How to Prepare for Kindergarten
Having your child enter kindergarten can be one of the most exciting and heartbreaking experiences you have gone through thus far. Getting your child academically prepared for the rigors of kindergarten is one of the critical steps to setting your new kindergartener up for success.
Academic kindergarten readiness only part of the picture, as your child needs also to develop strong emotional readiness skills. It’s important to understand that these emotional readiness skills are going to be more impactful on your child’s success or failure, so DON’T discount the importance of it!!
Related: Kindergarten Separation Anxiety
Figuring out which academic skills to work on to better prepare your kindergartner can be overwhelming, to say the least.
Should you focus on the ABC’s or counting? Coloring skills or technology?
There is A LOT of mixed information out there, so we decided to interview a kindergarten teacher about what she finds are the most critical things for you to be working in to prepare your child academically for the upcoming school year.
We have also included an activity for each skill that you can do with your kindergartner to help solidify their understanding of the concept.
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KINDERGARTEN READINESS SKILLS
ALPHABET KNOWLEDGE FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
When you think of teaching your child the alphabet, it can be difficult to know what should come first. Memorizing the alphabet, learning sounds, and the ability to recognize some letters are skills that will help your child be set up for success once they begin kindergarten.
I CAN sing the ABC’s
Your child should be able to sing the ABC’s. While many kids go into Kindergarten being able to sing the ABC song, many of them aren’t able to isolate the letters.
Activity: The ABC’s
None, except your beautiful voice
While singing the ABC song with your child, GO SLOW and isolate l-m-n-o-p.
I CAN recognize the letters of my name
Your child does not necessarily need to know the NAME of the letters in their name, but it’s essential for your child to be able to recognize the letters in it. There are plenty of activities you can do to help them learn what letters are in their name.
Activity: Magnetic Letter Matching Game
Dry Erase Markers
Write their name on the board. Then, have them pick out the magnetic letters that match the writing on the board and have them stick the magnetic letters under the matching letters on the board.
Make sure that you use a capital letter for the first letter and lowercase letters for the remaining letters.
Activity: Rainbow Name Art
Write your child’s name on the piece of paper and help them trace the letters with glue. After this, have them stick the fruit loops on the glue, so they are essentially tracing their name with the glue. To make it more fun, have them use specific colors for the different letters.
I CAN say the letter sounds
Letter sounds can be tough to help your child memorize. Having a basic understanding of the sounds of the letters will help them learn to put them together more efficiently.
Activity: Letter Factory
The teacher I interviewed has a specific video that she recommends all parents watch with their children. If you have your child watch and interact with it once a day, it’s very likely that they will have their letters memorized within a month or two.
PHONEMIC AWARENESS FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
At this age, your child may be getting ready to learn to read. Phonemic awareness is an essential foundation to help your child on their journey to reading. Phonemic awareness is related to HEARING words out loud, not reading the writing on the pages.
Phonemic awareness is also having the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Your child needs to understand that words can be broken up into pieces, and these pieces make up the sounds in words.
Your child’s ability to recognize and understand these different sounds will be a predictive indicator of their future success with reading.
I CAN say the first sound I hear in a word
Part of phonemic awareness is being able to recognize and point out the first sound heard in a word. For example, your child should understand that “cat” starts with a /c/ sound. The first three letters that should be taught this way are “P”, “M”, “L”, and “S”; as these four letters are the easiest for your little one to learn.
Activity: Noises of Things
Draw pictures of familiar objects, and have your child sound out the beginning sounds in the word. For example, you can draw a picture of a moon and have your child sound out the “M” sound.
If you are worried that you cannot draw a recognizable object, you may want to find pictures of objects online instead and have your child practice their sounds that way.
I CAN recognize rhyming words
Another critical step that needs to happen before you even think of teaching your child to read is to make sure that they understand how rhyming words work.
Being able to comprehend rhyming words helps your child break up the words in pieces, and they can begin to understand that different words can be made up of the same sounds.
Read. There are plenty of children’s books out there that contain rhyming words. There are two excellent options to purchase above if you don’t have books that include rhyming words.
WRITING FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
Keep in mind when it comes to writing, you are striving for it to be legible, not necessarily perfect. Your kiddo will have time to hone these skills. There are stages of writing, your child will not be able to publish novels for a while. Keep your expectations in check.
Scribbling is an important pre-writing skill, so DON’T discount your child’s doodles just because they don’t appear to look like anything. Your child DOES NOT need to write before kindergarten, that is what they learn. It IS important that they practice their prewriting skills, such as tracing shapes and lines.
I CAN practice prewriting skills
Prewriting skills must come before actual writing for your child. Prewriting skills include scribbling, writing random letters, as well as tracing lines and shapes. Drawing and coloring is a writing stage.
Once they draw/color, they may begin to “write” the message to tell about their picture. It may look like scribble lines, a string of letters, or writing the actual beginning and ending sounds to writing words. Don’t spell words for your kiddo (even if they ask), just encourage them to write a letter for the sound they hear.
Activity: Tell Me A Story
Once your child is proficient in scribbles and coloring, try asking them to tell a story about their picture. Encourage them to write their story on a piece of paper.
Remember, it is not important that your child writes accurately, at this point it is about exploration and practice.
I CAN write my name appropriately
Once your child has mastered their prewriting skills, work on writing their name. You want them to be able to write their name with the appropriate upper and lower case letters and to essentially write out their names the same way it is spelled on the birth certificate.
Unfortunately, this is one of those skills that is best learned through repetition, so find ways to mix it up so you can keep your child’s interest.
Activity: Names and Bumps
Poster Board (buy in bulk here)
Write your kiddo’s first and last name in permanent marker on the board. Go over the letters with glue and let your child run their fingers over it once the glue has dried. This can be a lot of fun as your child can feel the different textures of the glue over different letters in their name!
Activity: Finger Paint with a Twist
Surface to paint on
Finger Paint, Shaving Cream, or Mashed Potatoes.
Allow them to practice writing their name with something fun! Although we have listed some ideas for supplies above, you can certainly get creative and use any soft substance that they can finger paint with.
I CAN trace a picture of myself using shapes for body parts
According to the teacher I interviewed; there is NO such thing as stick figures in Kindergarten (shock, I know.) You want your child to be able to compose shapes to make new shapes, and being able to trace the shapes is the first step.
Activity: Shape People
To get your child thinking about the composition of shapes, give them a piece of paper with shapes drawn on it. Talk them through which shape they would use for the head, body, arms, and legs.
Draw these shapes as your child instructs, and help them problem-solve if they chose a shape that doesn’t match the body part. Once the drawing is complete and correct, have them trace the picture.
I CAN color with multiple colors
The world is not blue. Even if your child’s favorite color is blue, this is not a realistic representation of the world. You want your child to begin to interpret the relationship and differences in objects–using color is an excellent way to do this.
Activity: Realistic Coloring
Blank Paper or Coloring Page
3-5 Different Colors of Crayons
Pictures or objects they can see and color (Optional)
Give your child three to five different crayon colors and a piece of paper/coloring page. Encourage them to try and color the picture accurately. If they seem to struggle, try and talk them through it. Are trees completely green, or do they usually have other colors too?
MATH FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
There is the common misconception that your child has mastered counting because they can count to forty or fifty with minimal help. The child will reach 29 and have to be reminded that 30 comes next.
This is NOT mastery of counting, as your child has only mastered it once they can recall the numbers by themselves. Your child’s math skills are made up of two parts–rote memorization and one to one correspondence.
I CAN count ten objects
One to one correspondence is based on the understanding that they are counting ONE object with ONE number. They should understand that two suckers equals 2.
Rote memorization of numbers will NOT be effective if your child can’t make the connection between the numbers and objects. An essential part of teaching one to one correspondence is to make your child PHYSICALLY touch the object that they are counting.
Kids this age tend to accidentally skip objects while they are counting, and so this exercise can help cement their learning. The kindergarten teacher I spoke to ALWAYS makes her students touch the objects while they are counting.
Activity: Animal Dinnertime
Pretend food and plates
Help your child make pretend dinner for their stuffed animals. Encourage your child to count one number each time they give one of their stuffed animals their dinner plate.
Activity: Piles of Toys
5-10 small, similarly-shaped toys
Pick some smaller objects that you have a lot of. For us, this happens to be calico critters and fake insects. Put all of the objects in a pile, and then have your child pick up one object at a time while counting and adding them to a new collection. Make sure your child is touching each object and counting accordingly.
I CAN count to twenty without skipping any numbers
Once your child has an understanding of rote memorization, one to one correspondence will become easier. It is not recommended to try and teach your child MORE than twenty numbers, as most children are not capable of mastering more than twenty numbers at this age.
This skill is best learned through repetition, and so take any opportunity you can to work on numbers with them.
Activity: Everyday Counting
Find instances in your daily life where you can practice counting with your kiddo. Count while walking, using stairs, or at the park. You can also sing the numbers to a familiar tune.
I CAN recognize at least four 2-D shapes
Your child should know a basic circle, square, triangle, and rectangle before entering kindergarten.
Activity: Cookie Shapes
Sugar Cookie Dough
Make some sugar cookie dough with your child. Buy some cookie cutters in the form of shapes, and help your child name each shape as you cut out cookies. Once the cookies are done, have your child organize them into piles according to their shapes.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS FOR KINDERGARTEN READINESS
Your child has small hands, and they don’t have the strength to hold things in their hands for an extended period. Practicing motor skills is about just that–practice. You need to be continually working with your child on their motor skills to help build up their strength and precision.
I CAN hold scissors appropriately
Scissors are often used in Kindergarten, so you definitely want your littles to know the safe way to handle them. Sit with your child and show them how to hold scissors the appropriate way, and keep practicing.
Activity: Lines and Shapes
Draw simple shapes, such as squares and triangles. Have your child cut on the line to cut out the shapes. This is all about repetition to build up those motor skills, so definitely find ways to change the activity slightly so you can keep your child’s interest.
I CAN hold a pencil correctly
Your child needs to know the appropriate way to hold a pencil, as this will affect their writing skills later on. If you are practicing and your child is STILL struggling, there are a couple of different tricks you can try.
- Buy a shorter pencil
- Teach them to pinch the sharp end of the pencil, and then flip it around until it rests in the appropriate place.
- Try using a pencil grip
- If they are struggling with separating the two sides of their hand, give your child a small ball of playdough to hold in their ring and pinky finger. This can help them keep those fingers closed, so they are forced to hold the pencil with the right fingers.
Beads or Fruit Loops
Make a bracelet with your littles, as this can help them practice gripping items with their thumb and pointer finger.
Are you nervous for Kindergarten?? Tell me about what YOU are doing to prepare yourself and your little one in the comments below.
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KINDERGARTEN READINESS CHECKLIST