What to Expect at Your Child's Kindergarten Screening

Before your preschooler transforms into a kindergartener, there are a few things you'll need to take care of first. In addition to helping your child be emotionally and socially ready for kindergarten and teaching her some basic academics, you'll need to register her for kindergarten and bring her for a kindergarten screening.

To register your child for kindergarten, call your local school district or private school to find out the process. You will likely need to provide documentation to prove your child's age, such as a birth certificate or passport, and residency, typically your driver's license and a utility bill in the parent's name.

Most schools also require vaccination and immunization records, along with a physical prior to starting school. The school should provide forms for your pediatrician to fill out when you register or when you bring your child to the kindergarten screening.

illustration of children and teacher in a kindergarten classroom
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

The Purpose of a Kindergarten Screening

Kindergarten screenings are not always required in a school district, but it is a fairly common practice. The purpose of a kindergarten screening is to ensure a child is developmentally ready to start kindergarten and to determine whether any additional classroom supports may be needed.

Kindergarten screenings are also a great way to familiarize your child with her new school and gives the school an opportunity to meet your child.

Screenings will vary from school to school. In general, the school will evaluate a range of developmental tasks including self-care skills, language development, cognitive skills, gross motor skills, and fine motor skills.

What Skills Are Assessed?

A prospective kindergartener will typically meet with a teacher alone or in a group for about 20 to 30 minutes and will be assessed for basic kindergarten readiness skills. Some schools may look for more kindergarten readiness skills than those listed, and some may look for less.

Self-Care Skills

Many everyday tasks need to be taught and practiced. Some of the self-care skills your child may be assessed for include:

  • Ability to wash hands on her own
  • Is fully potty trained
  • Can dress after using the potty, including fastening and unfastening buttons, snaps, and zippers
  • Ability to put shoes on by herself
  • Can eat lunch or a snack without assistance, such as putting a straw in a juice box and opening a lunch box
  • Can put on her jacket and zip or button it closed

Language Skills

At the kindergarten screening, your child's ability to communicate, comprehend, and follow instructions will be assessed. Some areas they may look for include a child's ability to:

  • Be understood by an adult who does not talk with the child every day
  • Speak in complete sentences of at least five words
  • Follow directions that have at least two different steps, such as "Find your coat and put it on"
  • Answer basic questions, such as name and age
  • Rhyme simple words

Cognitive Skills

Cognitive skills refer to a child's ability to gain meaning and knowledge from experience and information. In kindergarteners, these skills include:

  • Classifying and identifying objects by different variables, such as shape, color, size, etc.
  • Knows how to hold a book the right way (reading preparedness) and may pretend to "read"
  • Can put together a small (less than 10 pieces) puzzle
  • Can recognize a pattern and identify the next items in the sequence
  • Can correctly identify four colors
  • Recognizes their own name in writing
  • Can identify some letter sounds
  • Can count up to five objects
  • Can name at least five body parts

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are actions that use the body's gross muscles, such as those in the arms, legs, and core. Sometimes referred to as large motor skills, the school may look at a child's ability to: 

  • Run
  • Stand and hop on one foot on each foot
  • Skip
  • Walk backward
  • Throw and catch a large ball
  • Kick a ball in a straight line
  • Walk up and down stairs using alternating feet (not stepping with one foot, then the other onto the same step)

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to the coordination between small muscles, like those of the hands and fingers, with the eyes. These skills include:

  • Cut with safety scissors, holding them the right way
  • Fit pieces into a puzzle
  • Hold and use a pencil the correct way
  • Draw a straight line, a cross, a square, and a circle
  • Can draw a person who has five body parts
  • Possibly write some letters and numbers, perhaps their name
  • Trace a variety of shapes, letters, and numbers

What to Do If Your Child Doesn't Seem Ready

If you have any concerns about your child's development or are worried she isn't meeting milestones on time, talk with your child's preschool teacher or pediatrician.

Even though these are kindergarten readiness skills, there is an age range for anything having to do with child development.

Depending on where their birthday falls, some children that enter kindergarten may be nearing age 6, while others may still be age 4. Some parents choose to hold their child back and delay starting kindergarten for a year, especially if children are young for their class or do not seem ready to start school.

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