There are many competing views out there about what it means to be ready for Kindergarten.
In our experience, children who experienced play-based, emotionally supportive, early education programs are best prepared to thrive in Kindergarten and beyond.
Nationally, there has been a push in the last decade or more towards less play and more literacy and academic focus in Kindergarten.
This creates more pressure for preschools to focus on didactic learning and rote knowledge, such as knowing all the letters and sounds before Kindergarten entry.
This early pressure flies in the face of what we as early educators know to be true about the best time for children to learn these academic skills.
However, with a sturdy base in play-based activities, children will just as easily absorb these lessons when exposed to them in Kindergarten.
In fact, they will have a better capacity to enjoy this learning than if they had been forced to learn their letters when their bodies were more resistant to sitting and following direct instructions. We run the risk of squelching their passion for learning by forcing them to study ahead of their development.
Every child is unique and may develop some skills earlier or later than others. What does a ‘ready child’ look like? Curiosity and motivation to explore are naturally present in children who are securely attached and have experienced success in navigating their social worlds.
Children who are ready for school feel confident in their capacity to learn and grow. They are interested in new topics and interested in how things work. They have shown their independence and capacity for some self-help skills. Having a quality developmentally appropriate preschool experience supports a child in future skill development across social, emotional, cognitive, and physical domains.
Problem-solving skills are important both socially and in approaching new and challenging activities/skills. Language skills are also important. When children can speak in full sentences they have an advantage. If they have a broad vocabulary, which comes from parents and teachers using and explaining these unfamiliar words, they also will have a greater level of success in Kindergarten and beyond.
When they can communicate their ideas, they are more prepared to help their new teachers understand their questions and needs.
Ready children have fine and gross motor skills and exhibit them by being able to use scissors and crayons in the classroom, and climb, jump and catch on the playground. They often have familiarity with the letters in their name, know some letters and numbers, and know how to write their own name, along with an emerging number sense in counting small quantities (3 to 4 things).
Children who are ready for Kindergarten are also able to communicate their needs, their feelings and have some skills in understanding and helping with other's needs too.
Ideally, by the time a child enters Kindergarten, adults and teachers have been models of empathy and conflict resolution that they can take with them into their new classroom.