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Guest column: Is my child ready for kindergarten?
by Bernice Kirzner and Coleen Lou
Guest Columnists
March 14, 2013 10:41 AM | 8146 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bernice Kirzner
Bernice Kirzner
Coleen Lou
Coleen Lou
Kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, transitional kindergarten — how do I know where my child will be most successful? With the world of kindergarten changing so dramatically over the past several decades, parents have good reason to ask this question.

The kindergarten of the 1980s is a world apart from the kindergarten of the 21st century. Children today are expected to achieve at more advanced levels than ever before, and there is every indication that this trend will continue. Why you may ask?

Our universities have elevated their expectations in hopes of creating a cadre of graduates better prepared to meet the challenges of our global world. This necessitated the elevation of high school graduation standards, setting in motion the “trickle-down effect.”

In order to meet entry expectations at each grade, the preceding grade needed to accelerate. The kindergarten which was once primarily a place to play, dance, sing and draw now emphasizes academics interspersed with purposeful play. So, how do you know if your child is ready for this new world called “kindergarten” and, if the answer is yes, which type of kindergarten?

Parents and educators must work together to ensure that children are socially and emotionally ready to learn and to embrace these new kindergarten expectations. This necessitates matching children with learning environments that are aligned with each individual child’s developmental needs.

In the Journal of Educational Research, early childhood education expert Sandra Crosser said, “Academic achievement is only one piece of the school entrance age puzzle. The child’s physical, social and emotional development are key pieces as well. It would seem that the course of wisdom is to consider the whole child in all of his or her aspects when making decisions about school entrance. The answers are not simple. They are further complicated because each child is different biologically and emotionally. Each child brings his own special characteristics with him.”

If the parent and child’s teachers decide the traditional kindergarten is not the right match, then a transitional kindergarten may be the better choice. A transitional kindergarten, such as the one at The Epstein School in Sandy Springs, is student-centered, exploratory, multi-sensory and embeds a strong social-emotional component. It has been a very successful option for many students with late spring through early fall birthdays.

“This year has been a true gift to us and especially our son,” said Tracy Kaplowitz Seitz, the parent of a transitional kindergarten student at The Epstein School. “While he would have been fine moving on to kindergarten this year, we know next year he will truly blossom. We know we will never regret the decision to give him an extra year to grow and mature before having to become a ‘real big kid.’ We love that his days are balanced with plenty of learning and lots of play. We are confident the extra time he is receiving this year will benefit him beyond any of our expectations.”

Questions for parents to consider:

o Does my child have a late birthday?

o Does my child:

play in a group?

listen to stories without interrupting?

follow basic rules and routines?

stick with and solve simple problems?

share with others?

pay attention for short periods of time?

demonstrate self-control?

do things independently?

o Does my child:

speak understandably?

follow directions?

express his/her needs to adults?

look at pictures and then tell stories?

recognize rhyming sounds?

o Does my child:

identify some alphabet letters and sounds?

recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects?

o Does my child:

manipulate small objects?

cut with scissors?

button a shirt?

zip up zippers?

trace basic shapes?

bounce a ball?

What can I do to best prepare my child for kindergarten?

o Read, read, read to your child

o Limit television/computer time

o Speak to your child using age appropriate vocabulary, avoiding “baby talk”

o Play rhyming, counting, alphabet type games

o Have family conversations that include your child at the dinner table

o Go on field trips – to the zoo, museums, library

o Establish bedtime routines that include a story

o Hug your child often…and tell him/her you love them

o Just have fun and enjoy those special moments together!

Bernice Kirzner is the associate head of school at The Epstein School in Sandy Springs, and Coleen Lou is its director of communications. Kirzner can be reached at, and Lou can be reached at

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