a good idea is if the kid is much too young or much too immature (emphasis on much). And I don't mean a little spirited.

My advice: Don't spend another minute thinking about this for a few months. If you need to apply to private schools, then apply and see how you feel when school time rolls around. You can always change your mind up to the first day of school.

My kids went to public schools, and they each had kids in their classes that didn't even go to preschool. some of those kids took a while to acclimate. Some of the kids had been held out for a year. It still took those kids time to acclimate to school. And, aside from kids with true learning problems, a lot of the reading, writing, social, and other disparities really shake out around 2nd/3rd grade. Up until then, it is a totally mixed bag maturity-wise and academically in the classroom. Please Relax


It sounds to me that your daughter would be better served in Kindergarten. I am one of those people who feel that kids should go to Kindergarten the year they turn five. Growing up in Illinois, everyone I knew, including my classmates began kindergarten up until they turned five in December. It seems that only here in California people wait to send their kids to kindergarten the year they turn six. If it's the emotional aspect you are concerned about, how about camp or classes where your child's level of social and peer interaction is increased. I know every child is different and teachers and parents would know best, but why prolong your child's academic career if she is apparently ready for it now? If your child can read, use scissors, identify colors and shapes, and understands simple math concepts, they are more than ready for kindergarten. anon
The best advice I've ever heard about whether or not to send a child to kindergarten early: Would you rather give her/him one more year of childhood or one more year of adulthood? My parents ''held me back'' so that I was slightly older when I started kindergarten (turned 6 at the start of the year,) even though I could already read and was academically advanced. I always enjoyed being slightly older (in high school it means things like driving earlier, turning 18 earlier, etc) and definitely felt and still feel that I was much more ready for college, etc, then my friends who were close to a year younger than me (who were 4/young 5 when they started kindergarten.) So why rush you child into growing up? They're going to spend most of their lives being an adult as it is. --loved being a kid for another year
I have kids in 7th and 11th grade. Both have late birthdays (August and October), and at the urging of the school district, we sent both to Kindergarten at just-5 and still-4. There were times it was difficult, and I questioned my choice to send them on. But frankly, one of the main reasons for their challenges was the kids who were held. Some were as much as 18 months older. They were bigger, stronger, more athletic, and they dominated. A lot. They had a big advantage over the right-age kids, and skewed upward the teachers' expectations for behavior, organization, etc. They disproportinately got the leads in the school plays, the coveted positions in sports, the awards. None of this was good for my kids. Was it good for the older kids? No doubt the perks were great for some. But not universally. Some of these kids lorded their advantages over the younger kids and learned to be insufferable bullies. They hit puberty earlier than others in their class, which was not always comfortable for anyone. Some began risky behaviors, exposing younger kids to things they were not ready for. I wish some of these kids had not been held -- life would have been better for them, and way better for my kids.

Don't just focus on your daughter today. Think about her needs at 10, at 13, at 17. Did you mature early? If so, she might too. How will she feel about having a woman's body before the rest of her class? Girls develop in all ways a lot faster than boys; how will she feel being older than most of the (already less mature) boys in her class? Will that drive her to seek out older boys who have had more experience than she (sheltered and held back) has? Will you be okay with that? How will you feel about her being interested in sex, or driving, as a sophomore (or, depending on her birthday, as a freshman)? Is she going to feel tied down when still in high school at 19, but ready to fly on her own? Too many parents focus only on their preschooler's immediate needs, and don't think about the effect of their decision on the other kids, or on their child long-term.

The upshot: Your child will grow and change a lot in ways you cannot predict, and you roll the dice either way you decide. But the school districts set the enrollment dates for a reason, and have in mind what is developmentally appropriate. You are messing with mother nature to hold her, and it may not serve her at all long term. My advice: Send her on unless there is some compelling reason to believe she is way less ready than others her age. Older mom who has seen a lot


Are you sure that it's your four-year-old reader who's not ready for Kindergarten and not you? It's no fun being stuck in Kindergarten when you've already been reading for two years and most of the kids are still learning their alphabets.

Let her give Kindergarten a try, and if it doesn't work out, she can try again next year. That would be better than enrolling her too late and finding out it would have been better to enroll her the prior year. Should have skipped Kindergarten


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