Kindergarten offers options

When it comes to registering your child for kindergarten, parents have lots of choices

Across the city, kindergarten is on the minds of parents of children who are turning – or have already turned – four years old this year. Although the school year doesn’t officially begin until September, registration for kindergarten is already underway.

There are four main school boards in Ottawa – the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) and two French-language boards, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) – so when it comes to registering your kids for kindergarten, parents have plenty of options.

Each board features a slightly different experience but all offer full-day learning, which research has shown can have a positive result on a child’s development.

In 2013, the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Education released a study (in partnership with Queen’s and McMaster universities) on the impact of full-day kindergarten (FDK) and found that, overall, students were better prepared to enter Grade 1 after completing two years of FDK. Those kids also showed reduced risks in social competence, language, cognitive and communication skills development in comparison to children with no FDK instruction.

Colleen MacDonald, coordinator for Elementary Student Success, Early Years for the OCSB, says the number 1 goal of the province’s kindergarten program is self-regulation.

“According to the Ministry, Grade 1 is where formal instruction in reading, writing and math begins,” she explains. “In kindergarten, we’re exposing them to that and building their readiness skills, but the biggest part of this new program is the ability to self-regulate. If they can’t self-regulate, they can’t stay focused and attend for longer periods of time that is required from Grade 1 and up.”

Part-time schooling is an option for parents who feel their child isn’t ready for full-time learning. Depending on the school board, part-time kindergarten could mean attending school for a few days a week or just half days.

Whether you are registering your child for full or part-time kindergarten this fall, Marie-Anne Saucier, senior manager of Early Years Services for the CEPEO, says the most important thing is ensuring your child feels emotionally safe in the transition.

“Most schools offer the possibility of a meet and greet with the principal and teachers before school begins,” she explains. “I recommend parents frequently talk to their children about the visit and the people they met at the school and explain to the child what the first day might look like and answer any questions they may have in a calm and reassuring way.”

Saucier also recommends taking part in various school readiness activities offered by the school boards.

“Our board offers workshops that parents can participate in when their children are very young and we explore subjects that deal with school readiness, such as self-regulation,” she says.

“Other school boards offer Welcome to Kindergarten days, where the parents and the children visit and receive information about the way the school system works… and most school boards offer school bus workshops where they practice getting onto the school bus.”

For more information on how to prepare your child for kindergarten, visit