Kindergarten for four year olds

Kindergarten for four year olds
You’ve probably heard a lot about kindergarten for fouryearolds. Why is early kindergarten beneficial? Who can enrol their child in this program?

Children generally start kindergarten at the age of five. However, in 2019, Quebec schools began phasing in full-day kindergarten classes for four-year-olds. How could early kindergarten benefit your child?

What are the benefits of kindergarten for four-year-olds?

Kindergarten for fouryearolds supports children’s overall development with the goal of preparing them for school. For example, children learn to socialize and develop their motor skills and self-esteem. They also begin to explore oral and written language.

Early kindergarten also promotes a love of learning, primarily through play. Children do a variety of activities in class, like singing nursery rhymes, reading as a group, playing games that require logical reasoning, free play, etc.

Each activity is tailored to the needs and abilities of the students in the group.

Teachers meet children where they are and help them go further. For example, they might teach a child how to hold a pair of scissors for the first time.

There are three report cards in early kindergarten that let parents know how children are progressing. Instead of letter grades, evaluations are based on a proficiency scale that indicates whether your child is progressing “very well,” “adequately,” “with some difficulty” or “with significant difficulty” in the program’s five competencies.

Daycare or early kindergarten?

High-quality daycares already offer a varied program of activities for young children that includes the Accueillir la petite enfance program. Kindergarten for four-year-olds is considered a complement to a high-quality daycare program. The curriculum aligns with and builds on what children learn in daycare. Both programs aim to support the overall development of young children.

Early kindergarten is part of the school system and helps children develop the mindset and habits they will need to succeed in school.

The program can be particularly beneficial for children who have never been to daycare. Teachers use educational approaches to help students develop to their full potential. They are trained to spot children who may be struggling in kindergarten and refer them to the right resources.

Who is it for?

Kindergarten is not mandatory. Parents get to decide whether they will enrol their child in early kindergarten. All children who are at least four years old by September 30 of the current school year are eligible.

To have access to the program, you must live in an area with a school that offers the program. If a school has too many registrations, a child who hasn’t had access to any educational services may be given priority.

If you live in an area with school offering early kindergarten, contact the school directly to enrol your child. Enrolment usually opens in February, at the same time as regular kindergarten. It’s best to enrol your child before schools close for the summer at the end of June.

To learn more about the new Preschool Cycle Program (kindergarten for four and fiveyearolds) that was introduced in September 2021, check out our fact sheet: What do kids learn in kindergarten.

To help you decide

Early childhood specialists who have done a comparative analysis of early childhood education services in daycares and kindergartens advise parents to ask themselves three questions before making their decision:

  • Is my child happy in daycare? If your child is happy and doing well in their current environment, it may not be a good idea to put them through the stress of moving them to a new facility.
  • Does my child feel stimulated? If your child is bored, it may be a sign that they’re ready to move on to something new.
  • Are you ready to make the transition yourself? The transition from daycare to school can also be a source of anxiety for parents because of the changes and the mental and emotional burden that come along with it. It’s a good idea to assess whether you’re ready to take the plunge.

Parents should also remember that if they register their child for early kindergarten, they may need to plan and budget for childcare after school and during the summer months.

Source: “CPE ou maternelle 4 ans? Voici une analyse comparative.” The Conversation (in French).

Things to keep in mind

  • Kindergarten for fouryearolds supports children’s overall development and fosters a love of learning.
  • In early kindergarten, children learn and are engaged through play.
  • To enrol your child in this program, you must live in a neighbourhood with a school that offers it.
Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Stéphanie Desmarais, Assistant Director, Educational Resource Services, Marie-Victorin School Board
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: October 2021

Photo: GettyImages/FatCamera

Useful links and resources

Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.


Books for parents

  • Homework and Studying, M.-C. Béliveau, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2010, 68 pp.
  • LessonsLearned: The Kindergarten Survival Guide for Parents, J. Podest, Balboa Press, 2014, 108 pp.
  • Ready For Kindergarten!: From Recognizing Colors to Making Friends, Your Essential Guide to Kindergarten Prep, D. J. Stewart, Adams Media Corporation, 2013, 224 pp.
  • The Littlest Learners: Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten, D. R. Roginski, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017, 160 pp.

Books for kids

  • Dad’s First Day, M. Mohnoutka, Bloomsbury Press Agency, 2015, 32 pp.
  • How to Be Kind in Kindergarten: A Book for Your Backpack, author: D. J. Steinberg, ill.: R. Hammond, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2021, 32 pp.
  • How Will I Get to School This Year?, author: J. Pallotta, ill.: D. Biedrzycki, Scholastic Canada, 2013, 32 pp.
  • Kindergarten Countdown!: 10 more sleeps until school starts, author:M. Blain Parker, ill.: S. Borrows, Streling Children’s Books, 2017, 32 pp.
  • Kindergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day. author: VAhiyya, ill.: JChou, Random House, 2022, 40 pp.
  • Our Class is a Family, author: S. Olsen, ill.: S. Sonke, Shannon Olsen, 2020, 28 pp.
  • Ready, Set, Kindergarten!, author: P. Ayer, ill.: D. Abour, Annick Press, 2015, 24 pp.
  • School Rules, author: R. Munsch, ill.: D. Whamond, Scholastic Canada, 2019, 32 pp.
  • The King of Kindergarten, author: D. Barnes, ill.: V. Brantley-Newton, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019, 32 pp.
  • The Night Before Preschool, author: N. Wing, ill.: A. Wummer, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016, 22 pp.
  • The Queen of Kindergarten, author: D. Barnes, ill.: V. Brantley-Newton, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2022, 32 pp.