Kindergarten-A parent’s tough decision

This week many parents of my Pre-K children have been registering their children to begin Kindergarten in the Fall. Many other parents are contemplating holding their son or daughter back and waiting a year to enroll them. This time of year comes that familiar question, “Ms. Jane, what do you think about holding my child back a year before starting Kindergarten?”

If only I had the magic answer. I have probably been asked this over 100 times during my career of an early childhood professional. Considering I have some first hand knowledge, I try to offer some honesty and a little of my own experience to help them make their decision.

I started Kindergarten in September younger than most of my peers. My parents felt I was ready and a local private school was their answer. I remember loving school from the very start. I loved my teachers, I loved having homework, I loved it all. I held my own in the early years. I kept my grades up through elementary school yet I do remember starting to feel a little inferior to my classmates about 5th or 6th grade. I’m not sure if that insecurity came from the difference in our ages or if it was puberty, but either way, that’s when I started noticing it.

Seventh grade, things started to take a turn. When we started middle school, everyone was still older and apparently more mature. My grades started to be harder to maintain and I struggled to keep up. I always wondered why most of my friends seemed to get A’s and B’s without much effort but I had to work hard to maintain a C in many of my classes. I never considered that I was the youngest in the class, I just thought everyone else was smarter.

High school brought a variety of differences. My friends got their learners permit and drivers license before me, their parents allowed them to do more than mine did and my insecurities grew. Again, I just thought it was me and never thought it was my age. I graduated at 17 and was accepted to a college with my average grades. I was still 17 when I went away to college that August. This is when things really went south. My maturity level was not where it should have been to start college. I did a poor job of regulating my balance of new found parent-less freedom and realizing I was going to college to learn and prepare for my future, not just to party and meet boys (sorry mom and dad).

I watched my room-mates and most of friends do so well, they studied, went to class, stayed on campus for the weekends and created great relationships with others. I struggled, my confidence was so poor that sometimes I would not eat because I was uncomfortable going to the dining hall and being around so many people that might judge me. As much as I wanted to be a teacher and knew I had to get my degree in order to do this, I gave into my insecurities and came home after the first semester. I actually began alternating semesters. I would make an attempt to go back but by the end of each semester I felt worse. I ended up studying my chosen field at various institutes, first the university, followed by community colleges, (yes there were three of those), and on line schools. My transcripts look like a jigsaw puzzle and advisers always shook their head helping me put my credits together toward the degree. Still I never thought any of this had to do with my age or maturity level. I thought I was just dumb.

So you thought I would have learned a valuable lesson right? Well then I became a parent. Sam, my son was born in July so when he turned 5, he went to Kindergarten. He did well, very few troubles and is now excelling college. My daughter, Ashley on the other hand was such a smart Preschooler. Her private preschool teachers bragged about her being so smart and, of course, I knew she was a perfect, smart, advanced princess. So when those preschool teachers mentioned they thought she was ready for Kindergarten already, I didn’t skip a beat. My princess skipped Pre-K and started Kindergarten as a 4 year old. Whoo, what a mistake. Not only did I not wait for her to start on time, I started her early. She wasn’t just one of the youngest, she was a whole year younger than her classmates. What was I thinking? I was an early childhood educator, I knew the deal, but, oh boy, EC professional or not, my parenting hat was the only hat I had on at the time. And just so you know, there is a BIG difference in those two hats.

Ashley did well, very well in Kindergarten, and not too bad in 1st. 2nd grade was a bit of a struggle for her to keep up, but I put it off to a different teaching style by the instructor. Thank goodness, she had a wonderful teacher in 3rd grade who I knew cared for all of her students as if they were her own. She had become a trusted friend too. When she came to me with the honest, practical advice that I should consider putting Ash back in 2nd grade, I listened closely. The children in 2nd grade were her age, she would struggle less, she would have more confidence and doing it now would be better than doing it in middle or high school, when there might not be an option. After talking it over with Ash, she was excited, it seems she had already been drawn to and made friends with the 2nd grade girls. (sometimes we just need to listen to our children for clues). Once Ash made this change, she never struggled again with school (as long as she applied herself).

My children survived my parenting decisions and I survived the decisions mine made for me, but I learned a great deal. Now, as the “go to” person for so many parents of children whose birthdays are in August or September asking what they should do my answer is usually the same.

You know your child best. We, as teachers, spend a lot of time with them as well, but ultimately this decision can only be made within the family. What does make me happy is that parents are thinking about “what is best for their child.

So what is best? My opinion, which comes from experience and observations, if you are considering holding them back a year, then go for it. If your child turns 5 in October and starts Kindergarten the following Fall, then your choice should be to stick to that schedule. Those children born in the summer months, June through September, sometimes need that extra year to “be ready”.

What happens in a year? Maturity, physical growth, additional language development, improvement of basic skills, improved social and emotional skills including the ability to self regulate ones own feelings. But most importantly, confidence. The extra time allows your child to spend a year being “big man on campus” they develop leadership skills, they grow in so many ways. Their gross motor skills improve making them a little less awkward on the sports field. I think all of these things are only positive. I know I would have loved all of these extra’s throughout my school years.

Of course, I ‘m also asked, “well won’t they be bored in Pre-K again and in Kindergarten next year?” That’s when you have to check your involvement. If you, as the parents, stay involved and create an open line of communication with the teachers, then you should have no problem talking to them about these concerns.

Ultimately it is completely up to you, the parent. My opinion is one more year of maturity and confidence wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Three cute books for those going to Kindergarten soon

Early Childhood Sensory Play

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Sensory play is an important part of early childhood development and education. When a child is engaged in this type of play, it may look like a mindless messy activity but the amazing things happening for this child is far greater than simple play.

Sensory play has multiple benefits for children. It supports language development, social interactions, fine motor skills, large motor skills, cognitive growth and increases problem solving skills. It has a calming effect for the anxious or upset child. It allows children to feel in control of their actions and in turn encourages them to feel good about their decision making skills.

Children uses their senses to to explore, understand and navigate their world. Teachers, caregivers and parents providing these activities is important to encourage brain development.

What is sensory play? Anything that activates any of the five senses. It can be fun, messy, and easily put together, It just needs to be engaging to the child. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. One of the most effective ways to provide sensory play is using sensory bins.

A sensory bin is typically a shallow, plastic container, but for one child it could be a

bowl, or a pot from the kitchen.

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Listed below are multiple suggestions for sensory play. As long as you are supervising, any of the materials can be used, but I recommend considering the age and developmental stage when choosing sensory bin fillers.

  • Soapy water
  • Kinetic sand
  • water beads
  • cloud dough
  • playground sand
  • mud
  • shaving cream
  • slime
  • play-dough
  • finger paint
Photo by David McEachan on
  • jello (prepared)
  • pudding
  • marshmallows
  • oatmeal
  • cooked pasta
  • potato flakes
  • ice cream
  • whip cream
  • Tapioca pearls
  • watermelon
  • rice
Photo by Pixabay on
  • letter squares from old scrabble game
  • Cardboard tubes
  • cut straws
  • shredded paper
  • cotton balls
  • packing peanuts
  • sponges
  • bubble wrap
  • cut pool noodles
  • Bingo chips
Photo by Chris Gonzalez on
  • plastic leaves
  • fake grass (Easter)
  • feathers
  • tinsel
  • Spanish moss
  • pine cones
  • sea shells
  • corks
  • fake flowers
  • aquarium gravel
  • bird seed
  • potting soil
  • snow
  • ice cubes
  • sticks
  • hay
  • saw dust
  • rocks
  • epson salt
  • pebbles
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  • pom-poms
  • pipe cleaners
  • buttons
  • magnets
  • marbles
  • sequins
  • jingle bells
  • plastic coins
  • confetti
  • pony beads

The most important thing (besides safety) is to find something interesting and engaging. Remember children are always interested in thing they see in our adult world, so giving them a safe place to explore those items will always be a big hit and they won’t even know the amazing things you are doing for their growth and development.


Great example of an inexpensive sensory table available on amazon

WOYC Preschool Activities

Preschool Activities for each daily theme during
Week of the Young Child (April 8th – April 12th, 2019)

The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the world’s largest Early Childhood Education Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, also known as NAEYC.

On their website they describe the purpose of the week is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet their needs.

Early Childhood schools and centers celebrate children throughout the week using the daily themes suggested by NAEYC. I have listed a few ways that you can celebrate the week that is so important to children,

Music Monday:

Host a dance party: What preschooler doesn’t love to dance? Turn on the music and have them dance their hearts away. Try different types of music-Jazz, Blues, Classical, Country, Folk, Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop, and Latin. Encourage them to dance the way the music makes them feel

Musical Instruments: Plan to have teachers, parents or even the local high school band bring in their musical instruments to demonstrate the sound of each. Let the children hear and touch each (and maybe even try them).

After seeing the instruments for themselves, provide various materials for them to make their own version of each.

Lip-sync: Have the children create their own microphone with large pom-poms and paper towel rolls and put on some of their favorite kids music and let them enjoy singing.

Outdoor music: Take the music outdoors. Bring the CD player or Bluetooth speaker and let the children enjoy a recess with background music.

Art: Provide a variety of art materials such has markers, crayons, stamps, paint, or colored pencils and have the children draw/paint to music.

Tasty Tuesday:

            Fruit kabobs: Using kabob sticks have the children make fruit kabobs using fresh fruit—strawberries, blueberries, grapes, pineapple chunks, apple chunks, kiwis, melon chunks—anything you want. Have the children make their own tasty snack.

            Flavors/taste buds: Have a sample of foods that children can sample that have different tastes—something sweet, sour, bitter, salty.  Use a variety of flavorings (orange, vanilla, grape, lemon, cherry, strawberry, etc.… have the children guess what flavor.

            Decorating Cookies: Everyone’s favorite. Pre-make Gingerbread men shaped sugar cookies and have the children use colored frosting and other items to decorate their “self” on their cookie, and then enjoy.

            Personal Pizzas: Using English muffin halves have the children add pizza sauce (tomato paste), their favorite pizza toppings, and sprinkle with cheese and have them enjoy their pizza for lunch

Work Together Wednesday:

            Easel Sharing: Have two children partner at the easel to create an original masterpiece painting.

            Parachute play: Pull out the parachute and have the entire class work together to move balls or bean bags from one side to another.

            Class quilt: Provide fabric squares and have each child decorate their own with fabric markers, and then tie each square together to create a class quilt. This can also be done with large index cards, cardstock, construction paper or other types of paper and can be connected together. What a great piece of work to display in your center/school.

Artsy Thursday:

            Tie-dye T-shirts: Have each child bring in a t-shirt to tie die

            Class Mural: Using a large piece of white butcher paper, cover table and have the children decorate. I like to use inkpads with stamps or small paint brushes and paint.

            Outdoor Easels: Move the easels outdoors and have the children paint while outside.

            Collages: Provide one side of sturdy shirt box and every type of collage material you come up with—use all those scrap pieces you have been saving, tissue paper, sequins, glitter, cardboard toilet paper rolls, Styrofoam peanuts, craft sticks, pom-poms and whatever isn’t glued down and have children create a collage inside the box top

Family Friday: My favorite day of the week, great day to connect with families to celebrate children. You can go big today or keep it small.

            Family Tree: We have parents bring in family portraits all week and we hang them up on a HUGE family tree in our school Library (which is also in our entrance).

            Trail Mix bar: At pick up time, we set up a trail mix bar for children and parents to create their own snack as they leave on Friday afternoon. We provide sandwich bags or cups to fill. Some items we have available include marshmallows, chocolate chips, gummy bears, fruit ring cereal, Chex mix cereal, raisins, pretzels, candy cover chocolates, butterscotch morsels, white chocolate chips, banana chips, dried cranberries, cheese its, bugles. We try to avoid nuts due to allergies at our school but they might be an option at your school. The children LOVE creating this together with their parent.

Planting station: Provide small pots, potting soil and either small flowers or seeds and when parents come in a pickup time they can sit with their child and plant their family plant to take home to watch grow. We also provide stickers and markers to decorate the pots and put their names on them

Family Photo Booth: Using the thicker project boards (not the trif-old) we cut out a large picture frame for families to hold as we snap their picture for them. We also provide picture props so they can be silly if they want. We will use their phone and/or our school camera to capture the memory and have then printed and hanging up on Monday morning.

Whatever you do, make it a great week of fun and celebration for all the children in your life!! Enjoy!!