Learning Readiness: What Experts Say is Really Needed for Kindergarten Readiness
Every parent wants their child to succeed in school, so when that kindergarten year approaches, you work hard to make sure the child is ready by checking their knowledge of ABC’s, numbers and shapes. You research all the articles on the Internet and Google that give you information about how to help your child get ready for kindergarten. It starts to get overwhelming when you read the titles like “75 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten,” “100 Skills to Know Before Entering School.” 75? 100? That is a lot! These articles and skills are important and useful, but readiness for school involves more than just knowing the alphabet and writing a name.
Schooling and acquiring knowledge involves more than the brain; it requires the whole body. Learning is a physical activity as well as a mental operation. Therefore, we should not be surprised when studies show that a growing number of children are entering schools lacking the necessary physical skills that support a healthy mental environment. A study released by The Center for Early Child Development, discusses in depth the importance of motor skills and physical readiness as a strong predictor of educational success. When parents, caregivers and other adults promote movement and exercise it is shown to help with not only a healthier view of themselves, but a higher emotional IQ, solid social skills and essential learning tools that the child will need in a school setting.
In Sally Goddard Blythe’s, book Assessing Neuromotor Readiness for Learning, she says, “Readiness for school requires much more than a child simply reaching the chronological age required for school entry. To perform well in an educational environment, a child needs to be able to: sit still; pay attention; use a writing instrument; and to control a series of eye movements, which are necessary to follow a line of print without the eyes “jumping” or losing their place on the page. These are physical abilities, which are linked to the development and maturation control of motor skills and postural control. Growth and physical development are as important to education as they are to the field of developmental medicine but have largely been overlooked by the educational system…”
Being neurologically ready for the educational journey is important. If your child has a certain skill-set, and the right learning tools, it will prepare them for a lifetime of learning. Your child’s neurological readiness involves measuring and testing for retained primitive reflexes, postural reflexes and motor development. It also gives you an overall look at the balance and coordination levels of your child.
How to test your child for learning readiness
Compared to the articles you’ve read on the Internet, our ideas of learning readiness may be a little different. When a child comes to our center, the first thing we do is administer a number of tests to determine their learning levels. Here are a few simple tests we do at our center that you can try with your child at home to see if they are prepared for higher learning:
- Have your child cross their right hand over their body to their left knee. Now have your child touch their left hand over to their right knee. Keep alternating from left to right.
- With both arms out to the side have your child balance on one foot for 10 seconds. Now switch and balance on the other foot for 10 seconds.
- Have your child cross their right leg over their left and put right foot next to the left with the heel to the floor. Now instruct your child to lift arms their arms in the air and bend down as close to the floor as possible with knees straight. Now reverse and cross left leg over the right leg and repeat. See if the student can cross their leg over and keep their balance.
- Have your child stand straight with feet together and arms to their side. Hold for 10 seconds. Now in the same position, have your child close their eyes and hold the position for 10 seconds.
- Have your child stand straight and bend their head back. Instruct them to close their eyes and hold that position for 10 seconds. Now tell your child to bring their head forward and close their eyes and hold that position for 10 seconds.
- Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) testing: Instruct your child or student to get down on their hands and knees. Have them move their head slowly to the right. Watch to see if their left elbow bends. Then have the student turn their head slowly to the left and see if their right elbow bends.
- Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) testing: With the student on their hands and knees have them move their head up as if looking at the ceiling. See if their back dips. Now have your student look down as if looking at their legs. See if their back bulges.
- Write the alphabet in lower-case letters. This exercise checks your child’s fine motor skills and determines if they can write circles, draw vertical and horizontal lines as well as diagonal lines. It also checks for pencil grip and spatial orientation.
These tests can help detect factors that accentuate learning challenges, many of which include vision problems, auditory processing issues and motor training. Watching your child’s neurological and motor skills development can assist you in identifying the presence of obstacles to educational achievement. If your child shows signs of being unable to perform these tests or is having difficulty with some specific functions, they may be at risk for underachieving in school. This is not due to lack of intelligence or motivation to learn, but because some concrete skills that are needed to support and exhibit intelligence in the physical classroom are underdeveloped.
Other Important Skills
It seems like kindergarten is the new first grade. The knowledge being taught in kindergarten was once lesson plans for first grade. This is all well and good until your child is not quite ready to advance with a certain expected skill. That being said, there are some basic tasks that a child should be able to complete when entering formal school. Besides being neurologically ready, there are important proficiencies that a student should be able to check off. Again, these aren’t the skills you might find on the Internet, but they do play a key role in your child’s learning foundation. Here are a few of our recommended tasks to review with your child for kindergarten readiness. Does your child know how to do the following:
- Use zippers on clothing
- Button clothes
- Hold scissors properly and attempts to cut paper
- Throws a ball in a certain general direction (can also determine how hard or how soft they are throwing)
- Stacks 10 blocks
- Uses a glue stick appropriately
- Can form a ball, snake and pancake with play dough
The Best Trait of All
There is a predominant characteristic that we see as being a strong predictor for future success educationally. This characteristic has far-reaching effects if cultivated. This quality is the interest in learning. A child’s enthusiasm for learning can compensate for many under-developed skills that they may struggle with. Does the child have to be ecstatic every minute during school? Of course not! However, if you want to know if your child has interest and an eagerness to learn, just ask yourself a few of these questions:
- Does your child enjoy listening to a story?
- Is your child comfortable asking questions?
- Is he or she eager to explore and investigate new things?
- Does your child persist with a task even if it gets difficult?
If there were more yes’s than no’s then chances are your child is genuinely interested in learning. Remember, it is typically easier to encourage learning when your child is younger because they are easier to influence. Once they become teenagers, this influence is much more difficult and no one can teach a child who is not willing to learn. To cultivate drive and motivation in your child, one of the best ways to help your child is to encourage new topics of conversation, ask questions about school, and read books together.
For additional resources to help your kindergartner with school readiness, read these articles below:
- Kindergarten Readiness: Is your child read for school?
- Sesame Street: Is your child ready for kindergarten?
- Kindergarten Readiness Checklist
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs