Whether you’re suddenly learning from home, doing preschool at home as you intended, or have a child going to school for preschool, you are probably wondering one thing – what does my child need to know before kindergarten? Well, as a former kindergarten teacher, I’ve got you covered. This list will help you figure out if your child is already kindergarten ready or if they’ve got some work to do before they head of to kindergarten.
WHAT DOES MY CHILD NEED TO KNOW BEFORE KINDERGARTEN?
Psst… Want a shortcut? I created a free printable checklist with all this info neatly organized. Grab yours here and use it to evaluate how ready your child is and how much more they’ll need to learn.
First let me say that we’re not striving for perfection here. By we, I mean the kindergarten teachers of the world.
We don’t expect every new-to-kindergartener to check off every single skill on this list.
Instead, I created this as a tool for families to evaluate their child’s progress and help them be as prepared as possible for kindergarten.
In my years as a kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen very prepared children succeed and very unprepared children struggle.
And I’ve had children with grown-ups that tried to prepare them – but they were focusing on all the wrong things.
The skills your child needs for kindergarten fall into 4 main categories:
- Oral Language (a.k.a. verbal communication)
- Fine Motor
I’m going to break each one of these down for you here and dive into exactly what your child needs to know in each category.
Keep in mind that your child will be learning in all of these areas all of the time. It’s not like they need to master oral language before they move on to literacy and math.
Instead, they’ll be learning all of these things together – during learning times but also just during their daily lives.
Are you wondering what your child needs to know before kindergarten in your state?
Kindergarten standards don’t actually vary all that much state to state. Most states (41 of our 50) use the common core. Even the states that don’t are teaching their children just about the same in kindergarten.
Across America, kindergarten is the foundation for formal education and kindergarten teachers are striving to set that strong foundation.
Their foundation will be built right on top of the foundation you are building with your child right now. And from here on out, each level of education will add a new layer.
This list is absolutely intended for families in the United States. I honestly have no idea what children in other countries need to know before they enter kindergarten but I’m going to guess it looks very different.
One more thing before I get to the list
I know this seems like a lot. Don’t let it overwhelm you. You may be surprised to find your child knows more than realize. Even if they don’t, they will likely pick up many skills quickly once you start working on those skills intentionally.
Remember that every child learns in their own way and at their own pace.
This skill area might be surprising to you. You may think of school as a place where children learn reading, writing, and math – not speaking and understanding other talk.
But oral language is an essential element of kindergarten and a foundational skill for the rest of their education.
So, when I say oral language I’m talking about your child’s vocabulary and their ability to speak clearly and fluently – as well as their ability to understand others who are speaking to them.
Here are the most important oral language skills your child needs for kindergarten:
- Speak clearly
- Be understood by strangers
- Take turns speaking
- Speak in mostly full sentences
- Answer simple who, what, when, where questions
- Follow 2 step directions
This is all laid out for you in my easy to follow free printable checklist.
Kindergarten is not what it once was back in our day, my friend. We used to learn letters in Kindergarten and how to read beginning in first grade. (Remember those days?)
These days, children are expected to know letters going into kindergarten and learn how to read during their kindergarten year.
It is rigorous. That’s the actual word that educational professionals use.
Here are the most important literacy skills your child needs to know before kindergarten:
- Identify all upper and lowercase letters
- Understand that letters make sounds
- Appropriate book handling skills
- Identify spoken rhyming words
- Read familiar environmental print like signs & labels
- Understand letter / word / sentence relationship
- Listen to a story & retell basic plot
- Write first name with only first letter capitalized
Just like literacy, kindergarten math looks very different now than it did when we were kids.
We were just beginning to learn numbers. These days, children are expected to be familiar with numbers going in to Kindergarten and to be adding and subtracting by the end of their Kindergarten year.
(Gosh I feel old saying things like “these days” and “back in our day”! Pretty soon I’ll start talking about walking to school uphill both ways.)
Here are the most important math skills your child needs to know for kindergarten:
- Identify basic shapes & colors
- Understand basic size and directional words
- Verbally count to 50 or higher
- Count a set up to 10 while pointing to each object
- Understand concepts of more, less, greater & fewer
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
This is the most commonly overlooked early childhood skill.
We all know that our children need to learn letters, but not everyone knows the importance of building up their child’s small muscle groups in their hand and wrist.
I’m here to tell you: fine motor skills are important!
Here are the most important fine motor skills your child needs for kindergarten:
- Hold a pencil correctly
- Cut on a line with scissors
Keep in mind that before your child can hold a pencil correctly they need to build their hand muscles enough to do so. A great, easy way to do this is by coloring. Start with those thick, chunky crayons and then move on to thin, regular sized crayons before you start working on pencil grasp.
Likewise, before your child can cut on a line, they need to practice cutting in general.
WHAT DOES MY CHILD NEED TO KNOW BEFORE KINDERGARTEN?
Now you are ready to start preparing your child for Kindergarten. You know the 4 main areas to focus on and the skills they need to master in those areas. Work to build up your child’s oral language, literacy, math, and fine motor skills and they will be ready to start kindergarten when the time comes!
Don’t forget to download your free printable Kindergarten Ready Checklist. This is the ultimate tool to keep track of your child’s progress along the way!