Recently, I’ve been chatting with Sandi of Rubberboots and Elf Shoes (an awesome site that I follow). Both of us being teachers, we got to talking about kindergarten readiness. The result? A cross-grade, cross-border look at what children REALLY need to know before K — from a kindergarten teacher and a pre-k teacher; a Canadian and an American.
“Kindergarten readiness” has definitely become a hot topic in this day and age! I hadn’t planned on writing this post, as there is already so much information out there. However, I decided to add my voice to the mix at the request of some of my readers and in response to unrealistic checklists that are floating around the internet.
Please note that getting ready for kindergarten is an incredibly important topic for me. I taught kindergarten for 5 years, and I’m going into my fifth year as a pre-kindergarten teacher. I am a credentialed teacher, and my teaching license has an early childhood education focus.
In regards to being ready for K, there are many opinions and schools of thought. On the one hand, some experts say that any child who is old enough should move onto kindergarten, regardless of other factors. On the other hand, some experts say that a child needs to have a firm academic foundation before entering kindergarten. Realistically, both extremes should be taken into account.
All in all, kindergarten readiness should be looked at from a realistic point of view. This means taking into account how children are, how they learn, and what’s currently expected of children in kindergarten. Children need to have the tools to start kindergarten in a positive way, as it sets the foundation for the rest of their school career. While the purists may not always agree with this philosophy, a child’s development (in all areas) must be taken into account when considering kindergarten readiness.
I firmly believe that a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral readiness is exceedingly more important than what some assume to be academic readiness. Below are what a child really needs before starting kindergarten:
Most children are curious by nature, albeit in different ways. Some kiddos ask “why?” on repeat, while others quietly observe and collate. As long as a child is interested in learning (in any form), she’ll be much more open to new experiences in kindergarten. A love of learning takes children to so many new places and will help them start elementary school on the right foot!
Fine Motor Skills
Children need to be practiced at small movements of their hands and fingers. Strengthening their fingers and hands helps with writing throughout elementary school. Building with Legos, playing with play dough, and beading necklaces are some ways to strengthen children’s fine motor skills. Check out “20 Fine Motor Activities for Kids” for more ideas.
Young children are still developing their self-control in preschool and elementary school. They don’t need to be perfectly in-control of themselves to go into kindergarten. However, they do need to be able to sit and listen to a story. They also need to be able to quell some of their impulses (for example, the impulse to hit or push when mad). Getting along, or at least trying to get along, with other children is important.
Going into kindergarten, children need to be interested and active in becoming independent. It’s important that they are willing to try new things, and they also need to do certain things on their own. Some examples are zipping up backpacks, carrying their own lunchbox, and separating from their families. Parents can help this by giving children more and more simple tasks to do on their own. Giving children some time away from home (even in small increments) will also help with independence.
Upcoming kindergartners should be well on their way to caring for their own bodies. They should be able to dress and undress themselves, and they should be able to independently deal with the clothes they wear to school. Bathroom skills are of the utmost importance! K kiddos must be able to use the restroom themselves, wipe themselves, and wash their hands. I cannot stress how important these skills are!!
I’m not referring to how outgoing a child is when I refer to confidence. Shyer, quieter children who are confident in their abilities are just as ready for kindergarten as more extroverted children. No matter their temperament, children going into kindergarten should know that they can try new things on their own. They should understand that they can do their best while away from their parents.
You’ll notice I haven’t listed any academic skills here. I really don’t agree with all the checklists floating around that say children need to practically be reading prior to kindergarten. Yes, in some cases this is true, and that’s great, but it is not necessary!! Upcoming kindergartners should have some basic knowledge of the alphabet, especially when it comes to the letters in their names. Being able to count and identify numerals up to 10 is a great start, as well. A good foundation for mathematical concepts like shapes, colors, and sorting is also helpful.
I cannot stress enough that academic readiness is only one small part of being ready for kindergarten! I would suggest that you get a hold of the kindergarten standards of learning for your state. They will tell you what your child needs to know by the end of kindergarten.
Now hop on over to Rubberboots and Elf Shoes to read what Sandi, and her kindergartners from last year, have to say about getting ready for K!
Additional resources in regards to kindergarten readiness:
- Deborah of Teach Preschool‘s new book Ready for Kindergarten
- Get Ready for K Through Play Pinterest Board (run by Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, Rainy Day Mum, Toddler Approved, Coffee Cups and Crayons, Mess for Less, and Mama Smiles)