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Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Updated: Jan 9

New York City public school students start kindergarten when they turn five by December 31st. Independent and private school kindergarten programs require children to be five by September 1st.

If your child turns five years old right before these deadlines, you may feel that they are on the younger side and be wondering if they are ready. As a former independent school administrator and part of the admissions team, we made decisions about incoming kindergarteners based on if we thought they had “kindergarten readiness skills,” meaning that they had the capacity to learn and grow, eventually meeting most of the benchmarks and standards by the end of kindergarten. At times, students would benefit from an extra year of pre kindergarten and, in my experience, it’s best not to rush this process. 

I’ve put together some skills that children work on throughout kindergarten that we considered when analyzing if they were ready to move up. Children do grow at different rates, so this is just to give you a sense of what they work on - they do not need to master all of these skills, just be growing and progressing. Also, keep in mind that the school I worked at, while inclusive, was not a special education school setting; if your child has an IEP, think about the supports that they will need to help them meet these goals. Perhaps speech and language support? Maybe a para? If you applied your child to independent and private schools this can also give you a sense of what they may be assessing during their playdates and interviews.

I hope the insights on kindergarten skills below help give you a sense of what most programs are looking for. As always, I’m available to discuss your child’s specific needs and any questions you may have.

Social and Emotional Development:

  • Separate from caregivers without excessive distress

  • Follow directions willingly

  • Transition between classes and different areas of the classroom

  • Increase self-reliance (put personal belongings away, clean up after themselves with some reminders)

  • Develop self-control and self-regulation

  • Display curiosity

  • Share with others and take turns

  • Relate to adults and peers

Self-Help Skills:

  • Dress independently, with some support for buttons, zippers, and snaps

  • Use the restroom without assistance

  • Wash hands with minimal reminders

  • Clean up after themselves with prompting

Literacy Skills:

  • Recognize, print, and identify the sound of alphabet letters (uppercase and lowercase)

  • Learn basic sight words and use phonetic skills to sound out unknown words

  • Write sentences using inventive spelling

  • Listen to and read stories

  • Perceptual and auditory skills

  • Motor skills (general and eye-hand coordination)

  • Language skills (organizing thoughts and communicating with others)

  • Listening skills (paying attention and following directions)

  • Number knowledge (understanding numbers, order, correspondence, attributes)

  • Desire to read

Language Development:

  • Engage in listening activities

  • Improve vocabulary and expressive abilities

  • Sequence storytelling

  • Explain thinking

  • Solve problems verbally

  • Exchange ideas and ask questions

  • Familiarity with nursery rhymes, stories, and poems

  • Identify and distinguish between rhyming words

  • Listen without interrupting

  • Retell stories and directions

Math Skills:

  • Master number names and count sequence

  • Count to 100

  • Count all to tell the number of objects

  • Understand one-to-one correspondenceProblem-solving using drawings or concrete objects

  • Introduction of size and quantity comparisons, time-telling, interpretation of graphs, classification, patterning, measurement, and geometric shapes

  • Work on addition, subtraction, and numbers 11-19 for place value

  • Express mathematical ideas to peers and teachers

  • Discuss weather and calendar concepts

Fine Motor Skills/Handwriting:

  • Hold a pencil and practice printing, coloring, tracing, pasting, and cutting

Gross Motor Skills:

  • Running, jumping, hopping, walking up and down stairs, and bouncing a ball


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