Is Your Child Ready For Kindergarten? Q&A with STL Children’s MomDocs

Dr. Dehra Harris, Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, gives advice on how to know if your child is ready for kindergarten. For parents, Dr. Harris explains, it is important to understand that there is nothing magical about the cutoff date for your child to start school. It is far more important to think about if your child is really ready for kindergarten. There are a few things you can do to determine your child’s kindergarten readiness.

First, talk to your pediatrician. At every well child visit, your pediatrician will conduct developmental screenings to assess whether your child is on track, and identify any potential concerns. You can also get formal assessments from the school to ensure that your child has all the basics to be ready for the first day.

Next it’s important to think about what skills your child needs to get through a typical day in kindergarten. These include fine motor skills such as using scissors or being able to draw basic letters. Watch when you are working at home together and see if they are putting these fine motor skills to use.

Social skills are another large piece of assessing whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Observing how your child plays at the playground or with cousins at family events can help you see if they are ready.

Another useful indicator of kindergarten readiness is analyzing how your child responds to challenges. Some kids need a lot of challenges to keep from being bored, and sometimes these are the kids who are better off if they begin school earlier. Other kids need a lot of early ‘wins’, so waiting another year to enroll them in kindergarten would help them be much more confident when they start.

If your child gets through the year in kindergarten and you still feel like they are struggling or falling behind, talk to the school about additional services or consider having your child repeat if necessary.

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The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube station is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this web site or for its use.

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