Invested Caregivers Make Children Ready for Kindergarten

Many caregivers know that preparing a child for kindergarten is more than simply completing the seemingly endless pile of forms and filling a backpack with paper and crayons. The real mystery, though, is exactly defining what it means for a child to be "kindergarten ready." Is it knowing the alphabet, counting to 10, and knowing their colors? Is it mastering the skills of sitting on a carpet square and sharing toys with other children? Or, is it an excitement to learn and experience new things? Depending on who you ask, kindergarten readiness may be a little bit, or a lot of all of those things

Regardless of your own definition of kindergarten readiness, preparing your child for kindergarten should begin long before your child's first day of school. Preparation for kindergarten should actually start when your baby is first born, or even earlier! After all, children enter kindergarten with five years of learning already packed into their growing brains. Much of that learning, in turn, comes from their caregivers. Thus, it is the caregivers' role to encourage, nurture, and hone what their child learns in preparation to begin school. The best answer to the question "What makes a child ready to start kindergarten?" is not necessarily a set of skills, but instead an invested caregiver.

As mentioned in our Research section, definitions of kindergarten readiness vary among teachers, caregivers, policymakers, and scholars. Although these definitions do differ, there are similarities among many of the definitions. Most recognizably, many seem to focus on cognitive and emotional development. Taking it a step further, though, there seem to be four crucial areas of development critical for school readiness: language and literacy, thinking skills, self-control, and self-confidence.

These four areas cover not only the cognitive sphere of kindergarten readiness, but also emphasize social and emotional development. Kindergarten introduces many unfamiliar situations to children. Some may be away from their caregiver for a longer time than they are used to, others may not have spent much time around other children their age or from diverse backgrounds, and still others may not have ever had to sit still and raise their hand when they want to talk. These are the types of situations when the social and emotional aspects of their development come into play.

Caregivers are a child's first teacher, and a child's development in all of these areas should be nurtured by their caregivers in preparation for the first day of kindergarten. In the upcoming editions of Research to Policy, we will go deeper into these four cornerstones of kindergarten readiness and how caregivers can help their children to be kindergarten ready all around. Until then, here are some extra tips for caregivers! You can visit Zero to Three's school readiness website for more information and helpful videos on how to help develop these four skill areas in your child in their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years of life.

Helpful tips for Caregivers

  • Read to your child every day! While you read, point to words and letters in the book to connect them to the pictures.
  • Talk to your children often; surround them with positive language, even if they cannot talk back yet.
  • Play, explore and pretend with your children to help them learn how to think.
  • Answer your child's questions at their developmental level, and encourage their curiosity about the world around them.
  • Provide a structure for your child with consistent rules to help them learn to control their behaviors and emotions in a predictable environment.
  • Encourage your child to find their own ways to solve problems and then give them the support they need.
  • Give your child age appropriate choices to help them learn self-control.
  • Help your child to choose between good behavior and bad behavior.
  • Respond to your child's needs and emotions.
  • It is important for a child to know that their caregiver thinks wonderful things about them, so give your child lots of positive praise.

Registering Your Child

  • Proof of Residency
    • All students must bring two of the following items that show the parent or guardian's name and address
      • Sale contract
      • Real estate tax receipt
      • Mortgage Statement
      • Current MLGW Bill
      • Lease/Rental Contract
      • Military Letter of Assignment
  • Kindergarten students and new students must bring the following additional documents:
    • Certified copy of birth certificate
    • Proof of medical exam within the last 6 months
    • Tennessee Child Health record or Temporary certificate of Immunization
    • Child's Social Security Number
  • Kindergarten students are required to have had the following immunizations
    • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP, or DT if appropriate)
    • Hepatitis B (HBV)
    • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (2 doses of each, usually given together as MMR)
    • Poliomyelitis (IPV or OPV) – final dose on or after the 4th birthday now required
    • Varicella (2 doses or history of disease): previously only one dose was required
    • Hepatitis A –total of 2 doses, spaced at least 6 months apart