It’s a common occurrence, and especially this year with COVID being a factor, for moms to wonder what types of things their children will need to know going into kindergarten. This year especially many parents have chosen to homeschool their children in place of sending them to kindergarten at their local school or try to force their little ones into many hours of screen time at that grade level.
While I do believe teachers hold the magic tips and tricks to teaching your kindergartener, here are some things to think about when approaching your child’s kindergarten year.
Let me state up front that I am not a kindergarten teacher nor any other grade teacher. I have a BA in English from Sonoma State University in California and started my teaching credential years ago before my career path took me away from school and into the working world.
My expertise on the subject of kindergarten (and the other lower grades) comes from over four years of volunteering in a kindergarten class at my kids school. I also have seen the end result of kindergarten by volunteering in a first grade class for almost three years before COVID shut down in person schooling in our area.
I wasn’t the typical volunteer. As soon as my children started school, I was in the classroom five days a week splitting between kindergarten and the upper grades as needed. I’ve been put in charge of tech education for kindergarten and have run multi levels of reading groups in first grade. I also worked on reading fluency with emerging readers and became known as the parent to rely on when given an educational task to accomplish in the classroom.
The two teachers I worked with most were seasoned professionals. My mentors were wonderful women who made teaching their life.
- The kindergarten teacher was one of the original teachers at our school which was founded in 1995. She transferred over from another school and while kindergarten is her niche, she also had taught grades higher up into elementary school.
- The first grade teacher I worked with had been teaching longer than I’ve been alive. She knew what kids needed to have in first grade and was great at evaluating how successful a kindergarten year was for a kid within the first few weeks of school in her class.
I might not be considered an expert because I don’t have a degree. I do believe my time in the classroom as well as being a mother myself helps me give a balanced view of things that will help your child succeed in kindergarten.
The sections I’ll be mentioning in this post are from an article I found called 10 Kindergarten Readiness Skills Your Child Needs by education.com published in 2013. Despite the article being older, the areas it covers are still basic areas of study and behavior that should be paid attention to:
- writing skills
- letter recognition
- beginning sounds
- number recognition and counting
- shapes and colors
- fine motor skills
- reading readiness
- attention and following directions
- social skills
While many preschools have started to teach academics in their classrooms, Kindergarten is the first year that academics are measured for most kids. Here are a few places to keep an eye on as you enter, experience, and leave kindergarten.
Some of these subjects I’m going to be brutally honest about. This is done with the full intent to tell you the truth and is not done to shame or make fun of any student I’ve come across. Honesty is the best policy in this case.
No surprise that writing is on this list.
Writing is a basic skill that your child will use for the rest of their lives. They won’t need to write a novel or a thesis length work at kindergarten age, but to prepare them for kindergarten and have them be successful that first year of school, make sure to practice letter writing.
The good thing about writing is that it can be practiced in many ways. The principles of writing can be done in the sand and dirt, with crayons and paint, or traditionally with pencils or pens. No matter which media form you use, this is something to add to their skills set.
Going into kindergarten this MomMe suggests that they should be able to write at least their name on the top of their papers. Usually by the end of 1st grade they work on last names. Anything above and beyond that on the first day is great.
By the end of kindergarten expect that teachers will want them to start letters look uniform and use the kindergarten style writing paper to help them shape their letters on each line accordingly.
Spacing is key moving into first grade as children start writing more words and fewer pages of single letter practice.
Tip: If your child has a particularly long name or a hard to spell name, suggest to them at least in kindergarten that a nickname might be appropriate for school. This is not meant to take away from their identity in any way. My full name is Patricia. I’m pretty sure I didn’t write that name on my papers for the entirety of my school career. It was Patty for most of the years and once I tried to change my name to my middle name.
The ABCs are a big part of what kids learn in Kindergarten. It’s the first step in learning to read and write so it’s a skill that should be practiced. This can be done by simply pointing out letters to your child and having them say them back to you.
A great way to get this habit going is to put letters around your child’s room. We hung a poster on my son’s door with all the letters so he could learn them.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. I’m a big supporter of this awareness month because my son is dyslexic and the way that we knew he was having issues with this learning disability is that his letter recognition skills were poor.
My son was a November baby and we started him early in preschool. At two and a half that first year was mostly about learning to go to school and listen to the teacher, but after 3 years of preschool and a year of Kindergarten he was still having issues remembering letters.
With early testing we realized he was dyslexic in Kindergarten.
He’s now in 2nd grade and with a private tutor he was thriving, but if left up to the school district we are in he wouldn’t have received services for dyslexia until after 3rd grade.
Early intervention for dyslexia and other learning disabilities is important, so make sure you’re paying attention to how your child reacts to having to name letters.
A fun way to connect letters and their sounds is to get your kids to sing a song!
Our kindergarten used this song to teach our kids their letter sounds.
Leap Frog has a great group of videos for learning. Here is the letter sounds song to play for your little one.
Number Recognition and Counting
Math comes into play in kindergarten. Simple number recognition and counting up to 20 seem to be the normal material covered at that age. Simple counting of items like toys or shoes or friends or anything in your child’s life will be helpful.
I didn’t realize this a few years ago, but there is a thing called “number sense” that when a kid has issues with math is kind of like dyslexia. While there are other more complicated forms of math disorders, Number Sense is a general term I’ve heard used.
Kids who were discussed as having some issues with this tend not to understand the letter “1”, saying “one”, and the pointing to “one item” connection. Of course I don’t have all the information on this topic because my children do well in math, but if your child has issues counting pennies or blocks or legos by the end of Kindergarten, it’s something to look into.
Shapes and Colors
Part of kindergarten assessments is the shapes and colors section. There are many ways to learn these. Most teachers have colors and written versions of their colors all over the room. Many of them have a color of the week or some kind of practice daily to help kids learn these. Here is an example of something a teacher might play for a kid in school to learn these things.
Fine Motor Skills
Working out the body is something we all think about, but working out the hands to hold small items, pencils, crayons, and pens is something that is gained during this time of school. The coordination of writing for some may not be a natural skill and practicing it can help your child succeed before and during kindergarten.
Remember, you child is not going to be expected to perform brain surgery, but being able to pick up and place things in other areas is something they will be asked to do during the school year.
Surprisingly enough cutting things with scissors is not a skill you instantly know how to do. It takes practice. Along with fine motor skills this is something children in the 3-5 year age group learn how to do.
Our preschool class had worksheets with straight lines, wiggly lines and shapes for the kids to cut out. It’s pretty much the same in Kindergarten. Knowing how to cut on the solid line for both sharp edges and round edges will help them came up.
I also think that working with scissors helps them workout their hand muscles which will improve their writing skills as well.
Did you know that when a young child opens a picture book and tells you a story that this is considered pre-reading? They are taking clues from the image and telling a story, the way that many younger level books do.
Before I mentioned our family struggle with dyslexia. I only bring that up because it’s something that a child can maneuver through easier with early intervention.
The truth is though, from my experience, that the timing for learning to read is such an individual thing. Some children come into kindergarten reading books and some barely know their letters. Working on this skill as they move towards first grade is a fairly high priority, but don’t be alarmed if your child doesn’t pick up on reading until the later months or even into first grade.
Attention and Following Directions
Almost all kindergartners have a hard time paying attention to a teacher for long stretches of time. Most teachers I’ve seen account for this and break up their school day appropriately.
A big thing when it comes to living in the classroom in kindergarten is learning to know when it’s ok for free play and when it’s time to listen to the teacher.
Many kindergarten teachers I’ve talked to know instantly the first morning of school which kids have gone to preschool and which haven’t. It’s not whether your child has high academic skills or not. It’s which students know that it is school time and the proper way to act in a classroom.
Above and beyond behavior, learning to follow multi-step directions is something that children learn at this age. Having your child be able to follow directions like “go to the red table and find a crayon in the bin to color with” seems like simple instructions, but for a child it might take a bit of practice to understand.
While this is technically something that children aren’t graded on, having good social skills will help make their school experience easier.
The one thing that I loved about our preschool which I think set up my children for success in public school was their social skills. Saying please and thank you, sneezing in your elbow, and sharing were things that they picked up by interacting with kids in school and learning from caring women who knew these skills were vital for children to have in later grades.
While there are extreme cases in every grade level, I will let you know that the reputation that kids earn, even at the age of five can follow them for years after. We have at least three kids in our school that had “reputations” but the time they hit first grade.
Let’s think about that for a moment. It means that by the age of six these children were already painted (some rightfully) in a negative manner. Being the child that hits or scratches or screams at other children is something that other people hear about. Whether it’s a one time incident or being a repeat offender, children are brutally honest and will tell their parents, and anyone else who wants to hear, when “so and so choked someone out on the playground” in kindergarten. It’s a sad fact, but pretty much all the teachers and most of the parents at our school knew the extreme behavior of these children.
Pegging them as trouble-maker kids isn’t something that we as adults should do, but elementary school gossip flows just as freely as high school gossip so having your child be talked about is going to happen if their social skills aren’t up to par.
Many of the topics I’ve covered come with a lot of common sense knowledge.
Don’t let this list overwhelm you with things you’re going to have to face in kindergarten. If you work on these skills in everyday life leading up to going to school your kid will excel.