5 Things Kids Should Know Before Kindergarten

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Ultimate Preschool Activity Pack. 52 printable math, alphabet and fine motor activities.

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25 Comments

  1. Megan @ CoffeeCupsandCrayons

    I love how your list is practical and process building! So many parents stress out about kindergarten, I love that your list is simple and straightforward.

    Shared on my FB page!

    Reply
    • Malia

      Thank you for sharing, Megan!!

      Reply
  2. Erin

    I love your list! I would just add learning board game skills like taking turns and good sportsmanship with winning or losing graciously, and reading spinners and dice, and counting spaces. My son’s teacher requested this when she realized many of her kindergartners had never played a board game before.

    Reply
    • Malia

      Great additions to this list, Erin!! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
    • Malia

      Thanks for the invitation! I just linked up and pinned the post to my “Back to School” Pinterest board. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Kim

    My twin daughters started kindergarten today! I have 2 older children, and I totally agree with your suggestion about seatbelts. I try not to get irritated with the slow parents, but good grief, some of them go through a 5-minute production EVERY MORNING in the drop-off line as they get out of the car (NO!), help their child out unbuckle and get out, take out the backpack, help their child slip it on, hugs and kisses, on and on . . . the rest of us barely slow down as our kids jump out ; )

    Reply
  4. Jed Welter

    Art lessons will help enhance your kid s imaginative side. Children who are subjected to the humanities at an early age have high self-esteem and incredibly expressive. The arts may help create their psychological and emotional development.:

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    Reply
  5. Karen

    thank you for the list! I disagree with others about the seat belt. Most 5 year olds still fit best in a 5 point harness. I will not be switching my now 6 year old to a booster with seatbelt until it fits her properly. I know this can slow up a carline but safety must come before expediency.

    Reply
  6. Kristina

    Great post. I agree with the seat belt suggestion too!

    Karen- I don’t think this point relates to safety necessarily. My kids can unbuckle both a 5 point harness and a regular seatbelt. I don’t think the recommendation was to change kids to boosters. I think teaching them to unbuckle a 5 pt harness carseat is just as important, and a much harder skill… which is great for building finger strength.

    Reply
  7. Lisa

    I’m a Kindergarten teacher, and I found this on Pinterest. The list is so simple, yet very important. Many times, kids some in without these basic skills. I’d love to have this list for incoming kindergarten students. Thanks so much! Sharing immediately.

    Reply
    • Malia

      Yay! I’m thrilled to read that you give these 5 skills a thumbs up too, Lisa. Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply
  8. Karen

    Think your suggestions are so. Helpful, just might add…waiting your turn. AND walking in a line…those overwhelm a lot of kdg teachers…

    Reply
    • Malia

      Great additions, Karen!!

      Reply

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Hi, I’m Malia.

I LOVE helping Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade teachers save time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger results. I’m so glad you’re here!