Getting Kids Pre K And K Ready (Faq)

ready or not?

Top concerns about preschool and kindergarten admissions and enrollment addressed by area experts.

The experts: Jennifer Baudy, Jennifer Baudy, MSW, LMSW, Guidance Counselor at Community Day School; Camille Greenberg, Director of Little Gate at Louise S. McGehee School; Jennifer Rosen, Director of Admission at Isidore Newman School; and Dahlia Topolosky, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with the Family Behavioral Health Center in Metairie.


Q: Is there an ideal age for a child to start preschool?

A: (Camille Greenberg)

This is an individual, case-by-case situation. It depends on the family’s needs and it can depend on how your child adapts to new situations. If the program a parent is considering is developmentally appropriate for each different age it caters to, then a parent should find a joyful experience.

Q: How can a parent tell if their child is ready for preschool?

A: (Camille Greenberg)

Every child is unique and children all develop at different rates. But the following considerations can help you make your decision: Is your child interested in other children? The greatest benefit of preschool is socialization. How does your child do when separated from you? Even if your child cries when left with a sitter or family member, can they be redirected and become engaged in play? Are you ready for your child to start preschool? Your feelings can affect how your child transitions to school.


Q: What expectations should parents have of preschool?

A: (Camille Greenberg)

Once you make sure the bare minimums are met—appropriate licensing from state and local authorities and that the facility is safe, clean and well maintained—you will want to look much deeper to make sure a preschool is meeting additional expectations.

Young children learn through play.  A preschool should support a child’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and this should be reflected in the culture of the preschool. The curriculum should be developmentally appropriate while helping the children acquire the social and pre-academic skills needed to go on to “big school.”  The environment should be warm, inviting, and set up so every child has success.  Most importantly, look at the preschool’s faculty. There should be low teacher turnover and low student/teacher ratios.  Look for teachers that are qualified (early childhood education degrees), experienced, and committed to early childhood education.  They should be warm, loving, patient, and compassionate towards children.

Q:  Will my child definitely have to be tested for preschool or kindergarten admission? Do all schools do this?

A: (Jennifer Rosen)

The majority of schools will want some form of assessment in order to confirm that your child will be properly challenged in his new environment. The format of the assessment may vary as each school considers different qualities to determine admissibility.

Q: If a child’s not ready for preschool socially or emotionally, what should parents do?

A: (Dahlia Topolosky, Psy.D.)

Try to not let it be an anxiety. Preschool is not any indicator or predictor of future academic or social success. Instead, continue to spend quality time with your child and expose her to activities that increase her ability to have positive social interactions (play-dates, mommy and me tumbling classes, role play with your child) and skills that promote independence (putting on shoes, washing hands, potty training, etc.). Research indicates that children do well when they have caretakers who care about their well-being and development; they don’t need to be in a preschool for that.

Q: When should a parent become concerned that the transition to preschool just isn’t working? What are some signs?

A: (Dr. Topolosky)

It is natural for preschool children to have healthy separation anxiety and feel anxious, be clingy, cry, or tantrum when they are left in a new environment without their parents. However, if your child has a continuation or constant re-occurrence of intense separation anxiety that prevents them from functioning optimally, you may start to be concerned.  Your child might verbally start expressing why she does not like school. Some other signs could include changes in behavior at home (increased clinginess, accidents if already potty trained, tantrums, oppositional behavior), changes in sleep (nightmares, difficulty falling asleep), changes in appetite, or complaining of physical illness such as headaches or tummy aches. Your child’s teachers should also let you know if your child consistently keeps to herself  and/or engages in any frequent negative behaviors such as biting, throwing objects, or hitting.

Q:  Do you ever advise parents to withdraw their kids from preschool or even kindergarten and start anew the next year? Or can most adjustment and developmental problems be handled while the child is enrolled?

A: (Dr. Topolosky)

If a child has separation anxiety or behavior issues that are more severe and persistent, I may recommend seeking some professional help such as talk or play therapy. With many of those children, therapy and working with the parents does help and those children are able over time to have a positive preschool experience. Sometimes, however, a child is just not ready and/or their anxiety levels are too high, so being in preschool prematurely only makes the situation worse. Sometimes it is better for parents to withdraw their child that year and start the following year when they are emotionally ready.

It is also important to take a look at your child’s specific school and the think about the fit between your child and the program. Perhaps your child becomes easily overwhelmed in large groups and would do better in a smaller program. I have worked with children who struggled to adjust to one school because it wasn’t the best match, but did not have those same difficulties when they tried a different school program.

Q: What should a child know by kindergarten?

A: (Jennifer Baudy)

Kindergarten programs vary in their expectations of incoming students. Some programs expect students to know how to write their names and recognize the letters of the alphabet, whereas other programs may want children to identify shapes and count to ten. It is more important for parents to promote kindergarten readiness skills, such as being able to follow simple directions, pay attention to short activities, and share with others. Strong readiness skills will support a child’s interest in learning and allow him to adapt to any kindergarten curriculum.


Q: Does a child who attended preschool five days a week have an advantage in kindergarten over one who only went two or three days a week, or never went at all?

A: (Jennifer Rosen)

Each child is different; however, the majority of children who have already established school readiness skills often have a smoother transition to a typical school day schedule.

Q:  Would you be more concerned about a child entering kindergarten too soon if she were not ready academically, or socially?

A: (Jennifer Baudy)

A child who is not socially prepared for kindergarten may experience more challenges transitioning into a classroom than her peer who is not academically ready. Having a solid foundation of pro-social skills is important to a child’s growth since such development is a significant focus in kindergarten.

Q: When should a parent become concerned that kindergarten isn’t going well for their child? What should parents do, and what perhaps should they not do, to help their child get through and advance to first grade?

A: (Jennifer Rosen)

Parents should always allow for transition time, whether it is the beginning of a new program or simply the start of a new school year. Open communication between parent and teacher is the key to a successful partnership. Utilize the resources that the school has to offer—from guidance counselors to the local libraries and parenting groups, there is a wealth of knowledge available.


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