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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Kindergarten Applicant Play Date

You’ve submitted your application essays, scheduled the play date, and now you wonder how to prepare your kid.

What do kids do at the kindergarten application play date?

Typically, the staff runs circle time. Sometimes, children will play a cooperative or team game. Other schools offer activity stations rotations, such as building, LEGO, and drawing. For children in a preschool or other program with circle time, the activity should feel familiar. According to my daughter and her friends, the team games were fun.

What is the assessment like? What do they expect my child to do?

Most programs will ask your child to write their name, draw a basic shape like a triangle, and draw a person. By and large, schools do not expect entering kindergarteners to read or do math; the most we saw was identifying the letters of the alphabet (but not their sounds) and counting to five. Burkes and Hamlin have a separate assessment at Temple Emanu-El, with shared results, which, according to my daughter, was similar to the pullouts at the other private schools she applied to, but as a shy child, she liked the 1:1 setting.

How can I prepare my child?

If offered, visit the site beforehand, or at least drive by and look at it from the outside, so that the building looks familiar. Put your child to bed early for a good night’s sleep after a low sugar dinner, and plan for extra time in the morning to allow for traffic and parking or muni delays. When my children hesitated to go on a playdate, I did offer a celebration of ice cream afterwards. My theory is this is a rare, not repeated event, so a bribe would not affect our daily routine.

What should my child wear?

Your child’s favorite outfit will put them in the best mood, something comfortable, unripped and unstained, the latter of which only bear mentioning because we all know how children love their outgrown outfits. My daughter loves dresses, so wore a favored everyday dress with leggings, whereas my son wore his typical tee and athletic pants. While some schools seemed to attract dressier parents, the children were not assessed for their outfits. 

What if my child won’t separate? What if my child won’t participate?

Occasionally, no matter how hard you try, your slow to warm child will not leave your side, or will separate but won’t participate during the play date. This situation is best handled by your preschool director, who can reach out to admissions and offer to host an admissions staff member for an observation, when your child will be among peers in a comfortable setting. After all, when your child is in kindergarten, they will not be among all new children for long. Many a shy child has received an admissions offer after an observation. 

If you are still in application mode, and you worry about this scenario, it can help to apply to multiple schools to increase your odds of a positive outcome. 

What will I do during the play date and assessment?

Some schools have a coffee with current parents or school leadership to answer questions. Other schools offer library space or a waiting area. And some schools expect you to drop off, in which case checking out a local cafe nearby can put your mind at ease.

Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco. Email to learn more about her services.

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