This Viral Photo of Kindergarten Expectations From the ’50s Shows How Different School Is Today

When kids are babies, milestones are easy. We know more or less when they’ll walk, sit, and hold their heads up. But as they get bigger, expectations become bigger as well. And these days kids are expected to do a ton, and that’s stressful. What is a five-year-old supposed to be able to do, anyway? This list of expectations for a child graduating kindergarten in 1954 is shocking in its simplicity. Parents today say their kids are being able to do more and more structured academics at younger ages, and a lot of people are concerned that it’s not good for kids.


The Happy Hooligans Facebook page posted the checklist.

Kids in kindergarten in 1954 weren’t expected to be able to read or do math.

Kids in 1954 weren’t less smart or less capable than kids today. But the expectations they faced were way simpler.

The 1954 kindergarten grad was checked off for successfully knowing her colors, her address, her father’s name, and the days of the week. She can read her name and write her first name–actually, I’m impressed by that one. “Margaret” is difficult.

In 1954 a kindergartener was expected to be able to play nicely with sand, take turns, and cut with scissors. She counts to 79 and listens nicely to stories. (She’s also expected to tie her shoes, which surprised me. I couldn’t tie my shoes until the end of second grade.)

This photo is going viral with parents of kindergarten aged kids. Today’s parents are astonished by what their kids are supposed to be able to do, by comparison.

Academic pressures to meet specific milestones at specific times in elementary school have trickled down to kindergarten. Now tiny kids are expected to be able to read and do math, so they’ll be able to keep up with new requirements at higher grades.

According to Cafe Mom, 80 percent of teachers today expect kids to be able to read when they leave kindergarten. That’s pretty extreme, and it seems like a recent adjustment. I don’t remember reading being taught until I was in first grade.


80 percent of teachers today expect kids to be able to read when they leave kindergarten.

Kids at schools are being asked to do really advanced things. Some schools and teachers keep pushing the bar earlier and earlier. One of my friends just posted an addition worksheet her 3-year-old had been given as homework. (She posted it along with requests for references for other schools in her area, because math homework for a 3-year-old is ridiculous.)

Kids in kindergarten are spending a lot more time on math and reading than even we did when we were kids. But there are only so many hours in a day. Time spent learning to add and subtract is less time the kids have for free play. Play is really important to little kids’ brain development.

Some kids learn to read on their own very early. Some kids take to math and numbers. But it’s important to let them come to those things themselves, through play. The opportunity to play as children helps them become more creative and independent. It’s good for their emotional development and their problem-solving skills.

Kids today aren’t reading earlier because they’re smarter than kids in 1954. They’re reading earlier because schools are pushing them into it, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s important that kids can read and they enjoy reading, so they’ll keep doing it. Just drilling them on math problems and spelling tests is not going to make kids enjoy learning. If we want kids to do well in school later in life, we should try to support creativity and curiosity and make sure they enjoy learning. That’s a bigger key to success than knowing multiplication tables at three.

(Image: Facebook / Happy Hooligans)

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