When should you start kindergarten?

Parent Knows Best

The decision to enroll your child in kindergarten may start with date of birth, but it doesn't end there. For most parents, it's not just about starting school; it's about starting school on the right foot.

A child who is thrust into an environment where everyone -- except for him -- can count, operate safety scissors and sit still for a good 10 minutes is likely in a position to lose self-esteem, and that can have long-term effects [source: Gesell].

Every single child in the world develops at a different rate [source: Gesell]. The differences can be big or small, and just because one child can count at the age of 5 and another isn't quite there yet doesn't mean there's a problem. It simply means he may not be ready to start kindergarten just yet.

In other words, determining your child's kindergarten readiness is ultimately about what you see, hear and, sometimes, smell. A child who is ready to enter formal schooling is, for a start, fully potty trained, can speak clearly and in complete sentences, and is able to focus on a single, simple task to completion. He or she is at least pretty good at sharing (well, most of the time), can work in groups, and is able to follow directions. If all of this describes your child, you may just have a kindergartener on your hands.

There are lots of other signs of readiness, too. To learn about some of the other criteria you might consider in your assessment, see 5 Things to Know on the First Day of Kindergarten.

And if you decide you don't quite have a kindergartener on your hands? No need to fret. As you surely have noticed by now, children can change dramatically week to week, and even day to day. If you check the criteria again in a month or two, you may just find it is, in fact, the perfect time to enroll.

Just remember to have fun with it. "Checking the criteria" will likely get you different results from "playing the super-big-time-crazy number game."

For more information on kindergarten, child development, and related topics, check out the links on the next page.