By Ben Mardell and Melissa Tonachel

Q: I have a child in preschool. How do I know if he will be ready for kindergarten when the time comes?

A: As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Pay attention to the things she says and does. Children come to kindergarten from a wide variety of experiences, and settings, so expecting them all to know and be able to do the same things is unrealistic.

Is your son excited about school? That's a good sign. Beyond that, it would be great for him to have some experience with the following things:

  • listening to others and taking appropriate turns for expressing ideas and questions;

  • handing materials respectfully and putting them away;
  • sustaining engagement with an activity or process;

  • identifying and pursuing his own interests, choosing materials and having some ideas about how to engage with them productively;

  • being safe in relation to the group (staying within school bounds) and attending to personal needs (washing hands); and

  • asking for help when he needs it.

He may have begun to develop other habits and skills but they may not be fully developed in preschool or even by the end of kindergarten: solving problems with peers, taking the perspective of others, increasing his stamina, and building academic mastery, for example. Hopefully, on the first day of school, your child will enter kindergarten with joy and the confidence that school is a good place to be--a fun, fair, and good place to learn.


Ben Mardell is associate professor and program director of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Melissa Tonachel is a kindergarten teacher in Boston, MA.

Source: Adapted from an online Q&A published in 2011.