A child matures on his own schedule and this schedule can't be rushed. Often just a little extra time to "grow up" is all that a young child needs to feel comfortable at school, while other children may already possess the maturity to jump right into the classroom.
Does your child seem to display the maturity seen in other children his age? Can he use language effectively to express his thoughts and needs? Is your child comfortable separating from you? Is he frequently emotional, crying more easily than his peers? Are his self-help skills (dressing, caring for personal belongings, using the toilet) in place or are they still developing?
2. Comfort with Academic Expectations
I know we are talking about very young children here, but there are certainly some fundamental academic benchmarks that teachers look for when assessing a child’s readiness for kindergarten. These benchmarks include basic pre-reading skills (such as letter recognition and identifying the sounds made by some letters) and a basic comfort with numbers (such as counting to and beyond 10).
Can your child recognize his name in print? Can he count by rote to 20? Does your child use one-to-one correspondence to accurately count objects? Can he identify colors? Is he beginning to recognize and name some letters? Does he understand that letters form words? Is your child able to stay focused on an activity for 15 or 20 minutes?
3. Confidence Level
When a child is confident in his abilities, he needs very little prompting to approach a new or unfamiliar activity. He is comfortable giving the task his best effort and is able to persevere if his first attempts are not completely successful. Confidence is critical in the kindergarten classroom, as the curriculum will likely present your child with many new and unfamiliar challenges.
Is your child comfortable or enthusiastic when approaching new tasks? Does he tackle new tasks with some level of independence or does he ask for help with tasks you believe he can accomplish without your assistance? Does your child hesitate and look at another child for a model or does he try to accomplish the task on his own? Is he easily discouraged if his first efforts don’t succeed, or is he willing to try again and persevere?
4. Comfort with Peers
When a child feels that he belongs with his peers and believes that he has friends, he can concentrate and focus on the activities and challenges presented in the classroom. When a child is concerned about whom he will play with or how the play situation will unfold, he is distracted and often uneasy. This discomfort will not allow your child to focus on the activities presented in a kindergarten classroom.
Does your child interact easily with his peers or does he seem to struggle to make friends? Is he generally able to share and take turns with his friends? Is he able to manage small problems that arise in play situations without immediately turning to an adult for assistance?
5. Fine Motor Control
Although we are fully into the technological age, children will still need to comfortably use a pencil, crayon and scissors for the work they will tackle in kindergarten. From writing his name to complete craft projects, fine motor control is critical for success in the classroom.
Does your child manipulate a pencil and scissors with relative ease? Can he move and handle small items accurately and comfortably? Does he hold a pencil correctly? Does he use a scissors correct?
6. Mood or Demeanor Regarding School
It is natural for children to be a little tentative about beginning school. They will be separated from their parents and, at least during the first few days, will be in an unfamiliar environment. However, children who are ready to begin school are likely excited about it. They are eager to talk about the activities they will get to do in school or the new friends they will make there.
Does your child seem excited about going to school or is he reluctant and unenthused as the departure time nears? Does your child enjoy going to new classes such as a local art class or music class? Does your child complain of stomach aches or other discomforts in an attempt to avoid going to organized classes?
As with most decisions, there are both positive aspects and negative aspects to allowing your child to wait a year before beginning kindergarten.