What teachers wished parents knew

Entering kindergarten represents a huge transition for a child, especially one who did not attend preschool.  But you can prepare your son or daughter by understanding just a little of what your child will need to learn and do in kindergarten.  Although not an exhaustive list, this article offers suggestions and simple strategies for how you can support your child's kindergarten readiness.  

The list of kindergarten-level skills below is based on my interviews with veteran kindergarten teachers and on personal experience as both a parent and a former kindergarten teacher.

Kindergarten classrooms vary, but in general, a kindergarten curriculum tends to focus on social skills over academics.  Nonetheless, it is still important for your child to:

  • Know the letters of the alphabet.  Informally point out letters and their sounds, including how some letters have more than one sound (the 'g' sound in girl vs. giraffe, for example). Read to your child often. Call attention to words around you. Point out familiar signs in the environment (a stop sign, exit sign, McDonald’s sign).
  • Know numbers from 1-20.  In addition to helping your child recognize, count and write numbers, help your child associate the numerals with their value.  Have your child count things – stuffed animals, toys, blocks, etc.

  • Know basic colors and shapes.  Basic colors include red, blue, yellow (primary colors) and green, orange, purple (secondary colors).  Children should also become familiar with other colors like white, black, and brown, which they will encounter in the kindergarten classroom. Eric Carle’s charming book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, is a fun way to teach colors.  Kindergarteners should also be familiar with common shapes such as circles, squares, rectangles, ovals, and triangles.

  • Hold a pencil**. Teach your child the proper pencil grip, with the pencil held with the thumb, index and middle fingers. When your child is coloring or writing, look for cues about which hand your child prefers to write with.  To develop your child's fine-motor strength, bury coins in Playdoh and ask him or her to retrieve the coins.

  • Use a scissors.  Learning how to use a pair of scissors is awkward at first.  Buy a kid-sized pair of scissors, and let your child cut out coupons. Emphasize safety. Teach your son or daughter to gently hold the pointed end when handing the scissors to someone else and to stay seated when using the scissors.

  • Write his/her first name and last name.  Your child will often be asked to write his or her name in the kindergarten classroom. Begin with your child’s first name. Once that’s been mastered, move on your child’s last name.

  • Write in uppercase and lowercase letters.  Get your child into the habit of capitalizing only the first letter when writing his or her name.  Remaining letters should be lowercase.

  • Write the alphabet with proper stroke order**.  This might not seem important, since we adults tend to take this for granted.  However, your child will likely learn or review the letters one at a time in kindergarten. Do your child a favor and help him or her use the correct stroke order for each alphabet from the get-go.
Kindergarten Readiness(84689)

** The%20Write%20Start:%20A%20Guide%20to%20Nurturing%20Writing%20at%20Every%20Stage,%20from%20Scribbling%20to%20Forming%20Letters%20and%20Writing%20Stories<img%20src="http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=j0289-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1590308379"%20width="1"%20height="1"%20border="0"%20alt=""%20style="border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;"%20/>">The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy is a wonderful book on how to support a child’s writing process at various stages of development.  Her blog (The Write Start) also offers free templates on the correct way to hold a pencil and the correct alphabet stroke order. 

  • Demonstrate respect for others.  This includes saying please and thank you, taking turns, and sitting quietly to listen to what others are saying.  Your son or daughter will also be asked to walk in a line in an orderly manner, a method to ensure the safety of the entire class (and prevent chaos) when moving from one place to another.

  • Follow directions.  Classroom organization relies in part on each child doing his or her part.  The kindergarten teacher will teach routines to make it easy for the children to know what to do.  However, it is also important that a kindergartener be able to follow a 3-item list of instructions.  For example: Put your chair down, put your name tag on, and turn in your folder. At home, practice giving 3 short directions at once.

  • Practice good hygiene. School classrooms are known as hotbeds for germs. Thus, teach your child how to thoroughly wash his or her hands with soap and water. Encourage your child to always cover his or her mouth when sneezing or coughing. If tissues are used, they should be thrown away.  Teach your child to cover a sneeze or cough with his or her arm instead of a hand.

  • Be self-aware.  Teach the simple parts of the body, including lesser known parts like the "bridge of the nose" or the "heel of the foot." It is also helpful for your child to memorize personal information (birthday, age, names of parents, address, and phone number).
  • Kindergarten PreparationHandle clothing. Send your child to school in easy-care clothing. This means clothing that he or she can easily manage when using the bathroom.  It also means clothing that can get slightly dirty and that won't restrict movement when your son or daughter is out on the playground. Avoid fancy snaps or buckles. Avoid shoes with laces that an adult would need to re-tie.  This will make life easier for your son or daughter as well as the teacher.

  • Manage separation anxiety. Understandably, your child might feel anxious at the beginning of the school year, and you may share that anxiety.  This is completely normal.

    Because teachers have routines and techniques to ease your child’s adjustment to the kindergarten classroom, he or she will likely expect you to drop your child off at the door and then quickly leave.  Don’t hang around or peek through the windows.  While you might want to comfort your child, this can prolong the agony of anxiety.  Your prompt departure helps your son or daughter focus on being a student.

Recommended Reading

To help your child with kindergarten readiness, head to your public library and check out the clever picture book Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff.  It's a book about getting ready for school, about alphabets, about animals, and about what to expect in kindergarten.  Your child will likely ask you to read it again and again.

Other titles in the series include: 
Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten
Miss Bindergarten Has a Wild Day in Kindergarten
Miss Bindergarten Takes a Field Trip with Kindergarten
Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten
Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the Last Day of Kindergarten


As a parent, you play an important role in your child’s education. And you can do a lot to assist your child with kindergarten readiness, ensuring a successful transition to the kindergarten classroom and school environment.  All children develop at different rates, and your child might not have the ability to do all the items on this list by the time school starts. However, by taking the time to prepare, you will help your child to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.