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Three Ways Parents Can Determine Kindergarten Readiness

By Monica Fuglei Kindergarten Readiness: 3 Tools

Spring is in the air and many parents are anxiously trying to decide whether to enroll their children in kindergarten next fall. While most states have a clear cutoff regarding age-based qualification for kindergarten, many parents worry about their children’s start in education and wonder what, exactly, indicates a child’s readiness.

Redshirting does not have long-term academic benefits

Parents historically entered their children into kindergarten as soon as they turned five, but recent trends can make them question this decision. In the United States, about seven percent of age-ready children are held back from starting school for at least one year. Several studies have shown that some early-age kindergarteners enter school with a learning deficit that persists through their early elementary years, though it appears that these deficits often disappear by the mid-to-late elementary years.

This kindergarten “redshirting” tends to happen more often with boys than girls and is linked to later-life advantages in sports, not long-term academic performance. Parents may consider redshirting for an academic edge that research does not necessarily support. Automatically holding back early-age kindergarteners is not necessarily advantageous over the long run; in fact, studies show that early enrollment gives children advantages like increased persistence and attention.

3 ways to measure kindergarten readiness: Social development, academic abilities, and feedback from preschool teachers

Concerned parents should be advised to make their decision based on specific developmental concerns for their individual children, not on rumors of advantages. Here are three areas parents should explore when deciding whether their child is ready for for kindergarten.

1. Social development

In order for kindergarten to work, students must come to the classroom with some impulse control and self-regulation skills. Those who don’t may have difficulty with effective learning and pose disruptions to the classroom environment.

While kindergarten teachers are accustomed to dealing with some disruptions, too many could lead to problems for children in the classroom. Young students who exhibit difficulties with self-regulation are more likely to perform poorly in school, though kindergarten is certainly a time to work on impulse control. As such, parents must weigh their concern against age-appropriate behavior and teacher expectations.

2. Academic ability

Due to the wide variety of early childhood education experience among students, some children enter kindergarten ready to read while others are still struggling with letter identification. Parents worry about the increased expectations of kindergarten academic performance, though teachers note that the first year of elementary school is often one of significant academic growth if a child is curious and willing to learn.  

The Minnesota Early Learning Foundation’s “Is Your Child Ready?” campaign provides both assessment and advice for parents working on academic and social readiness. Once introduced to these resources, parents can get a better grasp on entry-level expectations for children in kindergarten.

In addition, parents can consult online readiness checklists to help them assess their child’s current skill set. A kindergarten readiness checklist gauges a child’s development in areas such as language, number sense, print knowledge and gross motor skills.

3. Advice from preschool teachers

One of the best indicators for kindergarten readiness can come from early childhood education teachers, who have a deep understanding of a child’s classroom personality and abilities and can thus provide excellent advice. If their children are enrolled in early childhood education, parents can discuss kindergarten readiness with their child’s preschool teachers. Additionally, parents should discuss their child’s readiness with their school’s kindergarten team.

Kindergarten enrollment: “Delayed entry is rarely desired if schools are prepared”

If a child’s social and academic development is adequate, the National Institute for Early Education Research advises kindergarten enrollment as soon as they are eligible, saying, “delayed entry is rarely desired if the schools are prepared.”  Their research indicates that the decision to delay should be made in only the most serious circumstances.

Ultimately, the decision over whether to hold back a child for a year or enter them in kindergarten when they are age-appropriate needs to be driven by a parent’s understanding of each child’s personality, academic ability, curiosity, and social and emotional readiness. 


Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.


Debra J. Ackerman and W. Steven Barnett, Prepared for Kindergarten: What Does “Readiness” Mean?, National Institute for Early Education Research

Maria Konnikova, Youngest Kid, Smartest Kid?, The New Yorker

Chera Prideaux, Preparing for Kindergarten: Is Your Child Ready…Or Not?,

Elena Bodrova and Deborah J.Leong, Developing Self-Regulation in Kindergarten: Can We Keep All the Crickets in the Basket?, National Association for the Education of Young Children

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist,

Is Your Child Ready?, Minnesota Early Learning Foundation

Kindergarten Readiness,

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