What should a child know before Kindergarten is answered by a former Kindergarten Teacher herself! 10 Kindergarten skills that are really helpful for them to know before they enter their classroom and how you can help them learn these at home so they feel more confident on their first day.
If you have a little one and you’re wondering what should a child know before Kindergarten I can tell you first hand because I was a Kindergarten Teacher myself before and during the time when I had kids myself. It is SO important for your child to go into Kindergarten with certain skills in order for them to really get ahead and succeed in their first year of school. (originally published 2/15)
All of the Kindergarten Teachers in my school agreed that there were some things that make a child’s Kindergarten year so much easier and successful if they already know the following things before they enter the door. From the most basic things like tying their shoes, to skills that will help them become great readers, you will start your child off on the right path to really excel if you focus on these top 10 things for Kindergarten readiness.
As you may have seen, Kindergarten isn’t like it was when we were little. Much more is expected of them at this age in Schools and if you can give them a head start with knowing many or all of the things listed below they will have a much easier time. This answers ideally what should a child know before Kindergarten, but also remember that every child learns at their own pace so take your time and enjoy the time together as they master these skills. 😉
What should a child know before Kindergarten
- Know how to tie their shoes – We will start with the basics here. With sometimes 20-25 children in a classroom it is SO helpful if you work with your kids on how to tie their own shoes before they go to Kindergarten. It takes away from teaching and recess time when there are 10 shoelaces to retie throughout the day. There are things you can buy to help them practice (like this Melissa & Doug lacing sneaker ) or just practicing on their own shoes every day during the Summer with incentives once they master this skill. This is a great and very helpful thing for your child to know (their Teacher will thank you too).
- Know how to write their name – It is so important for a child to already know how to write their first name (and last would be fabulous)! If they go into their Kindergarten class already knowing this they do not have to practice daily, and can move on to other skills. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but knowing how to generally write their name is great. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they hit their desk in Kindergarten and can immediately “claim” their paper by writing their name on the top so everyone knows it is theirs! Start with practicing the first letter in their name by writing it with a highlighter and letting them trace it over and over until it they can write it on their own. Once that is mastered move on to the second letter and so on and so forth. Using a wide ruled Kindergarten style paper or story paper as well as this letter tracing practice sheets are helpful too.
- Know how to count to 10 – Knowing how to count to at least 20 is great. You can practice writing numbers as well but as long as they have the basic knowledge of numbers and that they go in a particular order at all times when counting they will be ahead of the game when it comes to number sense. A fun way to help them count, and these are helpful when they begin to add are using counting bears . These are cute and colorful plastic bears that engage a child in counting and makes it FUN to learn, count, and add!
- Can recognize their letters – Recognizing that an A and an a are the same letter, that every letter has a name and being able to quickly recognize what each letter is is VERY helpful before children start Kindergarten! Pointing out signs while you’re in the car and saying “that is an S at the beginning of that sign that says Stop” makes them realize that each letter has a name and putting letters together creates a word. Surround them with letters around your house. We had an alphabet chart like this one that was the same one you would see in every classroom displayed in my girls’ playroom. While they were practicing their name I could point to what their letter should look like, or if they forgot what the lowercase version of a letter looked like they could find the capital one they knew and find out for themselves what the lowercase should look like.
- Know how to hold a pencil – Having the proper grip on a pencil will help your child create the letters properly when they write and is a lifelong skill they will need, so it is easier to learn it now. Make sure you’re starting out with primary pencils since their hands are so small and this will help them grip the pencil correctly. You will just need to model what the correct way to hold it will be and adjust their grip as they go until they hold it correctly without your help.
- Understand they can & should ask for help – I say this because some children are very shy. Especially if they haven’t experienced a Preschool setting where there are other children competing for the Teacher’s attention too they may not speak up if they don’t understand something. Children need to be taught that Everyone needs help sometimes and it is ok and good to ask for help or further explanation if they don’t understand how to do something.
- Understand their parent will be back – I cannot tell you how many children start Kindergarten and spend weeks and months crying every time their parent drops them off. Especially children who haven’t had a Preschool experience, they may not know that their parent will be back for them and they are going to have so much FUN if they’ve never been away from Mom or Dad before. If this is the case it might be good to have a playdate at a good friend’s house where they stay for an hour or so to play and see that you will always come back to get them. Not only does the crying effect your child where they won’t be able to focus on what is being learned in the classroom, but it takes the Teacher’s time away from the rest of the class and distracts the other children as well. It is great when a child goes into their Kindergarten classroom confident and knowing that their parent will return for them at the end of the day.
Every child is different and works at their own pace. My oldest daughter mastered everything above quite quickly and so I moved on to the skills below, she finished the whole BOB Books series, and she was reading short books well before she even stepped into her Kindergarten room. Her birthday was a big consideration in her advancement as well though as she missed the cut off day to start by 3 days so she was by far the oldest child in her class.
My middle daughter struggled a bit more and although she was able to read Level 1 BOB Books before entering Kinder. it took her a bit longer….and my 3rd daughter was similar to #1 (I think part of it was she wanted to keep up with her older sisters – motivation there).
My point is that these are just suggestions and if they aren’t all mastered before they enter their first year in school they will learn them there, it is just easier on them if those skills are already established as there will be many levels of readiness in their classroom (you’d rather them be a bit ahead).
If your child has the top 7 Kindergarten readiness skills conquered and there is still time then tackle these three below!
- Know the sound each letter makes – Once they can recognize each letter and write each letter they are ready to learn that each letter makes a sound. Teach them the short sound each letter makes so they can move on to sounding out short words. The BEST way to start this is to buy and play each day The Letter Factory DVD from Leapfrog – affiliate link-!! I cannot tell you how well this video helped my kids and made learning their letters fun! The song “the A says a, the A says a, every letter makes a sound the A says a,” and on to other letters using this tune gets stuck in their head and it is a whole lot less work for you…seriously!! Once they have this down you can use flash cards to practice what sound each letter makes but I would start with this first.
- Can write their letters – SO important. Once they know how to write their name you have already conquered several letters they will need to know how to write! Continue using the wide ruled paper and primary pencils I mentioned above and continue to move on to the other letters. Start with the lowercase letters first! 90% of all the things we write are in lowercase so they need to be able to recognize and write these first. Start with 1 letter each day, or 1 new one every other day. Use a highlighter and write a lowercase a (for example) over and over again until it fills up the primary paper. Have them sit properly and trace the highlighted letter until they can write it without you having to trace it.
- Can blend and read short words – If your child has mastered these 7 things I would have them start reading short books! All 3 of my girls were able to get thru the first set of BOB Books before they entered those Kindergarten doors and their Teachers were thrilled!! Since they already knew their letters, sounds, and were able to blend them together to read basic words they had a head start over all the other children who weren’t at that stage and were able to move on to reading more and more throughout their Kindergarten year. Consequently they are all fantastic readers and acquired a love for reading now that they are older. I would HIGHLY recommend BOB Books – affiliate link. They are reader friendly, focus on short basic words, and give children who are just learning to read and blend sounds a sense of accomplishment because “I read the whole thing myself!” These books are also great because you can move right on to the next set once you’ve mastered the first, and they use the same characters throughout which kids Love!
Here are a few other items to get them ready for Kindergarten:
- Kindergarten style and size backpack
- Phonics workbook
- Kinder. math discovery games
- The Night Before Kindergarten book
- Preschool Prep videos – they’re fantastic
- Scissor skills
I hope this helps with your questions of what should a child know before Kindergarten and your child is so excited to start school!
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