If you have a child heading to kindergarten soon, you may wonder if he or she is ready. Does he know all the things the teacher will expect him to? She can’t read yet – will she be behind all the other kids? Is he ready to be away from home for a half or full day? Should we wait one more year before sending her?
To help answer any questions you might have, I’ve created a free printable kindergarten readiness checklist. The checklist covers both academic skills AND other skills kids should have before starting school: things like standing in a line, being able to zip up a coat, and taking care of all bathroom needs independently. At the end of the post you’ll also find kindergarten teachers’ answers to the question: what is the one most important thing parents can do to prepare their child for kindergarten?
If you google your state and the words “kindergarten readiness” you’ll likely find a long document describing the standards for entering kindergarten in your area. Unfortunately, many of those documents are very, very long, and are full of education or government jargon that can be a little hard to understand. To create my checklist I reviewed a number of readiness documents from different states around the country and interviewed kindergarten teachers to find out what skills they think are most important for new kindergarteners to have.
NOTE: I expected readiness standards to vary from state to state, but I was surprised to find they are quite consistent (both from the state documents and from teacher’s report). If you work with your child to ensure that he can do most or all of the things on both lists, you’ll know he’ll be ready to head out for his first day at school.
You can download the ready-for-kindergarten checklists (in three different colors) at the end of the post.
What academic skills should my child have before kindergarten? Your child should be able to:
- recognize and name basic shapes: square, circle, triangle, and rectangle
- recognize and name numbers 1-10, even when they are out of order
- count to 20
- count 10 objects, pointing to each one as she counts
- say or sing the alphabet
- recognize the letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase (even out of order)
- identify colors in an 8-ct crayon pack
- recognize her first name
- write her first name
- sort items by size, color, or shape
- hold a book and turn pages
- tell if two words rhyme
- identify some letter sounds
- say her parents’ full names and phone numbers (at least one)
All the teachers I interviewed said a child doesn’t need to be reading before kindergarten (and most kids aren’t), but that they should be read to regularly. Teaching nursery rhymes was mentioned as a great way to get kids reading-ready: knowing how to rhyme is HUGE when it comes to learning how to read.
If your child is having trouble remembering letter sounds, I can’t tell you how much I recommend this video: LeapFrog: Letter Factory (affiliate link). It teaches the sounds of each letter in a fun and memorable way (the A’s all get scared by a monster, so they scream AAAAAH!). I’ve been absolutely AMAZED at how quickly my kids learned their letter sounds from watching it. You can get it in a combo pack with Talking Words Factory, another LeapFrog video I love. ***These two LeapFrog videos are not available on Netflix, and are much better (IMO) than the ones that are.***
What other things does my child need to know how to do before kindergarten? Your child should be able to:
- put on his coat and zip it up
- tie his shoes
- take turns and share
- sit quietly and listen
- follow simple directions
- use the bathroom by himself (including zipping and buttoning pants)
- put on his backpack
- hold a pencil or crayon
- cut with scissors
- put things away
- hang his backpack on a hook
- wash his hands with soap
- use a tissue to wipe his nose
- cough into his elbow
- stand in line
- drink from a drinking fountain
- raise his hand and wait to be called on
- open any food containers in his lunch
It’s easy to forget some of these things when you’re preparing your child for school, but imagine how much time it would take for a kindergarten teacher to help 25 kids put on coats or hang up backpacks, etc. One teacher mentioned that kids who have all the other skills become “super students” who are able to help their peers.
You can print out these checklists and hang them up somewhere in your home, then let your child check off things as he or she masters them. Hopefully it will be a good way to get your child prepared and excited for school at the same time. (NOTE: if you think your child would feel overwhelmed by the idea of a checklist, just use it as a guide for yourself in what you teach.)
As a final note, I asked the teachers I interviewed what is the one most important thing parents can do to prepare their child for kindergarten. These are the responses I got:
- Teach kindness & respect (for rules, property, and people).
- Do activities at home where pre-kinders have to listen without interrupting, take turns, focus on the same activity for 15 minutes, use manners, etc.
- Read! Teach them how to hold book, how to turn pages, etc.
- Give them opportunities to play with other children.
- Give them some responsibilities and teach them to follow through.
- Teach nursery rhymes and songs.
- Give them chances to be away from home and family so they feel comfortable and confident when they come to school.