Preschool or Kindergarten?

Starting kindergarten is a big step for little kids – and it can be hard to know when your child is ready for this new challenge. For some kids, another year in preschool will make the transition to kindergarten go much more smoothly. But for other students, this move is something they are already well prepared for. How can you know which path is best for your little learner?

David Baldock, a kindergarten teacher at the Center for Inquiry School 2, gives his thoughts on several skills that are helpful for incoming students to have under their belts, such as:

  • Being able to take care of their own hygiene needs, like washing their hands, cleaning up after themselves and using the restroom independently.
  • Being able to use buttons and zippers, and tying or managing their shoes in a way that keeps them safe.
  • Understanding when the space between them and another person is either unwelcome or causing an unpleasant response.
  • Having the ability to communicate their needs in a manner which is understandable to adults.
  • Recognizing caretakers immediately and differentiating between someone they know and someone that is a stranger.

As many parents know from experience, the rate at which kids develop skills can vary greatly. Stephanie LaPlante, the Director of Early Childhood at the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, says, “We have always had the philosophy that it is our job to be ready for students when they come to us.” LaPlante adds that “Indiana requires that a school corporation provide a kindergarten program for eligible students that are five years of age or older on or before August 1st of the school year.”

According to LaPlante, Lawrence Township preschools, such as the Early Learning Center at Winding Ridge, use the Indiana Early Learning Foundations programming as a framework for teaching preschoolers essential skills and knowledge. The foundations range from language arts and math to social/emotional skills and physical health and growth. This tool helps teachers evaluate a student’s strengths and areas for continued improvement.

Conni Davis, Principal at The Early Learning Center at Winding Ridge, says the Foundations program provides a lens through which a preschool teacher can document a student’s developmental milestones. Ultimately however, parents make the decision of whether or not they think their student is ready to move on to kindergarten. She says, “A family may choose to have their preschooler complete another year of preschool if they believe their child would benefit from an extended experience, and they turn five years old later in the summer.”

What are some other skills kindergarten teachers would like to see their incoming students have?

According to Baldock, this could include letter recognition, some phonemic awareness, and recognition of the eight basic colors and shapes. LaPlante also notes that a successful transition into kindergarten may begin with knowing some “softer skills” such as sharing, taking turns and being able to verbalize feelings.

It’s important to remember that kindergarten is a time of immense growth for students – academically, socially and emotionally – and teachers are there to encourage and guide young learners along the way. “During the school year, teachers will be providing learning experiences to develop and nurture independence, build stamina and social skills. If a child enters kindergarten with these skills, that’s terrific, but these are skills the classroom teacher will be working on [with them].”

Determining when to move your child from preschool to kindergarten is an important decision. If you’re unsure of what the best call is for your student, talk with your child’s preschool teacher for their insight and experience. You can also reach out to your local elementary school and ask to speak with their staff about kindergarten readiness. Armed with this knowledge, and your unique understanding of your child, you’ll be equipped to make the most informed decision possible

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