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Early Childhood Beginnings – 3 to 5 years

What defines readiness?

A child’s readiness for kindergarten depends on many things. In Maryland, a child is considered ready for school when he/she is five years old (by September 1). There are various abilities, skills, and concepts that support student success in kindergarten.

Maryland’s Ready 4 Kindergarten (R4K) Framework

Maryland’s Ready 4 Kindergarten (R4K) framework helps parents, teachers, and early childhood providers understand what children need to know and be able to do when they start school.

Social Foundations

Does your child get along with other people, show concern for others, and participate in group activities?

Is your child curious? When facing a problem, does he keep trying?

Is your child a risktaker? Is she able to work independently on given tasks?

Can he identify emotions?

Language and Literacy

Does your child speak clearly, and listen to and understand others? Does she know the difference between written and non-written information?

Does he understand stories that he has heard or read?

Can she sequence events from a story? Can he retell a story?

Is she familiar with some letters and their sounds?


Is your child able to sort things by color or shape or other characteristics?

Does he understand such ideas as “top,” “bottom,” “first,” “second”? Can she represent relationships between numbers by showing “more than” or “less than” or comparing groups of objects?

Can she identify numerals and count sets of objects?


Does your child explore and make guesses (predictions) based on things he observes?

Does she understand cause and effect? Does he use all of his senses to gain information?

Does she ask questions about the world around her?

Social Studies

Does your child use the word “I” to express knowledge about herself?

Does she understand her role and the roles of others in the family and the community?

Is he aware of similarities and differences between people?

Fine Arts

Does your child express himself by trying artistic activities?

Is he exposed to different kinds of art (visual art, music, drama)? Does he use different kinds of materials (chalk, buttons, string) to make art?

Does he look for new ideas?

Physical Well-Being and Motor Development

Does your child have the physical basics (food, clothing, shelter and regular health and dental care) so that she can focus and participate in school?

Is she able to run, jump, play ball and climb stairs?

Can he use scissors appropriately? Can he draw with a pencil?

Does he try various healthy foods?


Are they independently able to perform self-help skills (toileting, dressing, washing)? (Flyer on self-help skills (PDF) | Spanish (PDF) | Korean (PDF))

Adapted from ParentTips, a monthly resource for parents with young children provided by the Ready At Five organization. Visit for more information about school readiness.

The Year before Kindergarten

Prior to kindergarten there are many things parents can do to support their child’s transition to school. From making sure appropriate documentation is gathered, to playing and reading with and listening to their child, the year before Kindergarten is a great opportunity to develop school readiness!

View the year before kindergarten timeline →

What If I Have Concerns About My Child’s Development?

Here are some practical suggestions to follow:

  • Schedule and maintain regular visits with your child’s health provider (e.g., pediatrician, nurse practitioner, family practice physician, Health Department staff). Discuss your concerns with them.
  • Speak with your child’s child care provider about your concerns and their observations. These individuals work with young children on a daily basis and have an understanding of child development. If they have concerns, it is important to follow up on their concerns, as well.

If you still have concerns:

If you continue to have concerns:

Educational Opportunities


  • Full-day and half-day prekindergarten services are available to children who are 4 years old by September 1 and who meet certain eligibility criteria. Information may be found on our pre-k page
  • Children must be 5 years old by September 1 to attend kindergarten. Kindergarten is a mandatory grade. Processes are in place for families who want an exception to this mandate (i.e., kindergarten waiver or early admission). Information is available on our enrollment page
  • Registration for Pre-K and kindergarten begins during the first week of March each year for the following school year. Early registration is helpful to both the school and the family as they begin preparing for the child’s transition to kindergarten.

International Families

Community Programs

  • There are many high-quality, community-based programs in Howard County, including child care centers, nursery schools, family child care providers, etc. For more information, contact the CARE line for Howard County families at 410-313-CARE (2273) or email
  • The Howard County Library System offers many educational services and social opportunities for young children. Visit for details.

Resources and Activity Ideas for Early Learning and School Readiness

American Academy of Pediatrics

Shares specific information about the growth and development of children ages 3–5. There are also links to topics such as safety, immunizations, nutrition, fitness, and emotional wellness. Numerous articles about varying topics are available, as well.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Provides suggested activities to encourage speech and language development for children, ages 2–4 years and 4–6 years. It also contains information about typical development patterns, learning more than one language, etc.


Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)

Offers helpful tips about supporting your child’s social/emotional development, including relationship building, confidence, communication, persistence, self-control, etc.


CDC Family Portal

Shares guidance on handling common parenting challenges (for children of all ages) through interactive activities, videos, and more.


Get Ready to Read

Helps support educators, parents, and young children in the development of early literacy skills in the years before kindergarten. Intended for use with all children, the resources and information provided promote skillbuilding, communication between adults, and ways to address concerns.


Howard County Library (HCLS)

Includes books, developmental toys, CDs, DVDs, and audiobooks for children, as well as books and other resources for parents and caregivers. HCLS offers an array of classes for preschoolers that teach creative expression, social skills, listening comprehension, and the foundations of reading through letter and number recognition and vocabulary building. Catalog and complete listing of classes are available online.


Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Early Childhood Programs

Offers many resources for families of young children, including helpful tips for promoting school readiness for children. There are resources available to assist you and your child with the transition to kindergarten, including a videotaped session of a parent workshop. You can also preview the curriculum and learn about registration procedures.


Launch Into Learning

Brings together numerous programs and agencies (through the Howard County Early Childhood Advisory Council) to support young children and their families.


Maryland State Department of Education: Division of Early Childhood Development

Includes a wide range of information, such as how to find quality child care programs and resources to support early learning standards.


Ready At Five

Helps you to see how involvement is key to your child’s future success. There are many things you can do with your child to help build skills, knowledge, and abilities in many different areas. Especially helpful are the “Activities and the Parent Tips” that can be found on this site.



Offers a wonderful collection of resources for educators and parent to help with early learning. An entire section of this site is devoted to early childhood education. The “Think Family and Community” area has numerous resources for parents, including videos, games, etc.



Shows you that daily activities can be fun for both you and your child. Find out how these activities support brain development. Download the mobile application from the Google Play or Apple App Store for easy access.