Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Three kindergarten boys in blue shirts are playing at a child-sized table.

Kindergarten can be an exciting time for you and your child because it sets the stage for his entire school career. You will look on in wonder as he grows into a more capable, confident, and enthusiastic learner.

But sending your child off to kindergarten can be rough. As the day approaches, you will probably experience a mix of feelings ranging from relief to fear. And your anxiety will be rooted in some specific questions that nag you.

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

How Can I Tell if My Kindergartner's Body Is Ready?

Five-year-olds come in all shapes and sizes. Some students are "off the chart" for size and physical dexterity. Others face severe challenges. There are, however, certain traits you may see in a typical five-year-old:

  • He manages his own bathroom needs.
  • He has increased poise, coordination, and stamina.
  • He can hop, skip, and jump.
  • He favors one hand over the other.
  • He begins to lose baby teeth and get secondary teeth.
  • He is learning to tie his shoes, button his buttons, and zip his zipper.
  • He climbs stairs using alternating feet.
  • He can throw and may be able to catch a ball.

What Kind of Physical Activities or Sports Are Best for 5-Year-Olds?

Most children love to try different sports and activities at this age. The secret is to help your child view them as fun. Any five-year-old who jumps, plays outdoors, and does other things that help develop large muscles is getting the exercise he needs.

All learning starts with play. You can best prepare your child for kindergarten by providing play experiences that challenge him and that he enjoys. Also, set a good example — remember to play yourself!

Should My Child Have a Physical Before He Starts School?

Entry into kindergarten usually requires a checkup. Be sure to tell your child's doctor:

  • about his physical and learning accomplishments
  • whether he is healthy year-round or (like many children his age) gets a lot of colds, sore throats, stomachaches, and ear infections.

At a well-child checkup, the doctor most likely will:

  • examine your child's eyes, ears, and other sensory organs
  • check urine, blood, and blood pressure
  • watch your child walk and bend to check for motor or skeletal problems
  • measure height and weight so he can assess your child's growth in comparison to his peers

A yearly dental checkup is also in order, both to teach good home care and to detect early dental problems. You may want to find a children's dentist, who has had extra training in child behavior and dental health.

Remember: If your child has ever had a medical problem, or has one now, it is important that you contact the school. A child who is on medication may exhibit unusual behavior in the classroom that the teacher needs to understand.

How Much Sleep Does a Kindergartner Need?

After a busy day in kindergarten, your five-year-old may find it easier to fall asleep at night than he has in the past. However, getting up in the morning may be more difficult. Night waking is rare among five-year-olds, perhaps because children this age do not typically take naps. If you establish a routine and stick to it — bath followed by a story, for example — bedtime usually goes well. In fact, it may be his favorite time of day.

Begin to adjust your child's bedtime and nap schedule several weeks before school starts. That way, he will not have too many changes in routine to contend with at the same time.

This article was adapted from Knowing and Growing Your Kindergartener.
Revised 2016 by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 2002 by Briargate Media, Focus on the Family.

Next in this Series: Kindergarten Readiness: Your Child's Emotions

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