Wondering what your soon-to-be kindergartener needs to know before the first day? As a kindergarten teacher, I spent many days leading up to the start of school calming parents’ anxiety about their child’s transition.  Not knowing what their child REALLY needed to know was unnerving.  What does kindergarten readiness mean anyway?

To ease their uncertainty, I passed along this checklist of the top five skills I hope every child has mastered before he walks through my classroom doors.  A few items might surprise you.

To help you get there, we have our Ultimate Preschool Activity Pack in our shop to prep you for all things kinder!

Pre-Reading Skills

Because kindergarten focuses so heavily on teaching children to read and write, ensure that your child has a solid foundation of pre-reading skills.  Spend time reading with him everyday, talk about the books, sing rhyming songs and teach him the names and sounds of letters.

Buckling a Car Seat

Not only does buckling a seatbelt without help make the car pick up line move more smoothly, it also gives children the chance to build their independence.  Kindergarteners need to be able to complete school projects on their own.  After all, there is only one teacher in a room filled with many students.  Buckling is a first step toward autonomy.  A pretty surprising kindergarten readiness skill, right?

Basic Art Skills

Let’s face it: kindergarten is famous for creating irresistible art projects.  Making sure that these activities don’t overwhelm your child requires knowing a few art basics.

5 Things Every Kindergartener Needs to Know Before School {Playdough to Plato}

Teach him how to cut with children’s scissors, take marker caps on and off, and draw simple stick figures.  Your child will feel prepared to create masterpieces and will strengthen his hand muscles so that he can write heartwarming kindergarten stories for you later.  

Follow Directions

Imagine a class filled with children who couldn’t follow directions.  It would be a NIGHTMARE.  Kindergarteners who know how to listen to a teacher’s request and follow through on it have a much easier time settling into class expectations.  You can teach your child to follow two-step directions by:

  • Playing Simon Says: “Simon says, ‘Jump on one leg and touch your nose.’”
  • Following a cooking recipe: “Please crack two eggs into the bowl and whisk them.”
  • Finishing chores around the house: “Please pick up your socks and put them in the laundry basket.”

Being a Good Friend

Learning how to start conversations, invite friends to play and apologize when we make mistakes is hard.  Even for adults.  You can give your soon-to-be-kindergartener a jumpstart by reading books on friendship, brainstorming with your child how to behave before he starts a play date and setting up play dates so that he has plenty of opportunity to practice.  This is an essential kindergarten readiness skill and life skill as well!

Find More

With these five skills in place, your child will be well on his way to beginning kindergarten as an all-star. Want more? Check out our Ultimate Preschool Pack that takes the guess work out of helping your child get ready for school.

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  1. Hi. Having taught Kindergarten for 10 years I would also suggest that the parent teach and have their little ones practise doing up their coats (zippers and buttons) and putting on their shoes and boots.

    1. Great tip, Brenda!! And if kids are still struggling with tying laces, velcro shoes are a great alternative. Building students’ independence is key.

  2. Actually, knowing the names of letters does NOT help with reading; it hinders. The letter sounds are MUCH more important. However, as a kindergarten teacher, it’s my job to teach your child skills such as reading, writing their names, understanding the properties of 10 and so on. It’s nice if they’ve had a head-start but not essential. What I look for in my kindergarteners (and mind you, being from Ontario, Canada, my students come in at 3 or 4 years of age), are some independence skills, such as getting dressed to go outside on their own (velcro fastenings on shoes are a must!), a beginning understanding of how to share and take turns, how to treat others kindly, how to follow directions, TO RESPECT OTHERS (it’s sad how many don’t), and so on. It’s great if they can already count to 10, if they’ve been exposed to the use of numbers, and if they’re read to daily. These can all be achieved by joining a play group at a local library. Here, we also have free kindergarten readiness (and other) programs at provincial day cares. Being completely toilet trained is nice, too, but also not a requirement. In an ideal world, all parents would be like those who visit sites like these and actually take some time to play with their children and prepare them for school.Where I teach, this happens rather infrequently, alas.

  3. I’ve taught Kdg. for 17 years. We request that each child be able to manage all of the clothing that they wear to school. If they can’t tie shoes, please send them to school in slip on sneakers or velcro sneaks. If they can’t do a belt, don’t wear one. Our pleas fall on deaf ears much of the time.

  4. I have students in Grade 3 and 4 who still cannot tie their shoes properly. I think a lot of parents believe that we teachers are supposed to teach EVERYTHING (including basic life skills and manners) to their child, and that home time is just for hanging out and playing.

  5. I’m a Pre K (3-5year olds) teacher in Indianapolis. Three things I wish parents knew before send their kids to school are
    1. Homework is not important, but reading and letting your children interact as you work around the house are.
    2. Teach your kids that they don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to try.
    3. Teach your children the skills to let others know when they are upset. (I teach my students that they have to talk with each other before coming to me, unless someone is hurting or going to hurt someone else).

    Kids will learn to read and write mostly from interaction with teachers, peers, and their families. They need to learn to be a good citizen, friend, and to have confidence in their abilities at an early age.

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