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What Should a Child Know Before Kindergarten

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.

what should a child know before Kindergarten

If you have a little one and you’re wondering what should a child know before Kindergarten I can tell you first hand. I was a Kindergarten Teacher myself and have 3 kids myself. It is SO important for your child to go into Kindergarten with certain skills in order for them to really succeed in their first year of school. (originally published 2/15)

Kindergarten Skills

  • All of the Kindergarten Teachers in my school agreed that there were some things that make a child’s Kindergarten year so much easier.
  • If they already know the following skills before they entered that door it would make their first year easier.
  • From the most basic things like tying their shoes, to skills that will help them become great readers. This is how to start your child off on the right path early on.

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. If you can give them a head start knowing many or all of the things listed below, they will have a much easier time.

This of course is ideally what should a child know before Kindergarten, remember that every child learns at their own pace though. Take your time, be patient, and enjoy the time together as they master these skills. 😉

What should a child know before Kindergarten

  1. Tying 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.
best shoes for kids

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.

  1. OR just practice with them on their own shoes every day. Make it a contest once they get better! Let them earn a prize once they do it twice in a row etc…. This is a great and very helpful thing for your child to know (their Teacher will thank you too).
  2. Writing 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.

  1. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they hit their desk in Kindergarten and can immediately “claim” their paper.
    1. Start with practicing the first letter in their name by writing it with a highlighter. Then let them trace it over and over until it they can write it on their own.
    2. 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.

Then do letter crafts with noodles (seen here) for extra practice!

letter crafts

Counting skills – Knowing how to count to at least 10 is great. You can practice writing numbers as well but as long as they have the basic knowledge of how they go in a particular order at all times they will be ahead of the game.

  1. A fun way to help them count is to begin with these using counting bears . These are cute and colorful plastic bears that engage a child in counting, adding them together, and makes it FUN!
    1. You can use anything around the house though for this; buttons, jelly beans….and don’t forget to count things while you’re in the car together too.

Letter recognition – 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.

  1. 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. From there they realize that putting letters together creates a word!
    1. 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.
    2. 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 on the wall and the lowercase was right next to it.
    1. Some preschools can do a great job instilling this too.

You can start with fun learning games like our alphabet bingo. Use laminating sheets so you can play it over and over again! Sight word coloring pages in the form of color by number make learning fun too.

alphabet bingo

Holding a pencil – Having the proper grip on a pencil will help your child create the letters properly when they write. Writing is a lifelong skill they will need, so it is easier to learn it now.

  1. Make sure you’re starting out with primary pencils since their hands are so small. They will help them grip the pencil correctly at the beginning.
    1. You will just need to model what the correct way to hold it will be. Adjust their grip as they go until they hold it correctly without your help.
    2. Longer crayons will need the same grip so have them practice while coloring too.
Care packages

Asking 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, they may not speak up if they don’t understand something.

  1. Children need to be taught that Everyone needs help sometimes and it is ok and good to ask for a further explanation if they don’t understand something.
  2. Understand you’ll be back – I cannot tell you how many children start Kindergarten with weeks of crying every time their parent drops them off.
    1. Especially children who haven’t had a Preschool experience. They may not know that their parent will be back and they are going to have so much FUN with new friends.
    2. If you think this might be the case it might be good to have a playdate at a good friend’s house where they stay for an hour or so. Drop them off to play so they can see you will always come back to get them.
    3. Find another family in the same situation so you can swap off at each other’s houses and they will understand, since you’re in the same boat.
    4. Not only does the crying affect your child’s ablity to focus on what is being learned in the classroom, but it takes the Teacher’s time away from the rest of the class.

It is great when a child goes into their Kindergarten classroom confident, excited, knowing that their parent will return for them at the end of the day.

what should a child know before kindergarten

Every child is different and works at their own pace. My oldest daughter mastered everything above quite quickly so I moved on to the skills below.

She finished the whole BOB Books series, and was reading short books well before she even stepped into her Kindergarten room. She was one of the oldest with a Dec. birthday so this was a big consideration in her advancement.

My middle daughter struggled a bit more. Although she was able to read Level 1 BOB Books before entering it took her a bit longer. 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. 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.

kindergarten skills

If your child has the top 7 Kindergarten readiness skills conquered and there is still time, tackle these three below!

  • Letter sounds – Once they can recognize 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 every day!!
    • 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,” tune gets stuck in their head.
    • Once they have this down you can use flash cards to practice what sound each letter makes but I would start with this first.

Writing Letters – Once they know how to write their name you have already conquered several letters that they will need to know how to write!

  • Continue using the wide ruled paper and primary pencils I mentioned above. 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.

Then move on to story paper where they draw something and you spell out what to write below. One word to describe it is a success…and party when they write each letter correctly!

kindergarten writing

Reading – 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! Their Teachers were thrilled!!

  • Since they already knew their letters and sounds it is time to blend them together to read basic words. They will have a HUGE head start over all the other children in the class if you can get them to this stage.
    • I would HIGHLY recommend BOB Books. They are reader friendly, focus on short basic words, and give children who are just learning to read have 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. They use the same characters throughout the series which kids Love!

Getting ready for Kindergarten

Start talking about the first day early. Grab them a new Kindergarten style and size backpack so they can keep all their practice stuff in there before going.

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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Emily

Sunday 19th of April 2020

My almost 3yr old has a speech delay. I plan on homeschooling her for preschool since who know when schools are going to open back up. She sees a speech therapist but will age out of the program in a few months. So letters and sounds I plan to focus more on that. Any recommendations for a child with speech delay and teaching letters and sounds

Concernedmom

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

What do you do for those who don’t have these skills due to a disability. It makes me fearful to send my baby to kindergarten who has tried so hard to master small things that come so easy to everyone else.

Trudy

Monday 26th of August 2019

As a school psychologist I can tell you that your child does not need to have any of those academic skills prior to starting kindergarten. Do not panic! Many kids start school without knowing their letters, sounds or how to write them and that is FINE! That is what they will learn in kindergarten. I think it’s much more important for them to know how to ask for help if they need it.

robert mitchell

Thursday 12th of April 2018

Toilet trainng prior to being exposed to an social learning envoirnment is an essential to confidence , and confidence is key to all learning.

Jenny

Tuesday 24th of May 2016

I would say along with the shoe tying, other basic self help skills such as: putting on and zipping their coat, buttoning their pants,washing their hands, blowing their nose with a tissue, covering their mouth with their elbow when coughing and sneezing, cleaning themselves in the restroom (I can't even count how many times I have been asked, "Teacher, can you wipe me?" Um, no.

The Typical Mom

Tuesday 24th of May 2016

LOL, yes I remember that and yes all those things too. I cannot count the # of shoes I tied though my first year in Kinder. That was one of the first things I taught my first child because of those days. ;)

Kathleen

Sunday 1st of May 2016

This is a great list of good ideas. As a former kindergarten teacher in a low income school, I would like to add one on the top of the list.

Most important: Be able to sit through and engage during a read-aloud story . This is a learned skill, and it is evident from the first day which kids are read to on a regular basis. Reading aloud builds your child's vocabulary and attention span, which are the two most important factors in school success. Also, listening comprehension is highly correlated to reading comprehension.

2nd most valuable pre kindergarten preparation: Go and have experiences with your child and discuss them together. A lot of times presents simply tell their children what to do, redirect behavior. One on one, give and take discussion with a preschooler lays the ground work for listening and comprehending as well as expressive language (such as the ability to ask questions and advocate for him/her self) which all students need in big public school classrooms.

Although the academic items on this list would be awesome for a 5 year old to have, these skills can be taught fairly easily to children who have the social/emotional skills contained on the last couple items on the author's list and the two I added.

The Typical Mom

Monday 2nd of May 2016

Thanks for adding these to the list!!

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