Every Thursday I hear many moms express concern that their son will not be ready for kindergarten this Fall.  They wonder if they should hold him back or put him in and risk a repeat of kindergarten. I think the parents are asking good questions and some are overly concerned that little Joey will not get into Harvard if he doesn’t do well in kindergarten.  Parents, you have to parent your child and not respond solely based on fears or  what other parents are doing.  Comparisons to other children are only helpful when the comparisons are equal.  I must admit that there were times I wondered if Noah would be ready for kindergarten.  The boy was 3 when I worried about this, but it was a worry nonetheless.  I imagine that there was a tinge of fear motivating all of us moms to sign our sons up for this kindergarten readiness program (there are 0 girls out of 13 children in the program). We want our sons to do well, and gosh darn it lil Noah Joey’s goin’ to Harvard.

I have heard a couple of women state that boys are not ready for school by the age of 5. One of the first two ladies home-schooled and didn’t start formally educating her son until he was seven.  He was a little behind at first, but he quickly surpassed those whom would have been his peers two years prior. The other woman believes that kindergarten is set up for girls to succeed and boys to have more difficulty.  This opinion is based on the idea that the things children are graded on in kindergarten are all centered around fine motor skills (writing, coloring, cutting) and that gross motor skills (running, jumping, standing on one leg) are heavily overlooked and throughout school are a minor part of education. Additionally, boys are typically very active and have difficulty focusing and most of kindergarten is teaching them to sit still instead of working with their developmental strengths. All skills they need to learn, but would it more beneficial structure kindergarten/school in general to play to the strengths, thus resulting in greater success, or  hold children back until they are ready for the next grade? What would kindergarten “for boys” look like?

I see what these ladies are saying.  I don’t entirely agree, but there is something about kindergarten that leads many moms to wonder if their son will succeed his first year (We know that if kindergarten is some secretly female dominated society, the effects are not lasting). Girls typically develop their fine motor skills sooner than boys, and boys tend to develop the gross motor sooner. I always made the connection between gross motor skills and muscle development, but it wasn’t until recently that I made the connection (i.e. had it made for me) between fine motor skills and muscle development rather than brain development.

I was asking a second opinion about the way Noah holds his pencil (and let me say that seeing another little pre-k’er hold his pencil the same way, did my heart good.  Even if they are both wrong, there is solidarity).  This lady was much more helpful.  She didn’t make it seem like he was some sort of idiot. She did say it is important, but it could just be that his muscles need to be strengthened in his fingers.  Light bulb!  So, here are a few  ways to help your child–girl or boy–develop the muscles they need to accomplish those fine motor tasks:

  • playing with play dough or clay
  • stringing beads
  • picking up beans and gluing them to paper
  • using scissors to cut (not necessarily any particular shapes, just let them cut)
  • finger painting
  • painting with a brush
  • use skinny pencils and crayons

Anything that gets them using their fingers and pincer grasps–detail work.  Grabbing a ball is gross motor, because it uses the whole hand and the arms, but picking up marbles would be fine motor. I hope this helps.  It definitely helped me understand how to help Noah in addition to practicing the “proper” pencil grip.

I’m not worried about Noah anymore.  He loves to learn.  I’m really excited for him to start school.  He’s wanted to go since he was 3.  He already has a backpack and a lunchbox.  He’s excited to get more immunizations only because it means he’s one step closer to school.  I warned him that I was going to cry when he goes to school.  He looked at me with a smile and said, “No! Don’t cry, mommy. I’m just going to school.”