Kindergarten for four year olds

Kindergarten for four year olds
Kindergarten for 4yearolds is becoming more widely available across Quebec. Let’s take a look at its objectives and who is eligible to enrol.

Children generally start kindergarten at the age of 5. However, full-time kindergarten for 4-year-olds is gradually being introduced throughout the province. What’s the purpose of starting kindergarten at an earlier age, and what are the eligibility criteria?

The purpose of kindergarten for 4-year-olds

Kindergarten for 4-year-olds supports children’s overall development. It’s also a chance for kids to become familiar with the school environment, allowing for a smoother transition to kindergarten for 5-year-olds and Grade 1. In addition, kindergarten fosters the attitudes and behaviours necessary for learning and succeeding in school.

For example, children are able to socialize, develop their motor skills, and build self-esteem. They also explore oral and written language through activities such as story time.

Kindergartners’ daily schedule includes two 45-to-60-minute periods of free play, where they get to choose who and what to play with.

In addition, kindergarten for 4-year-olds aims to develop a love of learning. Activities largely revolve around games, meaning the kids spend much of their time engaged in play. The teacher observes the students during these activities and offers support if needed to promote their learning and development.

Other examples of the wide variety of activities offered in kindergarten include learning nursery rhymes, making crafts, reading, playing logic-based games, and doing physical activities. The teacher’s role is to help students learn and experience new things. For example, they might teach a child how to hold a pair of scissors for the first time.

Prevention activities

Quebec’s kindergarten for 4-year-olds program also includes preventive interventions designed to meet children’s needs. Teachers can therefore organize activities for either groups of children or, when needed, individual students to help them with specific skills. For example, they might use children’s books to help a student learn to put their feelings into words.

Prevention activities may be led by teachers or by specialized school staff trained in remedial education, psychoeducation, special education, or speech therapy. For instance, a speech therapist might work with a child to improve their language skills.

The parent’s role in early kindergarten

In kindergarten for 4-year-olds, parents are encouraged to participate in activities with their child and support them during this transition period.

Parents whose children attend full-time kindergarten for 4-year-olds have the option to participate in 10 meetings between September and June. These can take the form of parent-child activities or group discussions between parents.

At these meetings, parents are encouraged to share their opinions. The topics discussed are chosen with their input and according to their needs.

Daycare or early kindergarten?

Quality daycares already offer a variety of activities for young children thanks to the Accueillir la petite enfance program. Kindergarten for 4-year-olds is considered complementary to quality daycares, as the curriculum aligns with and builds on what children learn in daycare. Both programs aim to promote the overall development of young children.

Kindergarten for 4-year-olds can be particularly beneficial for children who have never been to daycare. Teachers use educational approaches to help students develop their full potential. They are trained to recognize when a child might be struggling in kindergarten and can refer them to the right resources.

Report cards

In kindergarten for 4-year-olds, report cards are issued three times a year to keep a record of children’s progress. Instead of grades, evaluations are based on a proficiency scale that indicates whether a child is progressing “very well,” “adequately,” “with some difficulty,” or “with significant difficulty” in the program’s five competencies.

Who is early kindergarten for?

Kindergarten is not mandatory. Parents get to decide whether they wish to enrol their child in kindergarten for 4-year-olds. All children who are at least 4 years old by September 30 of the current school year are eligible.

However, kindergarten for 4-year-olds is not yet available everywhere. To have access to the program, you must live in an area with a school that offers it. If a school has too many registrants, a child who hasn’t had access to any educational services may be given priority.

If you live in an area with a school offering early kindergarten, contact the school directly to enrol your child. Enrolment usually opens at the start of the year, in January or February, at the same time as enrolment for kindergarten for 5-year-olds. It’s best to register your child during the enrolment period.

To learn more about the new Preschool Cycle Program (kindergarten for 4 and 5yearolds), read our fact sheet on what kids learn in kindergarten.

Advice on which option to choose

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 with it. It’s a good idea to think about 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 budget for childcare after school and during the summer months.

Source: The Conversation. “CPE ou maternelle 4 ans? Voici une analyse comparative,” 2021.

Things to keep in mind

  • Kindergarten for 4yearolds supports children’s overall development and fosters a love of learning.
  • In kindergarten for 4-year-olds, children learn and are engaged through play.
  • To enrol your child in early kindergarten, you must live in a neighbourhood with a school that offers it.
Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Marie-Claude Marchand, preschool education consultant, Centre de services scolaires des Patriotes
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: January 2024

Photos: GettyImages/FatCamera

Sources and references

Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

For parents

  • Centre de services scolaire de la Capitale. “Votre enfant entre à la maternelle 4 ans à temps plein.”
  • The Conversation. “CPE ou maternelle 4 ans? Voici une analyse comparative.” September 28, 2021.
  • Carrefour pédagogique Montérégie Estrie. Mon enfant commence la maternelle : comment l’accompagner?
  • Carrefour pédagogique Montérégie Estrie. “Qu’est-ce que l’éducation préscolaire?”
  • Ministère de la Famille. Accueillir la petite enfance : programme éducatif pour les services de garde éducatifs à l’enfance. 2019.
  • Ministère de l’Éducation. “Kindergarten.”
  • Ministère de l’Éducation. Programme-cycle de l’éducation préscolaire.
  • Table régionale de l’éducation de la Mauricie. “Ouvrons ensemble les portes de l’école!”

For kids

  • Barnes, Derrick. The Queen of Kindergarten. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, New York, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022, 32 pp.
  • Barnes, Derrick. The King of Kindergarten. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, New York, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019, 32 pp.
  • Bergeron, Alain M., and Maco. À l’école, les grands! Montreal, Éditions Imagine, 2012, 32 pp.
  • Charlesworth, Liza. Let’s Go to School. Illustrated by Martha Baker, New York, Scholastic, 2014, 16 pp.
  • George, Lucy M. Teacher. Illustrated by AndoTwin, Lake Forest, QEB, 2015, 24 pp.
  • Dubuc, Marianne. 1, 2, 3 . . . à l’école! Paris, Éditions Casterman, 2020, 32 pp.
  • Killen, Nicola. The Little Bear. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2022, 32 pp.
  • Lallemand, Orianne, and Éléonore Thuillier. P’tit Loup rentre à l’école. Paris, Éditions Auzou, 2013, 20 pp.
  • Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes. Illustrated by James Dean, New York, HarperCollins, 2011, 40 pp.
  • Llenas, Anna. The Color Monster Goes to School. New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2020, 40 pp.
  • Munger, Caroline, and Claire Chabot. J’aime la maternelle avec Biscuit et Cassonade. Montreal, Éditions de la Bagnole, 2018, 48 pp.
  • Munsch, Robert. School Rules! Illustrated by Dave Whamond, Toronto, Scholastic Canada, 2020, 32 pp.
  • Pallotta, Jerry, and David Biedrzycki. Who Will Be My Teacher This Year? New York, Scholastic, 2012.
  • Pelletier, Dominique. Je suis capable! C’est la rentrée! Toronto, Éditions Scholastic, 2015, 24 pp.
  • Rochefort, Josée, and Jean Morin. La grande école : ton album de la rentrée. Montreal, Éditions Fonfon, 2013, 32 pp.
  • Soulières, Robert. Le premier jour. Illustrated by Christine Battuz, Montreal, Éditions les 400 coups, 2010, 32 pp.
  • Yoon, Salina. Bear’s Big Day. New York, Bloomsbury, 2016.