Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

By: Renee Zimmerman

For many, the first day of kindergarten means sending your little one off into their next big journey, the world of a formal education. But for those with children of preschool age, particularly those whose children are in their final year before kindergarten, there can be some questions or apprehensions regarding their child’s school readiness.

In 2010 the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and First Five San Mateo County collaborated on an excellent publication titled “Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?” Below is a summary from the booklet of the key skills children will need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond, as well as some specific activities parents can undertake to support the development of those skills. It is understood that children with special needs or other identified delays may not master these skills by kindergarten and in that context, this summary applies to typically developing children.

Each child is unique and has strengths in many different areas. Kindergarten teachers tell us that children are best prepared for school when they have a balance of skills in these areas and they demonstrate those skills as follows:

Social-Emotional Development

  • Talk to adults and ask for help when they need it
  • Take turns, share and help others
  • Stay focused and pay attention for 10-15 minutes at a time
  • Follow one and two step directions such as “Please put away your crayons and then bring me your paper.”
  • Feel good about themselves and their culture

Physical Health and Well-Being

  • Are healthy and have up-to-date immunizations
  • Are well rested
  • Can eat, wash hands and use the toilet by themselves

Language Development

  • Hear and understand the meaning of words, stories and songs
  • Use words to talk about thoughts, wants, needs and feelings
  • Have a strong foundation in their home language, which can help them learn English

Early Academics

  • Know how to use a book: where to start, which way to turn pages; that the pictures and printed words tell a story
  • Know the letters of the alphabet and can write some letters in their first name
  • Know rhyming words like pat, hat, cat, bat
  • Know primary colors and shapes, such as red, blue, green, circle, square, triangle

As parents, you can help your child gain these skills by taking an active role and doing the following:

Social-Emotional Development

  • Set regular routines and consistent limits for your child
  • Help your child learn from his or her mistakes
  • Help your child find ways to calm down when he or she is frustrated
  • Teach your child that all feelings are okay but not all actions are okay, i.e., “It’s okay to be upset but not okay to hit someone.”

Physical Health and Well-Being

  • Provide healthy meals and snacks including whole grains, protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit fats and sugars
  • Make time for your child to run, jump and move for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Limit TV watching and other screen time to no more than one hour a day
  • Make sure your child gets 10-12 hours of sleep every night

Language Development

  • Talk to your child as often as possible about many different ideas
  • Sing songs and read rhyming stories with your child
  • Listen carefully and ask questions when your child is talking
  • Continue to speak your home language with your child
  • Point out letters and numbers in everyday places like cereal boxes and signs
  • Use daily life activities like laundry and shopping to teach your child new concepts such as colors, numbers and categories
  • Remember: children learn through play and learning is fun!

Additionally, it should be pointed out that for your child’s safety, they should know his or her first and last name, who will pick him or her up after school, a phone number where you can be reached and whether s/he has any food allergies.

As you can see, there is a lot that parents can do, in addition to their child participating in a formal preschool program, to support their kindergarten school readiness. The complete booklet can be found at www.siliconvalleycf.org/docs/kindergarten-guide-english.pdf. Two other good resources on this topic are www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/collection/what-to-expect-grade/count-down-to-kindergarten and www.education.com/grade/kindergarten/.

Renee Zimmerman has been the Executive Director of Family Connections since 2004. Family Connections is the only 100% tuition-free parent participation early childhood education and preschool program in the State of California and serves over 400 individuals annually at its three locations in Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. For more information visit www.familyconnections.org.