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Playful Five-Year-Old: Ready for School?

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I have a five-year-old boy who is currently in nursery school. He refuses to write his name, letters, and numbers -- he just wants to play. We are concerned he may not be ready for school. Should I send him to all-day kindergarten or look for a pre-kindergarten class?

A: There is no foolproof way to determine whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Nor is there one magic age that guarantees success in school. You may find it helpful to consult with your child's preschool teacher, pediatrician, and others who know the child well in order to evaluate his readiness. Your own opinion, however, is the most important since you are the one who knows your child best.

In making your decision, consider that he will be one of the younger children in his class. Many of the children will already be six or very close to six because their parents have delayed their entry in order to give them an advantage in handling today's more academic kindergartens.

Young children naturally want to play, and this is good because it is how they learn about the world. Rather than being stubborn, your son may not yet have the small motor skills to handle writing. How many of the following things can he do?

  • Copy simple shapes
  • Cut with scissors
  • Color pictures
  • Use a fork effectively
  • Build with building toys
  • Draw a person with at least six body parts
  • Lace shoes
  • Tie knots
  • Pick up and fit objects together with ease
  • Button a coat
  • Pour liquid into a glass without spilling
  • Hold crayons appropriately
Kindergarten teachers will expect him to handle most of these tasks easily. If he can't, check again in a few months. In the meantime, you can help him develop his small motor skills by giving him many opportunities to finger paint, draw with a marker, use a pencil, pick up small objects (coins, buttons, cereal) with his fingers, build with small blocks, and do puzzles.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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