Readiness for Kindergarten: A Parent's Guide to Basic Skills
By: Jan Pierce
Posted: Jun 8th, 2017
The Good Old Days
I began teaching first grade back in the dark ages—the decade of the 1960’s. Back then many children didn’t attend Kindergarten, and those who did spent their days at play stations where they painted, dressed up, pretended to cook meals and built tall walls with blocks. Their day was rounded out with story times, snack and a nap.
In my first grade classrooms we started from “the very beginning.” Children learned the alphabet and their numbers in the fall of first grade. Many of them learned color recognition and how to cut with scissors. First grade was truly their first learning experience. By spring, most of them were reading well and doing simple math problems. No one was in a hurry to push for mastery of skills in the first grade.
In today’s more academic environment, much of the creative play and art activity has moved down to pre-school classrooms or daycares, and children are expected to dive into reading and writing in Kindergarten from day one.
Parents may feel the pressure of greater responsibility to introduce learning in the home. In our fast-paced culture with both parents working, there may not seem to be enough hours in the day. The result? Parents feel stressed over the possibility their child isn’t ready for the rigors of classroom learning.
An Overview of Readiness Skills
Readiness for learning is more than just what a child can do with a pencil and paper. There are four basic readiness areas and corresponding entry level expectations to help you see where to bolster skills or possibly help you determine that another year of growth and preparation would be beneficial for your little learner.
It’s a wise family that is willing to give their child the necessary time to prepare for the rigors of classroom learning to ensure optimal success later. And, as most educators will tell you, boys often benefit from beginning their school years when they’re a little older and can focus and attend at a higher level.
As you scan through the skills below, ask yourself if your child is well-prepared in each area. If not, you can add extra support at home. Young children are very adaptable. They learn new skills quickly when they’re introduced in a positive manner. Even a few weeks of practice on a certain skill will produce good results.
Social Readiness: Does your child…
Have basic health and hygiene skills in place? (using the bathroom, washing hands, using a tissue, covering a sneeze or cough, etc.)
Play well with other children, take turns, care about the feelings of others, share, cooperate, say please and thank you
Follow two or three step directions
Express feelings in a safe way
Clean up toys or work areas when it is time
Know his or her own full name, address, phone number
Know names of body parts
Know his or her own age and birthday
Building emotional skills takes time and practice. Give your child simple chores to build responsibility. Give simple directions and support your child in completing the task. Talk about ways to get along with others and give reminders when necessary. Provide proper instruction for hygiene skills.
Reading/Writing Readiness: Does your child…
Name and describe familiar objects in the environment
Speak clearly in complete sentences
Express thoughts or needs using words
Know children’s rhymes or songs
Recognize words that begin with the same sound
Recognize and name most of the letters and identify their sounds
Know the parts of a book—cover, title, pages, words, pictures
Enjoy listening to stories
Write his or her own name
Say the alphabet
“write” a story using pictures or some letters
Hear parts of words (syllables) such as birth day
Reading and writing skills are extremely important to learning. Your child should hear stories read aloud every day and take part in the process at an ever-increasing rate. Ask questions as you read. Have your child make predictions and see if they were right. Point out simple words and talk about unique words in the text. Allow a child to retell a story in his or her own words.
Provide lots of writing supplies. Pictures will evolve into approximated letter shapes. Standard writing will soon follow.
Physical Readiness: Does your child…
Cut well with scissors
Hold and use a pencil
Tie his or her own shoes
Draw and trace basic shapes
Bounce a ball and catch a ball
Ride a tricycle or bicycle
Enjoy running, jumping and climbing
Hop, jump, skip
Sit still and focus on a story or other group activity
Materials to help grow physical skills related to learning include crayons, markers, pencils, glue, scissors, paper and paints, puzzles, building toys such as Legos and blocks.
Encourage your child to run and play out of doors. Playing ball, using playground equipment and other outdoor physical activities will build skills.
Math Readiness: Does your child…
Count to ten or twenty
Count objects accurately
Identify the numbers 1-10
Identify common shapes
Match simple shapes
Use words to describe objects by size, shape, color or other traits
Understand the ordinal numbers: first, second, third
Understand that problems may be solved in more than one way
Math skills can be done orally. Count the animals you see while riding in the car. Count how many blueberries there are in the bowl. Simple games such as matching and sorting games build math concepts. Supplies such as magnetic numbers, objects such as small plastic toys for counting—all contribute to building math skills.
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and reading specialist. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.