Cluing in to Kindergarten readiness gives your child the best start.
So, be sure to download the free Kindergarten Readiness Checklist at the bottom of this post if you're interested in taking the necessary steps to prepare your child for Kindergarten.
Also, if you are an educator, this checklist serves as an excellent take-home piece for your parents.
As a parent, I want the best for my children. To that end, I want to make sure that during the formative years of their educational journey, they are prepared for what awaits them in the classroom. I believe most parents feel the same way.
However, I do not know if most parents understand that Kindergarten is not the start of their child’s educational journey. By the time your child enters Kindergarten, there are a whole set of skills that your child is expected to have.
Possessing these skills is highly recommended in order for your child to have a successful school year and, ultimately, a successful educational experience. In this post, I will discuss some of the major areas of focus and provide a downloadable checklist for parents and educators.
Please understand that this blog post and checklist do not contain everything that you will need to ensure your child is Kindergarten ready, but they are good indicators of important benchmarks.
There are two main areas of focus for Kindergarten readiness. These areas are developmental and academic readiness. Developmental readiness is made up of skills that help a child function on a basic level in a school environment. Academic readiness is made up of the prerequisite skills needed for grasping grade-level foundational academic concepts and skills. To ensure that your child is ready for Kindergarten, you will want to lend as many opportunities as possible to develop both developmental and academic readiness. Let’s take a closer look at each area of readiness.
Pre-K graduates should be developmentally ready to:
1. Manage their own feelings.
When a child is able to manage their own feelings, they are able to self-regulate. This means that children should be able to handle disappointment, being excited, being sad, not just with the help of the teacher, but on their own. Sometimes, children even need guidance to manage happiness and excitement. What this essentially means is that a child needs coping skills. To teach your child coping skills, you will need to teach what behaviors and actions are okay to use to express feelings. An example might be, “When you get upset, you can close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to 10.” If your child knows how to handle tricky emotions, then he or she will be better able to cope with them.
2. Recognize and react to some social cues.
When a child is able to recognize and react to the cues of others, the child is able to see how other people are feeling. In particular, a child is able to see how others are reacting to them. When a child sees that they are getting negative reactions, they can begin to reflect on their own behavior. Eventually, they will be able to change their behavior. This is a necessary skill to have because children are going to be interacting with others for a lifetime. There will be conflicts. However, if your child is able to read the emotional cues of others, then they may be able to avoid situations that get out of control. To help your child develop this skill, you will need to point out feelings to your child as much as possible. Be careful to avoid saying that your child is “making” someone else feel a certain way because individuals are responsible for their own feelings. However, you can point out the feeling and state the actions that lead to it.
3. Use learning tools to write and think.
By the time children enter Kindergarten, they are expected to be able to write and spell their name. This is a skill that they should have before entering Kindergarten. It is important for parents to allow their children time to use crayons, markers, pencils, and other writing tools because they help to build fine-motor skills. Fine-motor skills develop penmanship.
Children should also be exposed to manipulatives. Manipulatives are tools used in a classroom to help a child understand the physical representation of a number, and they can be anything from marbles to crackers, pennies, or stones. The key is that your child needs to understand that while using a manipulative, it is not to be used as a toy or food. Of course, an experienced teacher will allow children a little time to play with the manipulative before using it as a tool (and will save a little for snack afterward).
4. Follow multiple-step directions.
Children should be able to follow multiple instructions given to them at one time. Possessing this skill will help them tremendously when it comes to making it through a full Kindergarten day. Multiple-step directions are directions that involve a person doing a series of things. An example might be: “Put your name on your paper, place it in the basket, grab a paper towel, and sit at your table.” To help your child develop this skill, you can start giving them directions that require them to do multiple things. Start with two separate ideas and work up to three or four.
The four areas of focus above will help to ensure that your child has the social-emotional development needed for success in Grade K. Let’s look at some areas of focus for academic readiness.
Pre-K graduates should be academically ready to:
1. Show an understanding of phonics and the alphabet.
By the time children enter Kindergarten, they should recognize and know the sounds that each letter in the alphabet makes. They should be able to see a letter and call it by name. Children should be able to write a letter by this point, as well. Before entering Kindergarten, children should also recognize alliterations and rhyming words. To help your child develop these skills, you will want to work as much as possible on phonics skills. When reading with your child, key in on letter sounds and the beginnings of words. Say them over and over, make up silly songs and enunciate clearly. Your child will see this as a game, and what child doesn’t love games?
2. Show interest in books.
By the time a child enters Kindergarten, he or she should have an understanding of how books work. Children need to know how to hold a book the correct way and know that pages are turned from the left to right. Children should also be able to comprehend a book that is read to them and be able to engage in an age-appropriate conversation about the book. At this stage, children should be showing what’s called emergent literacy skills—things like mimicking reading, guessing the next word, and hearing words that sound the same. To help your child develop this skill you should read to them daily. Use this acronym:
(Source: Rollins Center)
3. Investigate numbers, shapes, and math concepts.
By the time a child enters Kindergarten, he or she should be able to count. Children should understand that the numeral 4 versus four items are the same. They should be able to see a number out of sequence and identify the number. By the time they enter Kindergarten, they should have an understanding of the concepts greater than and less than. Children should also be able to add and subtract by at least 1. To help your child with these skills, make sure that you use everyday objects as manipulatives to help them understand the actual values of numbers. Remember, a manipulative can be anything—so gather your dimes, nickels, keys, and bottle caps, and put them into plastic baggies. Take them with you in the car. If your child picks up “treasures” wherever she goes, encourage her to be on the lookout for pennies to add to her bag of manipulatives.
4. Want to know how the world works.
Children are naturally curious. When a child is ready to graduate from Pre-K and enter a new environment, chances are good that he or she has discovered, imagined, experimented, created, built, and theorized. Kindergarteners who thrive will be the ones who are constantly asking, “How does this work?” and “Why does this do that?” Knowing how things work is the first step in beginning to create independently and with others.
Quality, collaborative learning is key.
Above, I have outlined a few areas that we, as parents, should key in on to help ensure our children are ready for Kindergarten. However, as I stated at the beginning of this post, these are not the only areas that parents should be focusing on. This blog post and attached checklist are only indicators. Use it to identify whether or not you and your child are on the right track.
My best advice to any families who want help in getting their child Kindergarten ready: find a place for your child to learn. The benefit of having a collaborative learning environment—whether that’s a half-day mom-share collaboration over coffee, a full-day Pre-K center, or a few hours twice a week at a Mother’s Day Out—quality instruction gives you the benefit of having more help. It takes a village. There will be learning opportunities that happen at the center that will be almost impossible for you to duplicate in a home environment, but a collaborative learning environment will help you get your child ready.