In many states in the U.S., children are not required by law to attend kindergarten. In these states, students are allowed to wait to begin attending school until they are 6 years and can start first grade. However, studies have shown that children who attend kindergarten derive many benefits from the experience. Kindergarten has been shown to be important to students' success in and adjustment to elementary school as well as their success in later years.
Kindergarten was developed in 19th century Germany. In an effort to prepare children between the ages of 3 and 7 for school, Friedrich Froebel created a curriculum that utilized play to help children to develop mentally, physically and socially. As educators observed the benefits of a kindergarten curriculum, kindergarten moved quickly into other countries like England, Canada and the U.S. and became a part of America's system of public education.
Preparation for Elementary School
Kindergarten introduces young children to a school environment. It teaches them to sit and listen, to obey teachers, and to cooperate with fellow students. These skills help kindergartners to adjust more quickly to elementary school. Kindergartners begin to feel comfortable in the classroom so that, by first grade, they are acclimated to the school setting and prepared to focus on learning. Kindergarten learning also lays the groundwork for learning in later grades. For instance, a 2010 study by the Minnesota Department of Education found that kindergartners who attained overall proficiency were twice as likely as those who did not attain proficiency to exceed both reading and math standards on third grade state standardized tests.
Early Development Effects
Young children's brains are developing rapidly, and each experience leaves its mark on their mental pathways. According to developmental psychologist John W. Santrock, children experience rapid growth of their frontal lobes between the ages of 3 and 6. This is the area of the brain that affects organization, planning and maintaining attention. Attending kindergarten helps students learn how to learn, how to focus on activities and how to make connections. Kindergarten also affects early behavioral and social development; a good kindergarten class can help students to thrive in their early development.
Impact on Adult Achievement
According to a 2011 study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, students who attend quality kindergartens are more likely to go on to college, to save for retirement as adults, and earn more as adults. Researchers believe that kindergarten teaches skills like patience and perseverance and that learning these skills early contributes to later success as an adult.
- California Department of Education: KinderInfo
- New York Times: The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers; David Leonhardt
- Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario: Kindergarten Matters
- Fonda Fultonville Central School District: The Importance of Kindergarten
- How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings?; Raj Chetty
- Minnesota Department of Education: Student Success: Early Learning: School Readiness/Kindergarten
- Lifespan Development; John W. Santrock
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images