Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY Needs to Be Ready

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY Needs to Be Ready

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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY Needs to Be Ready

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:

Natural Curiosity
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!

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY needs to be Ready

These 2 (along with many of their friends) wanted to explore the insides of pumpkins. No qualms about reaching in there to see what it was all about!!

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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY Needs to Be Ready

Using tweezers and chopsticks to pick up small items help with fine motor development.

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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child REALLY Needs to Be Ready

Self-control and teamwork are important when getting ready for kindergarten!

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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child Really Needs to Be Ready

Going across the monkey bars on his own was a big step!

Self-Care Skills
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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child Really Needs to be Ready

These two were still at the pre-reading stage here, but they were both so sure of themselves! They knew they could learn — not knowing didn’t stop them from trying.

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.

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child Really needs to Be Ready

So much learning going on while the kiddos were building — setting the foundation for academic skills they’ll learn in kindergarten.

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!

Kindergarten Readiness: What Your Child Really Needs to be Ready

Additional resources in regards to kindergarten readiness:

Shared at We Made That Wednesday, Tuesday Tots, Discover and Explore, The Kid’s Co-Op

The Educators' Spin On It

Shared at The Sunday Showcase, After School Link UpThe Kids Co-Op


  1. says

    I followed you from Rubber Boots and elf Shoes and have enjoyed reading what you ladies had to say. I agree whole heartedly with you both…from an Australian perspective. I have been teaching Kindergarten for eleven years and still love it.
    Trusting your start up is smooth with that certain twinkle we all look for.
    Julie :)
    Julie Stowe recently posted…Posters–Days of the week & months of the yearMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you so much for popping by, Julie!! I absolutely adore the pre-k and k age group too. Love it — so far we have an Australian, a Canadian, and an American input! Let’s see what other countries we can hear from! :)

    • says

      Hahahaha, Jeanette . . . love it! :) Thanks so much for your kind words. :) I really do think curiosity and confidence are what it all boils down to! PS – Let me know how that algebra is coming along. 😉

  2. says

    I love how you boil down kindergarten readiness to 2 words: curiosity and confidence. And then we can offer environments that enable children to practice being curious and confident, and revel in the learning that results.
    Sandi recently posted…ready for kindergarten?My Profile

  3. says

    Woohoo…the kid is in bed and I finally had a chance to sit down and read this! I love, love, love your take on kindergarten readiness. I’m so happy you wrote this right now, as I’m starting to figure out what homeschooling preschool is going to look like, and I’m going to use your suggestions here as a guide on what to focus on. At the same time, it was reassuring to recognize a lot of my own kid in what you’ve said! There are things we’ll have to work on, though, and it’s so good to know what they are. Thank you for sharing your expertise with all of us!
    Jessica @ Play Trains! recently posted…Learning About Trees with Wooden Train TracksMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks so much, Jessica! I’m excited to hear how your homeschooling year goes with Little Engineer. I really wanted this to be a helpful guide for parents, so your words me a lot. :)

  4. says

    I read your post with interest – as someone who comes from a long line of professional teachers, and one who homeschools. I appreciated your post, but want to share my perspective, with your permission:

    Your list is very similar to the one that our public schools mailed out this year. It seems very appropriate for those who plan to enroll their child in an institutional setting, but has little to do with what I see as important in kindergarten. I respect that in an institutional setting, a teacher may simply be unable to help a child tie a shoe, or zip a coat – but is that *really* what kindergarten is all about? Or is it simply a matter of ease of classroom management for the teacher?

    In our school district, for a borderline birthday, a child who can read & do math on a third grade level can still be rejected for kindergarten because of an inability to take care of zipping her own coat – are the schools here focusing on educating the child, or simply on making the teacher’s day more bearable?

    For my homeschooled daughter, I see her religious & academic maturity as the most important “readiness” things in school. I see obedience and relationship-building as much more important values than “independence.” I see separating from parents as something to be focused on as a young person approaches the age to actually be independent (married, employed) – rather than when they simply become dependent upon a *different* adult from their parents. After all, no one is suggesting that a kindergartener *truly* be independent when they use that word – it would be a crime (at least in the US) to make a five year old truly “independent.”

    I can easily see a situation in which a child might be very “ready” for kindergarten according to your list – he can zip his coat, use the potty without help, play well with others, etc – but still finish grade school without learning to read or do basic math. I have known many such children.

    I’m not sure that we do our children the greatest service by focusing exclusively on social conformity & self sufficiency to establish readiness, rather than the academic prerequisites for learning.
    Anna@stuffedveggies recently posted…Philippine Style Fried RiceMy Profile

    • says

      Anna, thank you very much for your thoughtful opinion. I’m always welcome to other perspectives! I don’t think social conformity and self-sufficiency are what kindergarten is all about. However, I do see an attempt at independence a good groundwork for being ready to learn in school. From a teacher’s perspective, it never occurred to me to consider easing my work day. I was thinking of the children and their needs throughout the school day. Being able to take care of their own bathroom needs, for example, means they don’t become stressed when they cannot get their pants buttoned.

      I was hoping to make the point that children going into kindergarten don’t need to meet a long list of academic requirements to be ready. In my personal (and professional) opinion, there’s been too much of a focus on only academics by some. Having the fundamentals prior to entering K is wonderful — exposure to letters, letter sounds, counting, colors, thinking about stories, listening to books, playing rhyming games, etc.

      While, yes, a child who is ready by my standards might finish elementary school without the basics. It is a very sad fact that this occurs. There are usually many other contributing factors in such a case, though. I have actually seen more children with the opposite situation — they are academically, but have no confidence, won’t attempt tasks on their own, and have an amazing amount of emotional hurt being away from their families — and they have left elementary school without the same such basics.

      No matter our differing opinions, it sounds like your daughter has a very loving teacher in her mama. I’m sure she is receiving a great education at your hands. Thank you again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  5. says

    Thanks for posting this! As a parent of a boy with a very late summer birthday, this is certainly a decision our family will be faced with over the next several months. I am also a former primary {kindergarten, 1st & 2nd} teacher, and I 100% agree with the curiosity & confidence guidelines. I also want to voice that there is nothing “wrong” with postponing kindergarten to allow a child additional time to develop necessary social & personal skills. Love your blog!

    • says

      Thanks so much for stopping, Kimberly! I completely agree — there is nothing wrong on postponing kindergarten for the right reasons!!! I think being sure a child is ready emotionally is of huge importance!

    • says

      Thank you, Stephanie!! :) I am (obviously) very passionate about this! You’re way too sweet, lady. Thanks for hosting Discover and Explore — it’s always great to read what others have going on within the same topic.

  6. says

    Thank you for this post! With all the checklists for academic skills 5 year olds should have (from knowing the alphabet to reading!) it’s nice to read a common sense list that focuses on being ready for learning, rather than what they “need” to know. My daughter will be going to kindergarten in the fall and can’t write her name. She’s getting there, she’s interested in learning, but all kids are different and it’s important for parents to remember that as they get their child ready for the “Big K”, :)

    • says

      I so appreciate your kind words, Emma! I really believe it’s being ready for the learning, rather than the academic skills, that’s important. Looking at your state’s kindergarten standards (what kids should know at the END of kindergarten) is a good place to start if you’re interested in what skills will be taught. It sounds like your daughter is gearing up!!! Having a mama with reasonable expectations and understanding is a big help, I’m sure.

  7. natalia says

    Realmente me emociona saber que hay educadores que se comprometen tanto en esta labor, leo y comparto todas tus experiencias y reflexiones, soy de Chile , trabajo con preescolar hace 5 años… esto me llena cada día mas…saludos natalia!!!!


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