What Your Child Really Needs To Know Before Kindergarten

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Recently I was asked a question I seem to get at least once every Spring. It starts with some form of, “You’re a teacher right?” When I acknowledge that indeed I am an elementary school teacher I get the follow up, “What does my kid need to know for kindergarten? I’m so afraid he’s not ready!” What the child invariably knows ranges from kids who are reading to those who only know half of their ABCs. 

I had a mom worry because her child really couldn’t add and I’ve had other parents not even consider that their kids couldn’t recognize their numbers yet. So, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every kid is different and that’s okThere will be lots of kids in the class with lots of different abilities. However, there are some skills that every child should have when they enter kindergarten. The Spring before they enter that big colorful classroom is a great time to start working on those skills.

Basic Human Skills

Every five year old should know his/her full name. Just as important, have your child know their address and a phone number that helps reach an adult. (It was so much easier when everyone had a land line but I digress…). Schooling aside, what if your precious child gets lost? Wouldn’t you like the peace of mind to know that an adult would be able to help because they knew who she was and how to contact you? Academically, it’s helpful to the teacher who has 20 kids in the class and is trying to take attendance only to find out that four of the kids have no idea what their whole name is. Plus, recognizing one’s name leads to recognizing the letters in the name and pre-reading and writing skills.

Now that your baby boy knows his name, teach him to zipper. Work on tying shoes and working a button. In September, every kindergarten teacher goes through the awkward situation where a kid can’t do their jeans back up after using the bathroom. The first cold day of fall also means dismissal will take roughly an hour because of all the students who aren’t able to put on their coats or zip them. Luckily, it’s YouTube to the rescue. There are dozens of videos with catchy songs and life hacks that will help master these skills. Not spending time on these basic human skills will give your child’s teacher more time to spend on the academic side of teaching kindergarten.

Emotional Skills

Just as important as any of the personal skills your budding student needs to master, are the emotional skills they should be working on. Namely, make sure your child has been exposed to situations where they need to listen to and respect other adults. Make sure they know how to interact with other kids who are not related to them. Will they share, take turns, use kind words? Will they know how to sit on a carpet and listen to a story quietly? Will they know they can not leave a classroom without permission, or that they should listen to their teacher’s directions? All of this will come much easier in September if they practice during the spring and summer. Find a camp or music, art or play class so that your loved one can practice all these skills. Read to your student and have them practice good listening skills. Talk to them about the story and get them used to having discussions.  

Academic Skills

Finally, once your student knows how to act in kindergarten, you can focus on what you feel they should know by that first day in September. There are no hard and fast rules for entering, as kindergarten is a place where children are at varying levels academically. Knowing all their letters, numbers 1-10, colors, and how to write and read their name are all good starting points. Practice using a scissor with your student, as scissor skills are terrific for pre-writing skills and also increase coordination that will help with motor skills like zippering etc.

Do not worry if your student does not know their ABCs or hasn’t mastered those skills. Trust in your student’s teacher, she will get all her students to where they need to be.  

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Kristen is the proud mom of two wonderful, smart and sassy daughters (born in 2007 and 2011). Raising her kids as a single mom is a challenge and an adventure and she loves every minute of it. Kristen loves bringing up her girls in the same area of Westchester that she grew up in, having only moved a few miles from her childhood home. A long time passion for working with children led Kristen to pursue a career in education and she has been an elementary school teacher in the Bronx for over a decade. Her teaching career has taught her that every day is a new experience and to "expect the unexpected." If she can find any spare time between teaching and motherhood, Kristen likes to read, binge watch horrible romantic comedies on TV, bake, and go on road trips with her girls.