16 Ways to Prepare Your Preschooler for Kindergarten (including a FREE checklist!)
This post was written by our guest poster Natalie Maximets, a certified life coach with cognitive and behavior therapy expertise. Check out her other works at onlinedivorce.com.
In the United States, the expectations for public schoolers attending kindergarten aren’t what they used to be. Kids are expected to begin reading by the end of the kindergarten year. Most kindergarten classes no longer nap, although this policy tends to vary by district. With around 20 kids in the average kindergarten class with just two adults, it can be overstimulating for any child. It’s especially overwhelming for those without any formal preschool experience.
If you want your child to experience less stress and quickly get used to new conditions, you should prepare your preschooler for kindergarten beginning at age 4.
So, how to prepare for kindergarten, and when and where to start? Kindergarten readiness includes several essential aspects, which we will discuss in this article.
Here are 18 strategies to motivate your child to learn.
How to Prepare Your Preschooler for Kindergarten
Kindergarten does not require specific knowledge from the child on day 1, and it’s not assumed that every child attended preschool. However, kindergarten kids must be able to independently manage such things as getting dressed, using the toilet, eating, etc. The same goes for their social skills.
If you want your child to adapt faster, you must ensure that their preparation meets several kindergarten requirements.
What should a child ideally know before kindergarten?
Remember, these are simply goals, and since all kids develop at different rates, it’s okay if your child can’t do everything on the list. Still, you’ve got a starting point for summer prep!
Go to the bathroom independently
They need to be able to use the bathroom, flush the toilet, wash their hands, and shut and open the door. Make sure they can do all of it by themselves.
Get dressed and put on the shoes
It’s impossible for a teacher with 25 kids to zip each kid’s clothes and tie their shoelaces. So, it would be a relief if at least some preschoolers could manage their clothing and shoes without anyone’s help.
Hold a pencil and use scissors
Writing and cutting shapes from paper are everyday activities in kindergartens. When a child doesn’t have practice in these things, their hand muscles get tired very quickly.
Open and close the lunch box items
Since it’s not always possible for a teacher to attend to every child during lunchtime, you need to teach your kid to open each container with food or drink, such as yogurt. And after they’ve eaten, they need to be able to throw out leftovers and garbage into the trash.
Sit for 6 minutes at a table or on a carpet
Preschool activities include sitting down several times a day and paying attention to the kindergarten teacher. Naturally, your child knows how to sit, but can they do it for a set amount of time? Even more, if they sit on the carpet, they should also remain in their square and not touch other kids who sit beside them.
Know letters and numbers
No one expects your child to know the alphabet on their first day in kindergarten. But the more letters they know, the better. It will also help if they understand that letters make up words. As for numbers, kids should count to ten. Later, you’ll need to explain the meaning of numbers to them.
Follow two-step directions
Kids need to learn two-step directions that will develop their listening skills and help them follow the teacher’s instructions in the class. For instance, they need to be able to pick up a toy and put it in the basket.
Here are 40 fun back to school would you rather questions – perfect for silly dinner table conversation!
Show increasing independence from parents and guardians
Children should be able to react calmly when their guardian leaves after bringing them to the classroom. A calm and happy child adapts better in the classroom and learns new things more willingly.
Know shapes and colors
One of the kindergarten expectations is to distinguish basic shapes and colors. It helps classify the objects according to their features. And since the world around the kids is built of different shapes and colors, this skill won’t be challenging to learn.
Say their name and recognize it when they see it
Your child should know how to pronounce their name and how it looks in writing because teachers put labels on things like pencil boxes or seats at the table. However, they don’t necessarily need to know each letter and its pronunciation. Recognizing the sequence of letters would suffice.
Walk up and down the stairs
Your child should be able to go up and down the stairs without any support, carrying a light-weighted backpack. At the age of two, they will do it by placing two feet on one step, and that’s perfectly fine. According to motor developmental milestones, the pattern will change when they are at least four years old. By kindergarten, they should be able to alternate feet while climbing up and down stairs so as to not slow down their classmates.
Express anger or frustration with words rather than physical contact
Kids this age don’t need to have complete control over their emotions, but they do need to show some restraint and not hit or kick other students when frustrated or overstimulated. Check out this post about calm down corners if your child has trouble managing their big emotions.
Demonstrate print awareness
Print awareness is the concept that books have words, and words have meanings, and pictures match the meaning of the words.
Print awareness also involves recognizing that books are read from the beginning to the end, one at a time, and from the top of the page to the bottom. Students should be able to recognize right-side up.
Print awareness is easy to teach just by consistently reading books to children. If it’s frequently taught from an early age, explicit instruction is not needed.
Take turns, play nicely, share tools and toys
Rising kindergarteners need some basic social skills. They should know how to share supplies and take turns when doing something fun, solve problems together, and respect a “no” from an authority figure or a peer. They should be able to manage some situations on their own without tattling, although this will take several years to solidify. For a great resource on all the social skills a kindergartener needs, check out this great post.
Are you nervous that your child might get a mean teacher? Don’t be! But do be prepared in case your teacher isn’t quite what you expected.
Get the Downloadable PDF Checklist: How to Prepare Your Preschooler for Kindergarten
Do you want a pretty PDF to put on your fridge and track your child’s progress? Here you go. All you need to do is sign up using the button below.
Going to kindergarten allows children to move smoothly from living at home side by side with their parents to learning at school. Some children adapt quickly, while others find unfamiliar surroundings complicated to handle. That’s why it’s so important that a parent set up their child for kindergarten in advance.
The following simple tips will help you quickly and easily prepare your child for kindergarten.
Talk about kindergarten with your child.
For starters, walk with your child around the kindergarten during your daily walks and watch the children play. Then, you can mention that it’s a wonderful place where the kids come every day and have fun while their mommy goes to work.
If your child is at least three years old, share your pleasant memories of how you went to kindergarten and played with friends on the playground. Focus on positive moments only and leave out everything that might sound scary to your child.
Then, after returning home, play with your kiddo and “send” one of the toys to a kindergarten. This way, you can act out all the typical situations your child will face.
Also, an excellent psychological preparation will be a visit to a kindergarten, many of which provide such an opportunity by prior arrangement.
Teach a child to get dressed and manage toileting hygiene.
Getting dressed independently is a skill developed closer to three years old if the parents actively encourage it. In kindergarten, the child will often have to use this skill, for example, when going to the toilet. Therefore, every parent will have to teach their children to manage their clothing in getting ready for kindergarten. They’ll also need to keep themselves clean in the bathrooms.
The first rule here is giving a lot of praise for every attempt to zip a coat and put on shoes, even if they were not entirely successful. Such a positive attitude will help your child be more confident and less afraid of mistakes.
In the meantime, buy clothes with a minimum of buttons and fasteners. The same goes for shoes. Opt for Velcro instead of laces in school until the child has mastered shoe tying over the summers and holidays.
Preview the academic skills they’ll learn.
Learning letters, numbers, and how to sort objects depending on their shape and color are on the list of kindergarten goals. There are tons of fun games and songs to learn all these things. For instance, you can use flashcards and puzzles and play short videos and songs. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s fun!
You can also point at some letters while reading children’s books. First, pronounce it yourself. Then, after some time, ask your kid to pronounce it. And don’t expect them to remember everything at once. Kids need repetition, so you might have to read the same letter a dozen times. Again, if you notice your child getting frustrated, stop and restore the FUN of reading.
You might also want to teach your child to recognize their name. To do that, say it yourself and write it down. Then, you can ask your kid to color it with crayons. Also, label things around the house, e.g., their backpack or room door. As a result, they will get used to seeing their name on different objects.
Show your kid how to hold a crayon and use scissors.
Start with showing the proper grip to your kid, and then practice with them at home. Your kid will need time to learn this skill, so don’t get impatient and calmly correct them when they do it the wrong way.
You can also draw some lines in a notebook, e.g., zigzag. Then, give your child a pair of scissors and let them cut the paper along those lines. It will help strengthen their muscular stamina so their hands won’t get tired too soon.
Encourage communication with other people.
Many kids resist staying in the kindergarten because they’re afraid their guardian won’t return after leaving. It’s especially true for children from divorced families. The degree of hyper attachment to the sole parent depends on the age the kids experienced a divorce.
Let your child meet new people more often to lessen their separation anxiety. For instance, take your kid to playgrounds where other parents come with their kids of about the same age as your child.
Also, invite your family members to your home from time to time or visit them together with your kid. Communication with other adults will help prepare your kids for the first day in kindergarten when they meet many unfamiliar people.
And lastly, the child’s ability to adapt to kindergarten largely depends on your psychological attitude. For this reason, learn to get rid of fear and anxiety and broadcast them to your children. If you are sure that your children will be fine in kindergarten, they will feel it too and will adapt to this new life stage quickly and painlessly.