Today, I wanted to give you a “starter list” of skills your child should have before entering kindergarten. As a former kindergarten teacher, I have seen first-hand the difference having these skills upon entering school can make for a child. If a child comes to school prepared and equipped, less classroom time is wasted, and “meatier” learning can occur! Kindergarten has changed. No longer is kindergarten the world of finger-painting, naps, and playing with blocks. My students left my classroom reading, writing multi-paragraph stories, doing addition and subtraction, and had an understanding of the scientific process. While kindergarten is SUPER fun, it is also a time of serious learning and academic development.
While your child does not need to have all of these skills to start kindergarten (only YOU know what is best for your child!), these skills will give your child a nice “head-start” for learning. So as not to overwhelm you, this is a basic “starter list” of skills. Please send me a message if you have any questions! I hope to be able to share with you ways to work on some of these skills in the days to come.
*These are almost more important than the academic skills. I can easily teach a child the alphabet, number recognition, etc., but if a child is missing one of these skills, learning often stops for the whole class. Teachers spend far too much time correcting the disruptive behavior of a small handful of kids. Each time a teacher has to stop and deal with disruptive behavior, momentum is thrown off, other children become disengaged, and learning is at a stand-still. For me, I would much rather have a room full of kids who had all of these skills, and little to none of the academic skills, than a class full of high-achieving academic kids who were disruptive.
- Ability to sit quietly for 10-15 minutes (Circle time/sitting time in kindergarten shouldn’t really exceed 15 minutes)
- Turn-taking/sharing (Students will need to share supplies, math manipulatives, etc and take turns with centers, work stations, etc.)
- Ability to let others shine/not be the center of attention (This is a hard one for many kids. In a class of 20+ students, kids need to be prepared not to be called on every time, be the helper every time, etc.)
- Take directions/Listen to/Obey an authority figure other than Mom or Dad (There are LOTS of grown-ups at a school that a child will need to listen to/take direction from)
- Impulse control (can keep their body to themselves, controls funny noises, etc.)
- Emotional Control (Controls temper, doesn’t lash out physically or verbally in anger, able to separate from parents without crying,etc.)
- Good- Able to say the alphabet Better-Recognizes the letters of the alphabet Best- Recognizes BOTH upper and lowercase letters
- Good- Recognizes name in print Better – Writes own name Best- Writes name the “kindergarten way” (First letter capitalized, the rest lowercase)
- Can draw a picture to express an idea or thought (The picture matches what he/she is talking about.)
- Can listen to a story attentively, answer questions about a story he/she just heard, can talk about a story, ask questions about a story…
- Can copy letters, words, shapes
- Knows colors and shapes
- Can count to 20 (the higher they can count the better!)
- Can follow 1 or 2 step directions
*I was always a little surprised to see how many of my students had never come in contact with school supplies. Although some of these supplies may be “messy”, I encourage you to begin exposing your child to these supplies at an early age. (Go outside at a card table if you need to!) If a child knows how to use supplies, less classroom time is wasted, and more learning can occur!
- Holds a pencil correctly (Use a golf pencil to teach correct grip! A small pencil will force a child to hold the pencil the correct way.)
- Can use glue. (This means a child can use a small dab of glue, and doesn’t dump an entire bottle out onto their picture. This child is also not fascinated with smearing glue sticks on every available surface.) =)
- Markers (Understands that markers are meant for paper only.) *It is helpful if you don’t allow your child to write on their skin.
- SCISSORS (The majority of kindergartners have never held a pair of scissors. Give your child some scrap paper, and let them cut!)
- Crayons (Show your child how to peel back the paper on the crayon, when the crayon gets “flat.”)
- Paints (I encourage you to let your child use water color paints before starting K. Teach how to rinse the brush in water before a new color is selected….or you will end up with lots of lovely brownish pictures.)
- Dressing Skills (Can button/zip own coat, snap or button their pants, put on their own coat, etc. ) Shoe tying is a plus.
- Bathroom Skills (Potty trained, can ask when they need to go, able to wipe, hand-washing, etc.)
- Lunch Skills (Able to open food packaging unassisted!) *There is often only one supervisor in a cafeteria. He/She may not have time to help every child open each yogurt, string cheese, etc.
- Book Skills (Able to look at a book without tearing pages, doesn’t color/write in books, treats books with respect)
Like I said, this is just a list to help your child have a great head-start for learning. Of course, every good teacher can handle a child without these skills, but the more students who enter our classrooms ready to learn, helps us do a better job, and create more meaningful learning experiences for everyone. Thank you so much for taking an interest in your child’s education!