Wondering what your child needs to know for kindergarten? You’re in the right place. In this post I’ll walk you through exactly the school readiness skills that your child needs, I’ll give you a teacher created checklist for kindergarten readiness and I’ll share the inside scoop of exactly what kindergarten teachers are looking for.
Heads up: If you want to skip ahead to downloading the teacher designed kindergarten readiness checklist (and a bunch of other really helpful resources) you can snag that as part of the Preschool at Home Starter Kit right here.
If you’re reading this, chances are your little one is on the brink of entering Kindergarten, and you’re wondering how you can best get them ready for this big transition. Maybe there’s a slew of questions that have been nagging at you for quite some time, but you’ve been struggling to find direct answers that leave you feeling confident.
From a former Kindergarten teacher turned homeschool mom of two, I hear you loud and clear, and I’m here to answer all things Kindergarten readiness!
Before we dive in, let me just ask you not to put too much pressure on yourself or your kiddo to do allll the things perfectly. Let me give you an idea of the necessary skills, incorporate some kindergarten readiness activities into your day, keep this list of skills in your toolkit to pull from as you need to, and your child will be ready for the start of kindergarten.
Alright mama, let’s chat about the specific skills that are part Kindergarten readiness so you can help your sweet babe step foot into the classroom on their first day of school with confidence.
WHAT, EXACTLY, IS KINDERGARTEN READINESS?
Kindergarten readiness is your child’s ability to use their skills and developmental abilities to adapt to a Kindergarten classroom.
For five-plus years, your child has been home with you or in care at a childcare center or under the watch of family members. But now it’s finally time for them to spread their tiny wings and head off to elementary school.
It’s how your child takes the skills that you’ve taught them and applies them to real-life school situations.
Kindergarten readiness will give your child the tools and skills they need to succeed in their new environment without feeling completely shell-shocked and overwhelmed. These will help them embark on their new journey with the smoothest transition possible!
Getting ready for Kindergarten can be such an exciting time, but you’ve probably found yourself, as a parent, wondering:
What are the important skills my child needs to know before entering Kindergarten?
How can we best prepare for school readiness from home?
Firstly, I want you to know that all of those questions are totally valid and as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Secondly, feeling confused about tackling them before the first day of school is entirely normal.
I know you want to do your absolute best to ensure that your child has all of the tools they need to rock their very first year in primary school.
But. . . how do you confidently prepare them when there’s so much buzz out there about what your child needs to learn and what can wait?
That alone can make your all-in-one job as a mama and Kindergarten prepper super confusing- especially if you don’t have a background in childhood education.
But, in truth, you are the best person in the world to teach your child and you are the number one person to carry out the Kindergarten readiness job, despite your background.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT SKILLS MY CHILD NEEDS TO KNOW BEFORE ENTERING KINDERGARTEN?
There are so many skills that go into being kindergarten ready — but what are the first things you should start with?
Should I start with writing letters of the alphabet? Learning sounds? Identifying numbers, and if so, to how high?
Which social skills are total must-haves? What about emotional development? Does physical development matter?
How can I teach my child to be ready to navigate the new situations they’ll face in their classroom environment?
The list of “what do I need to know as a parent, so my child is prepared?” feels like it is endless!
The truth is that Kindergarten readiness isn’t just about letters and numbers. There are so many other things behind the academic scene that will ensure your child is set up for success.
“So, Heather, does that mean we should throw reading and math out the window?”
Absolutely not! But it does mean that your focus should lie in other areas of importance as well, including social skills, emotional skills, communication skills, and fine motor skills.
Remember- your child will be entering a whole new world (cue the Aladdin soundtrack), and they need to be prepared for all the things that are about to happen as they embark on this journey.
ACADEMIC SKILLS FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
You might be feeling pressured to touch on every single skill out there with your child, but the relieving truth is that’s not the expectation at all!
And if you’ve been wondering, the answer to “do they need to know how to read when they enter Kindergarten?” is NO.
But we do want them to be on their way to reading, and I’ll tell you about what that means in just a minute.
While your child won’t be expected to boogie into Kindergarten reading books by best-selling authors on their own, here’s a peek at a few of the essential early literacy skills they should know:
- Identifying upper and lowercase letters
- Understanding of letter sounds
- Generating rhymes (hint: nursery rhymes will help you here!)
- Recognizing their own name — first name and last name
Teacher tip: Awareness over Perfection!
For many of these skills, kindergarten teachers are looking for a child to be familiar with the concepts and be able to use them in practice, not absolute perfection. For example, with letter sounds it’s most important for your child to know that letters make sounds and to know some letter’s sounds — it’s totally fine if your child hasn’t mastered every single letter sound before kindergarten!
Here are some key foundational math skills:
- Identifying colors and shapes
- Counting to 50 or higher
- Knowledge of basic shapes & several different colors
Academic skills for school readiness can be implemented through consistency, daily practice, and exposure.
I know that might feel overwhelming at first, but trust me when I say there actually are realistic ways to work these skills (and all of the others) into your daily routine.
Even chatting on the ride to the grocery store can go a long way!
ESSENTIAL TOOLS TO PRACTICE THE ACADEMIC SKILLS ON THE KINDERGARTEN READINESS CHECKLIST
Quick reminder that you can snag the kindergarten teacher designed checklist we’re talking about right here.
One of my absolute favorite ways to sneak literacy and communication development into the daily routine at home is to read.
Read at the breakfast table. Read during snack time, during bath time. Just remember to read!
As you move through the story, ask your child questions about the events of the story and tell them to describe the characters to you.
This is a great way for your child to learn how to understand what’s happening in what they’re reading (a.k.a. basic reading comprehension.)
Then, have them tell YOU a made-up story written by them as they look at the pictures. These super-simple activities will help to build school readiness skills and give them exposure to comprehension work. And as a bonus, it’s super fun, so it doesn’t even feel like work to them!
Whenever a child tells me they can’t read, I always remind them that they can — because they can read the pictures.
Quick Hint: Your child can also read environmental print like logos! That’s how they recognize a Target bag or when you pull into Starbucks. Be sure to check out the full outfit guide below
If you’re worried because your child isn’t a book lover by nature, try mixing storytime up by using silly voices to capture the characters or reading books about their current interest. This will help to add a little spice to their activities.
Math skills can also be easily worked into your daily routine, and you don’t need to center around structured learning time.
For example, you can count the steps you take on an outdoor walk, look for and identify shapes of everyday objects, and practice the concepts of less and more while playing with blocks, magnets, or figurines. We love playing the traditional game of I-Spy to help with color identification, as well!
And remember- young children embrace academic skills at different rates based on their development, so the more you practice, the better!
For a full view of the Kindergarten Readiness Checklist and more ways to work the skills into your child’s day in a way that feels fun and enjoyable, and stress-free, grab our free Starter Kit here.
SOCIAL SKILLS FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
While academics rank highly on the checklist of essential Kindergarten skills, so do social and emotional skills.
After all, kiddos will use all of the social skills that they’ve acquired thus far to adjust to and navigate their new school environment.
Stepping foot into their brandy new classroom on the first day of school is understandably scary (and I’m sending you a virtual hug because I know it’s scary for you, too).
But, by handing your child the recommended Kindergarten readiness social skills, they will have the tools they need to make friends, express their needs, build trusting relationships, and handle the big emotions that social situations may throw their way from time to time.
Here’s are a few social skills to get you started:
- Speaking clearly to and being understood by strangers (critical for expressing needs and wants!)
- Taking turns speaking (great for conversation skills!
- Speaking in complete sentences
While that’s not an all-inclusive list, it is a pretty preview to help you get started.
ESSENTIAL TOOLS TO PRACTICE KINDERGARTEN READINESS SOCIAL SKILLS
In all likelihood, these skills are ones that you’ve been practicing unknowingly since your child could walk.
Have you brought them to the park? To the library? To playgroup? Even to friends’ and family’s homes?
If you’re nodding your head, then congratulations! You’ve already been putting these skills into good practice.
If your child tends to rely on you for support through social interactions, now’s as good a time as ever to start modeling back and forth conversation skills and turn-taking with others.
You can do this in real-time, as social situations with familiar people unfold, or you can practice them during pretend play!
Teach your child about the concepts of responsibility and accountability by giving them simple, age-appropriate chores to do around the house, such as setting the table for dinner or feeding the family dog (with plenty of reminders and help, of course!)
This will help prepare them for when they are required to act as a team member and classmate.
Remember, these social-emotional tools are developmental skills that will emerge with social practice and exposure over time.
They don’t happen overnight, but they come with nurture and consistency, so keep at it!
I’ll be your cheerleader rooting you on from the other side of the screen here.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
Fine motor skills are super important!
They involve the teeny tiny muscles in your child’s fingers that help them cruise through day-to-day tasks independently.
Think dressing, snapping, zipping, cutting, coloring, and beyond!
As you can see, fine motor skills coordinate with everything from self-help to academics.
These are some of the important skills when it comes to fine motor:
- Cutting on a line (to improve hand-eye coordination)
- Buttoning buttons (for toileting independence, let me come back to that in a minute!)
ESSENTIAL TOOLS TO PRACTICE KINDERGARTEN READINESS FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Your child doesn’t need to practice cutting or writing every day, all day, to grow those strong fine motor skills.
So although those activities can be fun and interesting to your child (and if they are, feel free to do more of them), there are so many more things you can do.
Introduce child-friendly scissors and dive into cutting practice with play dough to start!
This is a hands-on and appealing sensory activity that will prompt fine motor skills such as cutting and snipping.
This is also a prime example of how you can work math practice into your day-to-day activities. Have your child count the cut-up pieces of play dough as they go along!
Multi-skill practice at its finest.
Buttoning and zipping can be tricky skills to master but will be needed for independence in the classroom.
Practice them during transitions outside while your child is putting on their coat or during toileting time while fastening their pants.
If they struggle to grasp the concept, help them do it with hand-over-hand support until they can become independent!
HANDLING BATHROOM NEEDS
Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. When your child goes off to school, they’re going to need to handle all of their bathroom needs by themselves. And this stretches far beyond potty training.
They need to take care of clean up and dressing.
They need to know to close the door, flush the toilet, and wash their hands.
Oh and it keeps going.
They need dry their hands without taking all the paper towels.
They need to put the paper towel in the garbage can.
Your child also needs to know what the procedure is if they have an accident. (Tip: I highly recommend always keeping a change of clothes in your child’s backpack.)
YOU CAN DO THIS!
I know it sounds like a lot, and you might feel like you’re working under pressure, but you’ve got this!
There’s no such thing as a task force that does kindergarten readiness tests before the start of kindergarten.
There’s just your preschool-aged kiddo filled with wonder, waiting to learn, and ready to start their journey of lifelong learning, so doing the best that you can is enough!
If you want extra help or find yourself needing support from a Kindergarten teacher, I’ve got your back to make kindergarten ready learning a whole lot easier.
Your next step? Take a minute now to grab your free copy of the Kindergarten Readiness Checklist inside of our Preschool At Home Starter Kit!
Common Question about Kindergarten Readiness Skills
What is the most important skill for my child to learn before kindergarten?
The most important thing for your child to learn during this stage is how to learn. Their brain is literally learning how to process and absorb new information. Most importantly, your child needs to learn to love learning, that learning is fun, and believe that they want to learn more.
What about Sight Words?
Sight words are words that your child will have to memorize because they don’t follow regular phonetic rules. Your child will learn sight words in kindergarten. You don’t need to stress about them during this pre-kindergarten phase. It’s so much more important for your child to learn letter sounds! Pay extra attention to those.
Can you teach me more?
YES! I have so many resources and tools that will perfect for where you’re at right now. One thing you’ll want to be sure to check out is my free video training where a walk you through insider tips for success with kindergarten readiness and help you avoid the top 3 mistakes that parents make in preparing children for kindergarten.