How to Build a Better Bridge from Preschool to Kindergarten

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The transition from preschool to kindergarten may seem small to an adult, but it’s monumental to a five-year-old. Learn more about the factors that determine school readiness for a child and understand how to help ease the transition from preschool to kindergarten to set the stage for success.

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What Determines School Readiness?

While it’s common for children to enter “big kid school” around their fifth birthday or within the following year, age alone does not determine whether a child is ready for formal academic instruction. Instead, there are a variety of hard and soft skills that a child needs to progress in a school environment.

Looking Beyond Academic Skills

Skills such as speaking, drawing, letter and number recognition, and comparing objects will build a foundation for learning in kindergarten and higher grades. However, soft skills such as understanding how to ask for help, being able to sit still when it’s time to listen, and handling frustration in an appropriate manner are also key to success in kindergarten.

Understanding Transition Difficulties

Transition difficulties may arise for new kindergarteners who need help addressing these soft skills that allow them to play, learn, and grow in an academic environment. For example, one child may have trouble transitioning out of the play-based environment her preschool provided if she does not yet understand how to wait for her turn, participate with her peers in a cooperative manner, and visit the bathroom by herself.

Another student may show frustration if he does not understand how to cut paper with scissors, write his name, or follow multi-step directions — all of which may be expected in kindergarten. It’s important to address weaknesses in social skills, hygiene, and ability to communicate with peers and teachers before academic learning can begin.

Which Research-Backed Recommendations Can Help Preschoolers Transition to Kindergarten?

To understand how to help a young child get the most out of the kindergarten year, it’s important to first understand his or her strengths and weaknesses. Consider the following assessments that could aid in classroom readiness for both neurotypical and neurodivergent students.

(ABAS®-3) Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, Third Edition

This 15-20 minutes assessment contains a parent or teacher rating scale. It’s designed to provide a window into which adaptive behaviors a child uses in a new environment, and it may give clues as to why a child is not adjusting to kindergarten as smoothly as expected.

(SPM™-2) Sensory Processing Measure, Second Edition and SPM-2 Quick Tips™

Sensory processing issues are common among children who have autism or ADHD, but they may affect other children’s learning as well. This assessment may bring to light areas of difficulty for the child that a teacher or parent has not yet considered.

Learn More from WPS

Early intervention is often necessary for very young children who are struggling to transition to the academic rigors of formal school. If you’re interested in helping preschoolers succeed in their transition to kindergarten, consider companies like WPS’s variety of research-informed assessment tools.

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