School is always at the forefront of parents’ minds but the topic becomes even more nerve-wracking the moment a child turns four. As the deadline for school applications looms, parents also begin to wonder even more intensely than they ever did whether or not their child is ready for school.
While the answer is subjective and depends on each individual child, there are fortunately a number of clear indicators that can help to determine whether they are ready or not. It can be said that no child can ever be truly ready but with enough time to spare until the first day of school, it’s never too late to start getting a child ready. If a child is doing some of these 20 things, then not only are they possibly not ready for school but it might be worth considering solutions and strategies to get them ready.
In an effort to make sure their child is ready, many parents are even opting to “redshirt” nowadays, which as Care.com explains, “is the practice of holding [the] child back a year in order to give them a leg up in school.” However, you should know that “by the time the child reaches third grade, they are doing the same as any third grader.”
20 They Want Lots Of Presents, And They're Not Interested In Sharing
If your four-year-old melted down into a crying fit this holiday season over the worry that Santa wouldn’t bring them a lot of presents, then you might want to start ramping up the talks about quality over quantity. But this trait actually also extends to sharing. If your child’s sole worry is about getting lots, lots, lots of presents, then there’s a good chance that they’re not very good at sharing either. Children with no siblings can especially have a hard time with this. Since sharing is key in a school environment, kids who don’t share or are particularly materialistic can find themselves struggling to adapt.
19 They Let Out Crocodile Tears At The Drop Of A Hat
While you may be happy to be out of the Terrific Twos or Threenager stages, four-year-olds are no walk in the park either. At four-years-old, kids seem to be able to communicate what they want and yet many of them will still throw temper tantrums on the floor. Unlike the tantrums they threw at two or three-years-old, these are usually accompanied by crocodile tears, AKA fake tears, and the seeming inability to see reason, unless you offer something they want. Some kids cry more than others though, and if your child is still crying at the drop of a hat, then it’s time to help them learn to communicate their emotions.
18 They Disregard Directions
Ever told your four-year-old to go put their boots one at least 20 times in a row? Tell them you’ll give them a cookie if they sit at a table and suddenly they will magically teleport there in an effort to get there faster but tell them to put their boots on because you need to go to the store and they will seemingly pretend not to have heard your direction.
Given that school is all about following instructions and listening, kids who tend to not do as they’re told may have a harder time. This isn’t to say that they need to be little robots who do everything they’re told but general instructions like getting dressed, washing their hands, eating without running around… still need to be followed.
17 They Are Uncommunicative
At four-years-old, your little one should already be communicating relatively clearly what they want or need. Living and Loving points out:
“While it isn’t essential that your child be verbal, she needs to be able to communicate her needs in some way – whether through actions or words. At the preschool level, your child needs to be able to tell her teacher when she needs the toilet, when she’s feeling cold, or when somebody has upset her. She may not have the right words to express all of these things, but some ability to communicate her needs or wants is necessary.”
16 They Watch TV First Thing In The Morning
Has your child learned to simply wake up in the morning, grab the remote and turn on Netflix? As great as it is because it probably allows you to get a few more minutes of extra sleep, that might actually be a problem. More specifically, if you have a hard time getting your child to sit still for an activity or to go play with their toys because all they want to do is watch TV, then come school time, they might have a hard time adjusting. We’ve all heard about the effects of TV on little ones’ minds but with school right around the corner, it’s especially important for four-year-olds to focus on playing and learning rather than watching cartoons.
15 They Spend All Day At Home
For the parents who choose to homeschool, it’s very important to get out there, go outside, and let their children have play dates with others. Boredom can be a real problem and as Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier told She Knows:
“Let your child’s level of boredom and activity at home guide you when it comes to preschool readiness. Does your child appear to crave more activities? Is she acting out? Does she have siblings or playmates to interact with?
Talking about her own daughter, she also added, “Six months later, it was obvious she was becoming bored,” Fritzemeier says. “She was discovering more ways to create mischief around our house. We sent her halfway through the school year and it was perfect.”
14 Struggles With Independence
As Karen Smith, a preschool teacher from Pietermaritzburg explained to Living and Loving, “Your child needs to be able to dress and feed herself. “Tying shoelaces and doing up buttons or zips are too complicated for a child entering preschool”.
In fact, “She urges parents to dress their children in “easy, child-friendly clothing,” such as shoes with Velcro instead of laces, elasticated pants instead of zips, and T-shirts instead of button-up tops. This makes life easier for the teacher, who doesn’t have time to tend to 24 pairs of shoelaces, but also for your child, who can feel confident in her ability to dress herself. A child’s eating habits need not be perfect – she may be a messy eater, or [dislike] the crusts on bread – but at snack time, she should be able to feed herself.”
13 They Feel Forced To Learn
Ever go through the realization that your four-year-old still can’t count to 10 or doesn’t know their ABCs? You’re not alone, but if your little one is resistant to learning, that can be a problem for the future. According to The Conversation:
“Forced learning that is not fun for children should be avoided. If this means a child starts school not knowing all their letters, or not knowing how to draw human figures, or read simple words, that’s not something to be concerned about: they will learn that at primary school.”
If, while trying to teach your child something, you feel they are becoming shut down, then don’t push and especially, don’t get mad.
12 The Inquisitiveness Isn't There
“Mommy, why is your belly so big?”
“How does Santa come to bring presents?”
But if your child isn’t asking questions (especially eye-popping ones like the first one), then there’s a good chance they’re not ready for school. The desire to learn needs to be present and if all they care about is watching TV all day long, then it’s time to hunker down and spark their inquisitiveness.
If by the four-year-mark, your little one still isn’t asking questions, then you need to encourage them to ask them and to listen to the answers. While it might seem a little tedious, the importance far outweighs the extra talking you’ll have to do.
11 They Cry When Learning Gets Too Tough
Up there with being resistant to learning, some four-year-olds simply start crying when learning gets too difficult. That’s a huge red flag as far as school goes and if your little one does this, then it’s especially important to start teaching them effective coping skills. They need to be emotionally ready for school and if they’re crying as soon as something gets hard, then they might start viewing school in a negative light. It’s important to realize that some children are more sensitive than others and as Dr. Borba told Parents.com, “Avoid the urge to tell her to stop crying — which will probably just trigger more tears.”
Patience is key here, so make sure to praise whenever they do succeed to learn something.
10 Still Can't Be Away From Mommy or Daddy
What happens when you try to drop your four-year-old off at daycare, with grandma, or anyone else? If the tears come out, then you might be in for some tough times ahead when school finally rolls around. As SchoolLeadership20.com explains:
“A few tears at the doorway are so normal that they’ve almost become a cliché, but there are kids that [have] separation anxiety that goes far beyond the norm. If your child is one of them, it may be wise to discuss the matter with his pediatrician before enrollment.”
With children like this, it can be vastly beneficial to prepare them in advance for what’s going to happen. Make sure to tell them and get them excited to go see grandma etc.
9 They Are Resistant to Routine
Up there with sharing, a consistent routine is also key when it comes to children. At four-years-old especially, kids should be going to bed at a set time every night, getting a solid 11-12 hours of sleep, and waking at relatively the same time every day as well. Too many parents let their kids stay up way too late, thereby creating problems for the future. Even if the four-year-old is homeschooled or there’s no daycare the next day, it’s still important to enforce a set routine every night, complete with teeth brushing, book reading, etc. Not only will it help once school comes but it also teaches them structure.
8 They Are Unable To Sit Still
Trying to teach something to a child who would much rather go run around the living room can be increasingly annoying. As Care.com explains:
“Your child should be able to remain in one spot long enough to listen to a story and participate in class activities. Temper your expectations. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your child should be able to sit completely still for a period of time during class. Sitting still really means that your child can listen to a story or participate in an activity without being a disruption.”
“A child who is fidgeting but listening to a teacher read a story is great — even a child who may be standing up and walking around, as long as the child is not being disruptive,” went on to add Kyle Snow, an early childhood education specialist.
7 The Eagerness Isn't There
Ever given up on trying to teach your child something because their eagerness simply wasn’t there or they would refuse to pay attention? As annoying as that can be, that’s another red flag for school readiness. But for some kids especially, removing distractions can make a world of a difference. Top Ten Reviews explains:
“Students have the attention span of a gnat. Their minds are going to be wandering to the sticky goo on their fingers [...] It won't matter what age, any subject is going to be tough to concentrate on. If you put added distractions in a learning environment, like television and video games, your child's concentration levels are going to be completely gone. Make sure you give them a solid environment – an office, desk or kitchen table – where they can focus only on homework and learning.”
6 Letters, Colors & Numbers: They Still Don't Know The Basics
If your four-year-old still can’t count or doesn’t know any letters of the alphabet, then now is certainly the time to put an emphasis on learning these essentials. But don’t worry if they don’t know all their numbers and letters yet. Care.com says:
“Believe it or not, it's OK if your child isn't reading when they start school. But they should recognize some of the letters of the alphabet, along with some numbers. Snow says there is no hard and fast rule as far as how many letters or numbers a child should be expected to recognize, so don’t focus on a specific goal here. “Once children start to learn a few letters, the rest follow pretty soon,” Snow says.”
5 They Haven't Mastered Using School Supplies
One thing is for sure though: your four-year-old needs to be comfortable using a pencil and scissors. Although their lines may still be wobbly, they may color outside the lines, or they may not cut out forms perfectly, it’s still important for them to have a good basis of these fine motor skills once school starts. If your child prefers to run around instead of coloring, then it might be worth spending a bit of extra time at a table perfecting holding a pencil and cutting with scissors. Of course, it won’t actually be perfect, but the more they practice, the better they’ll get, also enabling them to have an easier time at school.
4 They Lack Social Skills
Ever utter the words, “Oh he’s just shy” or have to hear from the daycare teacher how your child isn’t very nice to their friends? Social skills are very important ahead of school and it’s never too late to help your child develop his or hers. As SchoolLeadership20.com explains:
“One of the skills that kindergarten educators work to improve in their pint-sized students is their ability to work within a group, helping them learn to share with one another and to socialize well together. Kids need to have this basic ability, or at least be open to the idea of working with others for that instruction to take hold, though.”
3 They Still Need A Nap
Much to the chagrin of their parents, most kids insist on dropping their designated nap time either by the time they are three or four-years-old. But if your little one is still napping, then that might create problems once it’s time for school. Living and Loving explains:
“If your child takes regular naps during the day, she may struggle with the demands of preschool. There are certain expectations for a child during the day, and napping may not form part of the schedule (except potentially at the end of the day during story time). School is supposed to be a stimulating environment, and if a child takes naps during the day, she can lose out on valuable learning, socialising and development.”
So make sure your child is getting adequate sleep at night and getting all their vitamins from fruits and veggies to make sure they can have energy throughout the day.
2 They Can't Do Their Business Alone
Even though a tiny percentage of four-year-olds still aren’t potty-trained, it goes without saying that the importance of eliminating diapers by this age becomes tenfold. But even for the four-year-olds who are fortunately potty-trained, then it’s also important for them to learn to do their business alone.
As Care.com points out, “Your child should be able to know when they have to go to the bathroom and be able to manage it by themselves.”
While by four-years-old, you may still be dealing with the number twos, it’s still just as important to let them learn adequately on their own.
1 They Speak A Different Language At Home
If you speak a different language at home, then you certainly get bonus points for teaching your child more than one language. However, if your child is set to go to school in a different language while you have exclusively focused on speaking that other language at home, then that might create a stumbling block once it’s time for school. Many parents figure they can get away with speaking another language at home just because their child will learn the main one at school, but it still doesn’t exactly set them up for success if they go to school not knowing that other language well enough to understand the teachers or the material being taught.