Ready for Swiss Kindergarten?

How do I know if my child is ready for Kindergarten?

It is that time of the year, when you are waiting to receive a letter from your district Gemeinde asking you to register your child for Kindergarten. But how do you know if your child is actually ready to enter Kindergarten? 

The association of Kindergarten teachers in Zürich has published some guidelines to help parents assess if their child is ready to start Kindergarten. Please note that these are recommendations only!  Teachers will not expect your 4 year old to meet every single one of the points on this list! However, if upon entry to Kindergarten the teacher feels that your child fails to meet most of the below criteria, he or she might recommend to postpone entry. 

What children should be able to do

The ‘readiness’ checklist includes:

  • Not wearing nappies during daytime
  • Being able to go to the toilet unaided
  • Being able to wash their hands and blow their nose 
  • If possible, being able to dress and undress without assistance, (although this will be trained in Kindergarten, e.g. during gym time)
  • Being ready to be without their main carer for a period of up to four hours
  • Accepting boundaries and knowing the difference between a ‘yes` and a ‘no`
  • Being able to sit still for 10 minutes. The teacher will help children to develop this skill in the first 6 months of Kindergarten
  • Having had some degree of social interaction with other children
  • Basic motor skills, (running, climbing, jumping) and basic fine motor skills, (painting, drawing and cutting)
  • Using toys responsibly and knowing that tidying up is a part of play-time

(Source: VKZ, ZLV)

Don’t panic!

Before you panic and start practicing tying shoelaces with your 4 year old, relax!

No Kindergarten teacher will expect you boisterous 4 year old to be able to sit perfectly still upon entry into Kindergarten and many children will cling to their parents in the first days or even weeks. And no Kindergarten teacher will expect your child to be able to tie their own shoelaces! As said above, unless your child meets none or very few of the above mentioned points, they will be fine!

And what about the language?

If your child does not speak any German or any of the other national languages yet, they will also be fine. Over a quarter of Switzerland’s population is of foreign origin. Teachers in most Kindergartens are used to children with little or no German and are prepared for these situations.  Also, even if your child does not seem to want to speak German for a long-time, he or she will quickly be able to understand the basics and learn how to make him/herself understood. This is not to say that is will be effortless and your 4 year old might initially be frustrated by their inability to express their basic needs.  You can certainly do your bit to help them by a.) learning at least some basic German yourself and b.) teaching them some basics.

These could include phrases like: 

  • Ja
  • Nein
  • Ich heisse…
  • Ich bin xx Jahre alt
  • Ich mag…/ich mag nicht… (spielen, Pasta…)
  • Ich muss (auf das WC)/I have to go (potty)
  • Mir ist kalt/warm
  • Ich bin traurig/ich habe Angst
  • Ich habe Aua/ I have an owwie -( point to the part that hurts)
  • Ich habe Hunger/ich habe nicht Hunger
  • Bitte
  • Danke
  • Bitte meine Mama/meinen Papa telefonieren
    (not grammatically correct but easier to remember than ‘anrufen‘)

One tip: put the German term into google translate and press on the microphone icon to hear the pronunciation.

Do you have more questions regarding Kindergarten entry and the Kindergarten curriculum?

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