Kinder Round-Ups are happening and parents may start to think: “Is my kiddo ready for all this?!” There is an emotional and cognitive aspect to readiness along what is expected of a child physically. As a pediatric physical therapist I wanted to offer some ideas of how the capabilities of a 5-year-old link in with the child’s daily life in elementary school. Some things that you can expect of your elementary school age child are listed below. If your child isn’t able to do these things, practice for a month. If s/he cannot do them after practice at home, a physical or occupational therapist may be able to provide some specific help for your child.
Getting Ready for the School Day
- Able to put clothes on and take off independently including zippers, snaps and buttons. A 5 year old can typically stand on one leg long enough to put on most shorts/pants while standing up.
- Able to put on/take off shoes and socks independently. You can help your child out with this by choosing shorter, looser socks. Sport socks are typically the hardest ones to do independently. I recommend shoes with proper support around the back of the heel in order to avoid tripping and skinned knees. Avoid flip flops, loose rubber slides and shoes that will likely rub blisters so that your child can fully enjoy their playtime breaks and PE. Shoe tying is a skill that most kids can achieve during the kindergarten year with practice.
Getting to School
- Walk to school. A kindergartner should have the endurance to walk 20 minutes to school.
- Able to skip and gallop. A 5 year old can also joyfully skip his/her way to the school doors!
Independence in the Toilet Arena
- Able to take care of all needs in the bathroom without help.
- Pants up and down.
- On/off a school-sized toilet without a step stool.
- Independent with hygiene.
- Good hand washing.
- Able to carry a lunch tray.
- Able to open and close lunch containers. During the summer months you can start using their school containers around the house for practice.
- Able to help prepare lunch. Yes! Your child is completely capable of washing fruit and vegetables and cutting up their sandwiches. You are not slacking on your parent duties by letting them help. This is empowering them with independence! It also teaches them about creating a balanced meal.
- Able to drink out of an open cup. There will be spills, but this can be a great time to ditch the cups with covers at home if you haven’t already.
- Catch a playground ball using only hands (not bringing into chest with arms) from 10 feet away.
- Throw a tennis ball overhand 10+ feet.
- Kick a ball forward 15+ feet by bringing leg back and swinging through.
- Safely perform a forward roll. (during Kindergarten year)
In the Classroom
- Able to sit down and stand up without using hands.
- Uses scissors and glue neatly.
- Completes simple puzzle (7+pieces).
- Completes a pattern.
- Can copy a cross, circle, and triangle. Able to write name.
- Tripod pencil grasp (i.e. hold a pencil between thumb and first two fingers.) You can support the development of this grasp by breaking crayons in half – your child will be forced to pinch the crayon, which helps develop the proper grasp and finger/hand strength.
On the Playground
- Climb up and down stairs with alternating steps without hand support.
- Climb up and down a ladder safely.
- Run smoothly and stop easily to change directions. All kids fall, but you should now notice your child running with high knees, alternating arms and a heel-toe gait. They should be falling less frequently than a year ago and are now able to typically avoid running into other children and playground equipment.
- Jump down from 2+ feet high without falling. Test out the playground at the new school if possible. Can your child climb to the top? Jump down from a platform? Use the swings by themselves? If not, this is a fun thing to work on together! You can also consider advocating for your child and asking for support so that your child can access all of the school environment.
If your child has difficulty with these skills, a physical therapist can help your child with the gross motor skills (e.g. big movements: run, catch, stairs, etc) and an occupational therapist can help you with the fine motor skills (e.g. smaller movements: handwriting, buttons, zippers, etc).
The summer can be a great time for a burst of therapy so you might consider booking an evaluation before the start of summer. I’m a huge advocate of early information gathering as it either puts our worries to rest or helps us learn how to best support our children as early as possible. Motor skills (including speech) are often harder to change the older the child is because the child’s movement patterns become part of their automatic motor program. An evaluation can be a great way to see where your child is. If therapy does seem like the right fit, kids typically love going to therapy to get a boost on their skills!
If during your information gathering your child seems to have certain areas that are particularly challenging, there are also school-based therapists to provide your child with the proper support so that s/he can learn and interact freely at school.
Meet your child where s/he is and build up from there!