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Starting Kindergarten is a big deal for your little one, and its such an exciting time. You and your child will be discovering a whole new world of independence (especially if you've been a stay at home mom for the past few years!). Some kids will start kindergarten right after their 5th birthday, others will be held back until they are 6 years old or almost 6 ... our school district has strict age restrictions and so my kids won't be in school until they are almost 6 here in New England.

Regardless of age, your child will need to meet many developmental milestones in order to start and to succeed in kindergarten. While most children progress in a natural sequence of development -each child will grow and develop at their own pace some reaching milestones earlier than others.

According to the CDC children should meet a certain criteria of age related developmental milestones by the age of 5 and many of them coincide with the level of development that is necessary to be successful in kindergarten and develop the skills needed moving into 1st grade. If your little one is approaching kindergarten within the next year or so its a great time to check in and see where he or she is developmentally.

We've curated this list to help you identify areas your child needs to improve on before starting kindergarten to ensure they have the best and most rewarding experience.

Behavioral & Cognative

To get the most out of Kindergarten your child will need to meet a number of behavioral and cognitive milestones. Behavioral milestones in an age appropriate attention span is important at this stage because it helps ensure all children can participate and get the most out of a kindergarten level curriculum. At the age of around 5 years old your child should...

Know their own name - Kindergarteners will start learning writing and reading skills and doing many different activities independently, knowing their own names is important to build those communication skills needed to have conversation and at the very least will boost their understanding in helping them writing their names on class assignments. Also, if there is ever an emergency or situation in which they need to communicate their name to someone they will need to be able to do so.

Know their parents names and phone numbers - If for nothing else, your child should know their parents names as soon as they can comprehend that "mommy and daddy" have other names too... Your child should know how to communicate their personal information to others in the event there is ever a situation that someone would need to contact you for any reason regarding your Childs safety or wellbeing (school nurse, bus driver, camp counselor, grocery store clerk etc.).

Exhibit patience and takes turns with other children- Yes, I know we are talking about small children that just stepped out of toddlerhood here ha ha. But we're looking for more of the understanding of not getting what someone else has until they are done with it, its really the acknowledgement and possibly the ability for your child to move onto something else until its their turn.

Understand the concept of sharing - Simply understanding what sharing literally means and can comprehend it - regardless of whether they like to partake in sharing, that's a totally separate situation. :/

Can draw a person with 6 or more body parts - Cognitively this shows that your child understands multiple body parts and is able to display and relay that on paper in an abstract way. It also speaks to the level of their fine motor skills and shows a good level of comprehension and understanding of themselves and how they see others.

Able to sit quietly and listens to simple directions - An attention span for a child between the ages of 4-5 is about 5-10 minutes and children over the 5 year mark probably about 10-25 minutes. So don't get worried if your child isn't sitting through a lengthy book, or putting every toy in their play space away with ease they may still be maturing in this way. Instead, look for signs that they are engaged in an activity or direction that you gave them and they can follow simple 2-3 step activities. This is a good sign for development progression and you can build upon where they are developmentally over time.

Able to stay engaged in a story or activity - Does your child get excited to hear their favorite story, or read a new book? Do they pick books up off the shelf and thumb through them exploring the pages of pictures? Do they get and stay engaged in a favorite sensory activity? I would not worry so much as how much time a child between the ages of 4 -5 stays engaged in a single activity (like keeping their attention on a whole book) its about noticing this development within an appropriate attention span for their age and that the interest is there.

Wants to play with and interact with other children- This, of course, does not take into account children's different personality types. If you have a more introverted child then that is just who your child is, however if you notice that your child is not interested in interacting at all even when approached, seems scared of other children or even uninterested when noticing other children at play then it may be worth getting an opinion from a licensed professional either at your local daycare, preschool or pediatrician. Some kids just need to be warmed up to a new environment and others may not be totally ready developmentally yet - all children hit milestones, including emotional ones, at their own pace.

Physical Development Milestones

Physical development milestones for children between 4 &5 include fine motor skills as well as large gross motor skills such as running and jumping. Physical milestones are important for your child to be able to perform every day functions and further strengthen the body in different ways to help children grow and adapt to new activities. It is also important for the child to be somewhat independent in some areas before starting kindergarten.

Able to hold a book and turn pages - The ability to separate a page in a book and turn the page is a fine motor skill and helps show their level of hand eye coordination.

Able to kick a ball - One of the many gross motor skills that enhance your childs eye and foot coordination and can be a great toddler level introduction to sports.

Able to jump up and down multiple times independently- For your child to be able to jump up and down in the same spot helps grow their balance and coordination.

Able to cut with age appropriate scissors - Another fine motor skill that shows dexterity, hand and eye coordination, as well as a needed skill to be able to participate in many crafts that will be part of a kindergarten arts curriculum.

Able to put toys away in proper locations - This is not only a physical milestone but also fits into cognitive development in identifying similar objects and rationalizing where things go, or having memorized the proper location of a toy or object.

Able to use the toilet on their own - Kindergarten is not daycare, there may be scheduled bathroom breaks but the teachers are not typically going to hone in on just your child's needs throughout the day. Your child will need to be independent in going to the bathroom and know well enough to ask or tell the teacher when they need to go out side scheduled times.

Reading & Writing Development

By age 5 your child should be learning the concept of reading & writing and understanding that it is another form of communication (such as reading a book, writing a litter etc.). Reading and writing at this age range is very basic but it is a core foundation that he/she will need in school. This is the time to start learning sightwords and recognizing letters of the alphabet on paper and how each letter sounds. Here are more reading and writing comprehension skills your child will need to be familiar with:

Able to recite the alphabet - This can be in song form but having it memorized is key it lays the foundation to build upon letter sounds and word development.

Recognize a few sight words, such as 'go, it, my' - Sightwords are an important stepping stone to reading and writing development. By the end of kindergarten your child should and most likely will be able to recognize about 20 sight words and will be on track to more than triple that number by the end of first grade!

Have the ability to write some letters of the alphabet - Your child will need to be able to write their name around this time in their development so having a few practice sessions writing letters out will be a good boost to start kindergarten.

Visually recognize his/her own name - and able to write their name.

Understanding how some letters sound- This will develop more as your child get older but is a great starting point for developing more complex reading skills and before you know it they will be able to sound out whole words.

Starting to understand the concept of reading a book - Save those baby board books! The first books your child can read on their own will be the ones we were all flipping though at infancy, the large print and fun pictures will make them the easiest to learn on their own. Baby board books are a great starting point for your kindergartener to gain the confidence to read all on their own.

Math Basics: Numbers, Shapes and Counting

Children around the 4 and 5 year age should be showing consistent levels of confidence and interest in math basics. Learning numbers, shapes and basic mathematical practice will prep your child for math at the kindergarten level. Children in this age group should be familiar with the following basics to begin their understanding of math concepts.

Able to count to 20 - Counting to 20 and visually identifying 20 objects are two different milestones, yet they do go hand in hand. The ability to count to 20 speaks to your child's memory skills and understanding of numbers.

Able to count objects up to 10 - This is a bit different from counting up to 20 or maybe even 30, counting objects such as blocks or other small items shows a visual comprehension of quantity which then can develop into visual learning of subtraction and addition.

Sort objects by size and color - Part of a common core curriculum, sorting objects develops your child's critical assessment and ability to notice how things differ.

Able to draw and identify shapes - Shapes begin your child's relationship with geometry and visual math comprehension.

Addition and subtraction - At a very basic level adding and removing grouped objects will start visually teaching your child the basics of adding and subtracting. If you're looking for activities you can do with your child I encourage you to check out We Are Teachers for their great list of ways to work on adding and subtracting for kids!

This article is based on research - I am not a child development professional, if you feel like your child is not meeting many of these milestones, its important to bring this up to your pediatrician for their personalized recommendation. Children develop at their own paces, holding your child back another year if they need additional support and/ or time to work on milestones at this age may ensure future academic success.

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