The time has finally come – the enrollment forms have been filled out, the school supply lists have arrived, and the start date is marked on the calendar: your child is going to Kindergarten! You are probably experiencing all kinds of emotions: excitement, nervousness, eagerness, and anxiety. You may be asking yourself, “Is my child ready for Kindergarten?” “Will he have a good experience?” “What if he’s behind the other kids?” These things – the conflicting emotions and the frequent questions – are completely normal.
I reached out to Kindergarten teachers all around the country and asked them what skills they’d like to see in incoming kindergarten students. Their answers were varied and numerous, but a common thread appeared: they weren’t as concerned about what the child knows academically, but instead focused on the need for a growing independence and social maturity. They are there to teach the students what they need to know – but a huge factor in them being able to their job well is whether or not the children can do things independently, listen and follow instructions, and get along with the other kids in the classroom.
I took all of the teachers’ answers and consolidated them into a checklist of the ten most important skills that your child will need to effectively learn and grow in Kindergarten. Being intentional about helping them develop these skills at home will set them up for success.
In the weeks and months leading up to Kindergarten, you’ll want to assess how well your child can do each of the following things. This checklist is meant to serve as a guide for what to focus on as your family prepares for the wonderful adventure of kindergarten!
10 Skills Needed for Kindergarten:
- Recognize/spell his name
Your child should be able to recognize his name. Write several different names on a piece of paper and have your child distinguish his name. Review the letters in their name. He will also be expected to write his name, so focus on that important skill as you prepare for Kindergarten. He should capitalize the first letter and write the subsequent letters in lowercase.
- Go to the bathroom and wash hands independently
This was the answer that I received from the teachers more than anything else. It is vital that your child needs to be completely independent in the bathroom, including zipping and/or buttoning up his pants. If he cannot do that, please send him to school in pants with an elastic waist. Your child also needs to independently wash and dry his hands after he uses the bathroom.
- Zip and unzip a jacket
When your child enters and exits the classroom, he should be able to zip up his own jacket. This skill takes practice, so be intentional now about giving your child the time and space to develop the fine motor skills needed to zip and unzip.
- Open all items in his lunch box
This is a skill that helps the classroom or lunchroom run smoothly. Your child will have a limited amount of time to eat his lunch, so you don’t want him to waste time waiting for an adult to come and open up his lunch items. Over the summer plan a fun lunch date where you serve food in your child’s lunchbox. Have him practice unzipping the lunch box and then opening each item (unzipping baggies, opening lids, etc.) without spilling or dumping the contents. If your child is still unable to do this when he enters kindergarten, consider getting a special lunchbox like this with different compartments to make lunchtime go smoother.
- Follow simple and multi-step directions
This skill can be developed through intentional practice, role play, and fun games. Give your child two instructions and see if he can remember and follow through on both things without you having to repeat or remind him. Once he has successfully mastered that consistently, try three- and four-step instructions. This skill will help him immensely as he learns to follow his teacher’s instructions the first time she gives them.
- Help tidy/put things away
A Kindergartener’s schedule is filled with transitions as they move from one activity to the next, all day long. To keep the classroom and work space clean and organized, the students will need to help by putting away their supplies, cleaning up their toys/manipulatives, and throwing their trash away. Your child will be spending a lot of his day in the classroom, so he will need to take some ownership and help keep it tidy, just like he needs to do at home.
- Properly hold and use scissors and glue
Your child will be doing a lot of coloring, cutting, and gluing in Kindergarten so it’s very helpful if he already knows the proper way to hold and use these tools. You can purchase kid-sized scissors for him to use. I always have my little ones cut through foam sheets when they’re learning – it’s much easier than paper. When working with liquid glue, I remind my kids to use “not a lot, just a dot” so they don’t end up with a gluey, sticky mess.
- Ask for help/express what he needs
Remind your child that the adults in the room (the teacher, the aids, the specialists, etc.) are there to help them learn and grow. Encourage your child to speak up if they don’t understand and/or need help with something. I tell my children to be specific when asking for help. Instead of “I need help” or “I don’t know” they can say “I need help finishing my art project” or “I don’t know what sound this word starts with.” It’s never too early to develop conversation skills and to express exactly what he needs.
- Focus on one activity for at least 10 minutes
A longer attention span develops as a child matures, so we shouldn’t expect a five-year-old to silently sit through a 45-minute lecture, but he can sit and concentrate on one game or activity for 10 minutes. That’s the average length of a Kindergarten lesson/activity, so that’s the goal you’re aiming for as you prepare your child. Set out an activity and set the timer – you may be surprised how long something can engage your child!
- Listen to a story without interrupting
A major life lesson that is taught in kindergarten is being respectful when someone else is speaking. Remind your child that he needs to wait patiently if his teacher or a classmate is speaking. He needs to raise his hand and wait to be called on if he has a comment or question. When the teacher is reading a story, the students need to listen intently so they can better comprehend and retain what they’re hearing. They may answer a question about the story if the teacher asks, but this is not the time to ask an unrelated question or share a random comment with the class.
There you have it! Ten skills to work on as you prepare your child for Kindergarten. I’ve compiled these criteria into a printable checklist for you to read through and use when planning for the fall.
You can download it for free here:
Kindergarten is an incredible year of growth and maturity. Don’t stress if your child doesn’t check off every single one of these criteria perfectly. They will grow in independence as the year progresses. Going to school is a big adjustment and you should be patient with your child – and yourself – as you navigate this whole new experience together.