14 Things Your Child Needs to Master Prior to Starting Kindergarten

Do you have a little one going to kindergarten next fall? Fall of 2016 was a bittersweet year because my baby was heading off to kindergarten. My little one was excited to get up for his first day of school but this mama left the classroom on the first day of school with a tear in her eye. This was the last time that I was ever going to walk through the Kindergarten hallway on the first day of school ever again. But what does your child need to master before starting Kindergarten?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

I had some insider knowledge on how to prepare him for kindergarten since it had been over a decade since I walked my kids to their classroom on their first day of school. Kids today are expected to have early education programs and come to school prepared to learn. The more prepared your child is beforehand the better off they will do.

This guide will help you prepare your child whether they have been in preschool for several years or you are spending the summer months to prep them. It is best to start the process as soon as your child turns three because they can never be too prepared for starting kindergarten.

Recite Their ABCs

This one is probably a no-brainer but there are kids who come to school without the ability to recite their ABCs. We found that kids learn best if you make it fun and use lots of reputation before starting kindergarten. Here are some of our favorite ways that we used to help my son learn his ABCs:

  • Sing the ABC song over and over.
  • Let your kids watch Seaseme Street and Super Why!
  • Install Apps that focus on learning their ABCs on their Kindle Fire, tablet, or your smartphone.
  • Subscribe to ABCMouse

Letter Recognition

Not only are they supposed to be able to recite their ABCs, they also need to be able to recognize both upper and lower case letters. Kids who can already know how to recognize both upper and lower case letters will be ahead of most of their peers. Plus, it will make it easier for kids to be able to write their name and some words.

We suggest that you start with teaching them how to spell their name. This will help later on when we touch on another bullet point. Learning the alphabet and spelling their name is helpful before starting kindergarten.

Helpful hint: Don’t overwhelm your child with all 56 letters at once. Start with capital letters and once they have those mastered. Then move on to the lower case letters. Capital letters have straighter lines so they tend to be easier for kids to recognize.

Here are our favorite ways that we used to help prepare my son for starting kindergarten:

  • Flash Cards
  • Magnetic Letters (great for putting on the refrigerator)
  • Install Apps that focus on learning their ABCs and letter recognition on their Kindle Fire, tablet, or your smartphone.
  • Subscribe to ABCMouse
  • Let your kids watch Seaseme Street and Super Why!
  • Read your child a bedtime story and have them point to letters they recognize on the page.
  • Search for free letter worksheets and dedicate 1 week to each letter (if you have a full year to teach your child).
  • Put an ABC mat down in your child’s playroom or bedroom. Then play a game with your child. For example, have them jump on the letter C or put their hand on their head for the letter P.
  • Play “ISpy” whenever you are at the grocery store.
  • Write the letter on the sidewalk with chalk and have your child identify the letter.
  • Buy the ABC foam letter puzzles.

Pull Their Pants Up and Down

By the time your child heads off to kindergarten, your child will need to be able to go to the restroom on their own. Teachers are no longer allowed to help kids in the restroom with their pants. Your child will need to know how to “unbutton”, “unzip”, and pull down their pants on their own.

The teacher might be able to unbutton their pants before they head into the restroom but with 20 or more kids in the class, their time might be limited. Your child will also need to be able to pull up their pants, zip them up, and button them. Again, the teacher might be able to help your child button up their pants. Do take time to practice this on a regular basis prior to starting kindergarten.

Tie Their Shoes

We highly encourage you to teach your child how to tie their shoes before starting kindergarten. I’m guilty of not teaching my youngest but at the time he always loved wearing shoes that had Velcro. When your child knows how to tie their shoes, they can be a bit more independent compared to their peers.

How to Say Their Full Name

Teach your child how to say their full name. Not only is it necessary for kindergarten, it is also for their own safety.

Know How to Write Their Name

Your child will have to know how to properly hold a pencil with the proper technique. It is important that they know how to write their first and last name before the first day of starting kindergarten. They will have to use the proper format using upper and lower case letters when writing their name too.

Cut Paper with Round Tip Safety Scissors

Your child will know how to properly cut paper using round tip safety scissors. We suggest finding free worksheets online so that your child can frequently practice cutting in a straight line, wavy, circle, square, etc.

Recognize Their Colors

Preschool teachers generally start teaching colors and shapes around 2 to 3 years old. Colors and shapes are all around us and they are easy for children to notice. Just take a look around you, what do you see? Do you see a variety of colors and shapes?

Even though you don’t identify the color and shape out loud, your brain still makes that connection.   As children learn how to recognize their colors and shapes, just like you, their brain can start making the connection too. Colors are all around us and you can find objects all around you to use to teach your child how to identify their colors.

Identify Basic Shapes

When I was helping my son prep for kindergarten, we loved turning into a fun learning session. Kids typically learn better when they enjoy it. Shapes are all around us so point out shapes that you find along the way.

When I was teaching my son, I started off using flashcards and books to help teach him basic shapes. I would point to the shape and have him tell me what it is and vice versa. Once he knew how to identify a circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, diamond, and a heart, I would ask him to point to objects that correlated with each shape. Here are a few other ways to teach them:

  • Worksheets or Workbooks
  • Posters
  • Craft projects
  • Learning Apps

Know Their Numbers: 1 Through 10

Learning numbers is an early preschool concept that your child needs to have mastered before they go to kindergarten. Not only will your child need to be able to count from 1 to 10, but they will also need to know how to recognize and identify each of the numbers. Once the first ten numbers are mastered, we suggest taking it a step further and working on the next ten.

During their first half of kindergarten, my youngest had to learn all the way up to 100. They will also start learning simple math problems before the end of the year. I found that teaching my youngest his numbers was a bit easier because there are so many ways to incorporate numbers throughout the day. Here are some ideas on how to teach your child their numbers:

  • flashcards
  • objects around the house ie food items, books, toys, etc.
  • number chart
  • printable worksheets or a workbook
  • use muffin tins and ask your child to match the number (cut out a printed number) to objects inside each tin
  • use their fingers or toes
  • learning apps
  • play games such as DIY bowling with 2liters and a small ball
  • find music that has numbers ie Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • counting books
  • and countless other ideas that you can find on Pinterest.

Express Wants and Needs Before Starting Kindergarten

Communication started the moment your child was born. Even though your newborn can’t talk, they give you clues to help express their wants and needs. By the time your child is ready for kindergarten, your child will need to know how to use their words to communicate with others. You want them to be able to communicate with their teacher and peers.

How to Treat a Book

It is important to teach your child how to properly treat a book before they head off to Kindergarten. They will be required to check out a book every week and take care of it while it is in their possession. We suggest that you incorporate reading a book into their bedtime routine. As you are reading to your child, you can teach them how to care for a book and identify the different parts of a book. Ie spine, cover, title page. This

By the end of Kindergarten, your child will be able to read short stories and talk about them. After story time, you can ask your child about questions about the story to test their comprehension skills.

Don’t forget to read your own books in front of your child too. This will encourage them to read for relaxation and help reduce the amount of time that they are spending staring at a screen. Plus, reading helps your child prepare their minds for starting kindergarten.

Know How to Make Decisions

Your child will have to know how to make decisions fairly quickly before they head off to Kindergarten. When my son was little, I made it a point to give him a bit of flexibility when it comes to picking out his clothes in the morning. I usually gave him options, so that he was used to making his own decisions.

I’m glad that I took the time to teach him this because the first day of school he immediately had to select his lunch option. His teacher used pictures to help the kids but once in first grade, they have to know how to make a decision based on the morning announcements.

How to Sit Still

Kindergarten is a huge adjustment if your child hasn’t been exposed to a structured learning environment. Your child will be expected to sit still for long periods of time and remain focused during this time. Even though my son wasn’t in a structured learning environment, he was able to make the transition fairly easily but he has always been able to sit through movies.

Kindergarten has changed so much over the last decade and kids are expected to be ready to learn starting on the first day of school. Whether your child goes to preschool or you teach them yourself, they will need to have these skills mastered before starting kindergarten.

Is your child prepared for Kindergarten?

10 thoughts on “14 Things Your Child Needs to Master Prior to Starting Kindergarten”

  1. Thanks for pointing out that your child should know basic shapes, colors, numbers, and the letters of the alphabet before kindergarten. My 4-year-old is starting kindergarten this fall. She already knows her numbers and letters, but she doesn’t know how to write her name yet. I will be sure to work on this with her over the next few months.

  2. I love that you mentioned that it is a good idea to incorporate book reading when you are preparing your children for bed so that they can know how to treat a book in kindergarten. My son will be starting kindergarten next year, and he is a little shy because he is the only child at the moment. I think enrolling him in an early childhood education program would be a great way for him to prepare.

  3. I smiled all through as I read this article, it took me down memory lane and I can just remember the first day my last child started kindergarten, I left the school with tears in my eyes as you can never be too prepared for that day, no matter how strong you think you are. However, I know the importance of prepping them for this day, you gave all the important things you need to teach them and even more. Things like teaching them how to treat a book is really important as this will really help with their progression to higher classes. This article will really benefit a lot of parents out there with little ones.

  4. I believe having social skills also should be considered. I have had a number of students (I’m a retired school principal) who had all kinds of academics down but couldn’t play with another child appropriately. It really impedes their learning.

  5. I’m glad you shared this with everyone. It will be helpful for those going in kindergarten. I know my kids knew many of these before they started. They also went to preschool first.

  6. This is a great list! My oldest just started kindergarten online. Academically, she is a bit ahead, but she is really going to benefit from the structure and learning to sit still aspect. She’s a bit of a free spirit LOL

  7. This is a great list for parents and kids before kindergarten. I will say I feel like they learn so much and change once in Kindergarten so parents of a new kindergartner, don’t sweat too much if they don’t master everything.


Leave a Comment