There are various kindergarten expectations checklist floating around out there with many reported “essential” and “required” skills to learn before kindergarten.
However, in talking to teachers, it appears that these lists have their priorities all wrong.
While it may be nice for your child to ‘recognize their name’ and ‘name the letters of the alphabet’ prior to entering school, these are skills kindergarten teachers feel very comfortable coaching.
Or sometimes the checklists out there give very vague recommendations like “adjust to new situations” or “following directions”. These are great ideas, but it doesn’t make for very tangible goals.
Parents need a kindergarten skills checklist with practical and realistic targets. So with the help of teachers and fellow parents, we’ve put together the ultimate list of skills to learn before kindergarten.
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In This Guide:
1 | Talk About How Your Child Is Getting to and From School
Ensure that your child is aware if they are going to be a bus rider, walker, pick up/dropped off, or a combination. It may seem obvious to you as a parent, but unless you explain it to your child they are likely unaware.
For starters, you want them to be as prepared as possible for the first day of kindergarten. There will be plenty of surprises – don’t let transportation be one of them!
Additionally, teachers will organize children at the end of the day by dismissal type. They have a master list but having your child know this information ahead of time makes their lives infinitely easier.
2 | Proper Bathroom Procedure
Using the potty at home is very different from bathroom expectations at school.
At home, things like shutting the door and flushing may be preferred – but at school, they are required.
Make sure your child gets in the habit of shutting the door when they go to use the toilet, wipe appropriately, flush after they are done, and wash their hands properly.
It’s also important to make sure they can do all these items independently. Teachers are not permitted to help children with their bathroom needs while at school.
3 | How to Use a Lunchbox
This is one of the most important skills to learn before kindergarten according to teachers.
Keep in mind that most schools allot no more than 20 minutes for kindergarteners to eat lunch. If they spent 5-10 minutes flagging down the lunchroom helper to assist them in unscrewing a lid or opening a bag of chips, their already reduced eating time is cut in half.
So be sure you add ‘learn to use their lunchbox’ to your kindergarten expectations checklist!
4 | Establish a Good Morning Routine
Don’t wait until the morning of the first day of kindergarten to start a new routine and get your child up and ready by a certain time.
Try to start a few weeks before school starts. Make sure they are waking up on time, getting dressed in the morning, eating efficiently, packing their backpack, brushing their teeth, etc.
Consider using music in your morning routine – it can be extremely effective for young kids!
5 | Recap Their Day
“How was your day?”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing” or “I don’t remember”.
Sounds familiar? Learning to retell their day is a skill parents often magically expect kids to learn on their own.
Instead, teach your child how to recap their day. A good way to start is by demonstrating this yourself.
“Do you want to hear about my day? Today I went to work. I had a great time talking to my coworkers and meeting new customers. My favorite part was listening to funny jokes by my friend Abby when I was eating lunch. Listening to her funny stories made me very happy. Something that made me feel sad was when I accidentally dropped my computer, but luckily it was alright.”
Then help your child retell their own day by asking them concrete questions and helping them go through their day sequentially. Ask how certain interactions made them feel and about their goals for tomorrow.
Not only will this help you become closer to your child and their education, but it’s also good practice for their retelling story skills they’ll need for reading comprehension assessments.
6 | Clean Up After Themselves
Learning to clean up after themself is an important and undervalued skill. At home, we can help and remind, but at school a teacher can’t do this for every child.
It’s easy to forget that little kids need to learn simple tasks that we take for granted, like putting the caps back on markers. Talk to them about caring for their supplies and show them how to use them appropriately and how to put them away.
It’s also important to make sure they know how to wash their own hands and as silly as it sounds, how to use hand sanitizer.
7 | Know Their First And Last Name
Ideally, a child entering kindergarten can recognize their name when they see it, but they absolutely need to know their name when they hear it and be able to say it.
That may seem like an odd distinction, but it’s really important. I was very surprised to hear from teachers how many kids don’t know their name. Some children don’t know their full name or last name. Some kids who go by nicknames don’t know their actual first name. While this does get sorted out, it can cause some challenges starting out.
You can make this all easier on your child by making sure they know their full, legal name. You can work on recognizing their name when it’s written too and they can practice writing it themself. No one expects perfection, but if they can write their name, that’s great.
8 | How To Dress Themself
They need to be able to fully dress themself including jackets. Make sure they can do their own buttons and zippers as well as fasten their shoes.
But they get dressed at home so what’s the problem?
First, weather for recess and dismissal could require outerwear, so they need to be able to get their own jacket on and zipped.
Second, bathroom issues. As stated above, kindergarteners need to be able to use the bathroom independently, so pants with zippers and buttons can be a problem if your child isn’t able to manage those.
Third, accidents and spills happen and they may need to change clothes.
Finally, consider their shoes. If they can’t tie their own shoes, they’re at the mercy of others should they come untied and likely to trip. Instead, consider no-tie shoelace options, they can be a lifesaver!
If your child struggled with a particular clothing article, like buttons on jeans just seem to be super difficult for little kids, a little practice may be all they need. If possible, find an alternative until they’ve mastered the skill.
9 | Practice Manners
A lot of social growth and development happens in kindergarten as kids learn social skills. You can give them a little help getting started with positive interactions with some good manners.
Teaching simple phrases like “please” and “thank you” really goes a long way.
Modeling the manners you wish to see is a great way to show your kids what you expect. It can also help to actually practice with your kids too. You can do this with pretend play or have a toy model manners. You can also role play situations at school like how they could ask for something or respond to others.
10 | Introduce A Calendar
Time is a funny thing for little kids. Because of this understanding the ways we measure time from clocks to calendars can be confusing.
Because this concept of time is so important and tricky to learn, give your child some extra practice and reinforce this at home.
Using a family calendar can be a great way to get kids familiar with this concept. It offers a visual and the opportunity to talk about things like today, tomorrow, and yesterday, weekends and week days, as well as, the days of the week.
There are lots of fun songs to help kids remember the days of the week, this is one of our favorites here.
So there are the top 10 practical skills to learn before kindergarten. Did we miss anything? What skills did you make sure your child learned before going to school? Share with us in the comments!