Is everybody ready for kindergarten? That’s a question you may be asking yourself, and there is unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all answer. Through my many years of teaching kindergarten, I have had countless parents reach out with a myriad of questions. These questions range from curiosity—“My child has a summer birthday – should I wait a year?”, to full-on anxiety—“Well… you see…we didn’t attend a pre-school – have I already failed them?”
I always, without fail answer, “YES.”
Jusssst kidding! But, do I have your FULL attention? Perfect! Because I’m here to share the ‘honest to goodness 100% of the time without fail’ truth.
My answer is always, “Well, that depends on many things.” And THAT’S the truth.
I’m going to share 5 things that will help you weigh in on your unique situation, and hopefully help you gain some clarity. If what I share with you doesn’t quite touch on your specific question – or causes you to have even more questions—please don’t hesitate for even one second to leave a comment or send me a message and ASK AWAY! I’m more than happy to help you sort through things.
If you want the REAL nitty-gritty stuff – the truth and nothing but – check out my FREE download so you can consider yourself “IN THE KNOW”! (Perfect for 1st timers – it’s just stuff you wouldn’t even know to ask! TRUST me!)
Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned in Kindergarten
Kindergarten used to be a glorious half-day, you took a nap, ate a snack, and played dress-up. When I was a kindergartener in Kentucky back in the 1990s, I was 4 years old with a late November birthday. All of my friends were already well into their 5th year of living the dream. (Ok fine. It was actually the 70s.)
When asked why this decision was made to have my kindergarten debut come early, my mom always said, “Well, we did struggle with whether or not we should send you on, and I guess we were still questioning it right up until your high school graduation…and maybe that’s why you have struggled with _____ (fill in the blank with x, y, or z).
Hmmm. Okkkk. If this was a response on Family Feud I would NOT respond Good answer! Good answer! When all of my friends had their driver’s licenses and I did NOT, I pressed further for a reason as to why I had to live in pure misery. The answer/excuse became, “I mean…I guess you were big for your age. Tall. Dense.”
Dense Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster:
dense, thick, and compact mean having parts that are gathered tightly together.
Aha. So THAT explains it. It could also explain my need for counseling later in life. (This is not at all meant to be a dig at my mother. She is a LOVELY non-dense lady who was a well-loved elementary educator for many, many years. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be my mom….I. Was. Wild.)
Despite this look of sheer terror or possibly disdain on my face, I LOVED kindergarten. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Johnson. I made life-long friends in kindergarten. We didn’t learn to read or write. I remember sing-alongs, read-alouds, and not liking my nap mat. My biggest claim to fame was that I learned to tie my shoes. Barely. I was the very last one to add a pair of paper shoes to the big, looming caterpillar that ran the length of the classroom. I stared at that caterpillar every day and imagined myself begging him not to turn into a butterfly until I got to add my own pair of shoes.
I tell my own kindergarten kids that story now – and it KILLS them. They laugh until they roll over thinking of me and that caterpillar. They also stare at me like I have 3 heads when I say, “There was no velcro.” They can’t fathom the fact I didn’t learn to read and don’t recall doing any math whatsoever. Their little faces take on worry for me that I napped and played and didn’t even eat lunch there.
Ah, yes. Those were the olden days. Maybe they were the same for you. There’s also a good chance you weren’t born in the dark ages with me, and actually went to kindergarten for a full day. (I see you children of the 80s, 90s, and ’00s) Today’s kindergarten readiness goals are more along the lines of what 1st grade, or even 2nd grade used to be. We use words like schema and decomposing—and even though we would all love a good nap–there is no napping in kindergarten. Let’s get to those 5 kindergarten readiness questions.
What are Kindergarten Readiness Skills?
Kindergarten readiness includes not only academic skills but social-emotional, fine, and gross motor skills as well. There is not a definitive set of skills that is required to start kindergarten, although it is extremely beneficial to be aware of some things that will help build some confidence in your child as they make this big step and start their educational journey. Here are some examples of different types of academic skills, in an attempt to show how broad the range can be in any given kindergarten classroom.
WHAT GOALS SHOULD I HAVE FOR MY KINDERGARTENER?
Your child may know all of their letter sounds and be able to rhyme and write their name. They may not know what a letter sound means but can count to 100. They may only be able to count to 10 and yet they know 10 sight words. In any of those cases, they would all be perfectly ready to become a kindergartener. Specifically, it is wise not to fall into the comparison trap regarding academic skills when kindergarten starts – each child is coming from circumstances that go well beyond if they attended pre-k or not.
Answers To The 5 Most Frequently Asked Kindergarten Readiness Questions
I like to make the point that these are my answers–in other words–my opinions that I’ve formed from my many years of experience teaching kindergarten in public schools. One thing that is important to note, however, is that there are some important tips that you NEED to know. There are some easily overlooked questions that are hardly ever asked, that are ultimately THE KEY to all-around kindergarten success. If you want to be sure your child (and you) are as prepared as possible, check out these must-have kindergarten readiness tips for parents.
QUESTION #1: THEY JUST TURNED 5 THIS SUMMER – ARE THEY READY?
Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:
- Have they attended some form of pre-k program?
- If so, what feedback has the teacher provided, ie…do they do well with a routine? Have they had plenty of opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction?
- Are they the oldest/only child? Oftentimes if it’s a second child they have been absorbing behaviors and routines from their older siblings. If they are the oldest/only child – have they been around neighbors, cousins, or peer-to-peer groups?
- How motivated are they when you talk about going to school?
- Listen to your gut. If you are having serious doubts as to whether or not they are ready – they could probably wait a year. It is MUCH better for them to start a year older and be ready than to push them ahead and have them struggle.
- If you can see that they’d benefit from another year of pre-k or a program like a mother’s day out – then that’s your answer.
QUESTION #2: THEY DIDN’T ATTEND A PRE-K – ARE THEY READY?
- Have they attended some sort of program like a mother’s day out? If not, seriously consider letting them get their feet wet and practice a M-F routine away from home. Having them go from home with a relaxed routine straight to kindergarten is like never being in a swimming pool before but jumping off the high dive straight into the deep end.
- It would be a great idea to set aside some time to incorporate some sort of learning videos to expose them to letter names, sounds, numbers, counting, etc.
- It would be a great idea to watch your child closely with a pair of scissors – this is an often overlooked fine motor skill when kids don’t attend pre-k.
- It would be a great idea to gently ease them into a routine. It is tempting to just let them enjoy a loose summer – but trust me, that first month will be ROUGH for them. Which means…..ROUGH for you too.
QUESTION #3: THEY CAN’T READ YET – THEY DON’T KNOW THEIR LETTERS – ARE THEY READY?
- I have a lot of kindergarteners who don’t yet know all of their letters, and even more who don’t yet know sounds. No problem!
- It is one of my greatest joys to watch a child master all of these, and an even greater joy to watch them turn into readers. Your teacher has the tips and tricks and skills necessary to teach them – never fear!
- If you want to give them some extra practice over the summer – great! Just don’t stress if they haven’t mastered them!
QUESTION #4: WE HAVE A VACATION SCHEDULED – THAT’S OK, RIGHT?
- This has become an increasingly popular misconception. I strongly suggest getting the school calendar before planning vacations.
- Kindergarten is ‘real school’. Attendance counts.
- I teach in a public school, and though this may be different for private schools, it is my opinion is that if at all possible – take your vacations when school is not in session.
- Don’t make the mistake of saying, “Eh…it’s only kindergarten.” Them’s fightin’ words to every kindergarten teacher. Remember, this is where your child is learning how to “do school”, learning stamina, learning how to read. Showing up every day is key.
QUESTION #5: THERE ARE SNACKS, LUNCH, AND NAPTIMES, RIGHT?
- Snacks? Check! Lunch? Check!
- Naps? Ugh. Don’t we all wish! Nope. No napping in kindergarten. (Again, in private schools this may be different.)
- If your child still takes naps, I get it! I myself am a competitive napper! My husband is in AWE of my napping abilities!
- However, once the routine of school starts and there is no naptime, your child is going to drown in their own tears either at school or with you that afternoon. Heck, every single year even parents with non-napping kids express that the first week or two they arrive home and crash HARD.
What Goals Should I Have For My Kindergartener?
You’ve probably picked up on the fact that there is far more to getting ready for kindergarten than just learning letters and numbers. Some of the most important work that future parents of kindergarten students can do with their child at home might even seem overly simple but can do a world of wonders to get them prepared. Social-emotional skills, fine and gross motor skills, and simple direction following tasks are some things to put high on the priority list.
Kindergarten Readiness Tips For Parents
Parents of kindergarten students should start to allow and encourage their child to independently do what can be done independently.
- Foster and encourage bathroom independence
- Let them practice getting dressed by themselves (buttons & zippers too!)
- Encourage them to clean up after themselves and start to become aware of their organization (they will be sharing small spaces like cubbies)
- Let them practice putting on their backpack (full-sized please!) and unzipping it. Put a folder in it and let them practice bringing it to you and hanging their backpack back up. This may seem far too simple of a task….you’d be surprised! 😉
- If you really want some good, interactive academic kindergarten readiness activities to do at home – here a few great educational websites your child will love. And heck, it may even allow you to fold some laundry or answer that work email while you know your child is getting some meaningful screen time in!
- Starfall Kids love this site! There is a ton of free content, as well as an option to become a member for $35 a year.
- ABCMouse This is free for the first month, but tons of content.
- PBSKids You gotta love PBS. Period.
There’s a lot to consider when deciding if your child is ready or not ready for kindergarten. If you have the opportunity, see if your school offers a kindergarten screening parent questionnaire. At my current school, we provide these to incoming parents around the months of April/May so that we may get the best picture possible of the whole child. We conduct in-person or video mini-screeners, so we can meet the parents of kindergarten students as well as the child, assess some basic academic and fine motor skills, and get a glimpse into their personalities.
Your kindergarten teacher should be as transparent as possible about their expectations so that you know upfront what kindergarten in 2022 looks like in your school. There may or may not be a giant caterpillar on the wall, but if so, rest assured the goal is much loftier than collecting paper shoes for shoe-tying mastery. Be prepared to offer that same transparency to your teacher so you can start this magical year off on the right (velcroed) foot.
If you want to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look into the hilarious truth of what kindergarten really looks like, then you’ve come to the right place! Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful, or if there is any other advice I can offer up from my experience in the kindergarten classroom!
(aka Ms. Bolls, Mrs. Scott)