What to Expect at Your Child's Kindergarten Screening

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Before your preschooler transforms into a kindergartner, 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 them some basic academics, you'll need to register them for kindergarten and bring them for a kindergarten screening.

First Steps

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

Purpose of 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.

Readiness Skills

A prospective kindergartner 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:

  • Can wash hands on their own
  • Is fully potty trained
  • Can dress after using the restroom, including fastening and unfastening buttons, snaps, and zippers
  • Can put on own shoes
  • 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 a 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. For example, the teachers will check to see if your child can:

  • 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 kindergartners, these skills include the ability to:

  • Classify and identify objects by different variables, such as shape, color, size, etc.
  • Hold a book the right way (reading preparedness); may pretend to "read"
  • Put together a small (less than 10 pieces) puzzle
  • Recognize a pattern and identify the next items in the sequence
  • Correctly identify four colors
  • Recognize their own name in writing
  • Identify some letter sounds
  • Count up to five objects
  • 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. They are sometimes referred to as large motor skills. The school may look at whether a child can:

  • 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:

  • Cutting with safety scissors, holding them the right way
  • Fitting pieces into a puzzle
  • Holding and using a pencil the correct way
  • Drawing a straight line, a cross, a square, and a circle
  • Drawing a person who has five body parts
  • Possibly writing some letters and numbers, perhaps their name
  • Tracing a variety of shapes, letters, and numbers

If Your Child Doesn't Seem Ready

If you have any concerns about your child's development or are worried they aren'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.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Slutzky C, DeBruin‐Parecki A. State‐level perspectives on kindergarten readiness. ETS Res Report. 2019;1:1-40. doi:10.1002/ets2.12242

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.