The first thing a teacher does at the beginning of the year is evaluate your child. Because I ran a preschool for many years, I know what Kindergarten teachers are looking for in your child.
If your child has attended preschool before entering Kindergarten that’s a big plus, but don’t worry if they haven’t. It’s important to remember children develop differently. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your child to other kids. While one child may excel in language another could be great at physical activities.
The following is a guideline of most teachers’ expectations for children entering Kindergarten. We had over 300 students each year. Throughout their academic career with us we prepared them to graduate with these goals and skills in mind. Keep in mind this is not an SAT prep course. If they don’t “get it”, it’s perfectly okay. Your child will develop these skills on their own time and space.
Social and Emotional Milestones
- Parental Separation: If your child has not successfully separated from you, get on it right now. Don’t think that it’s going to happen on their first day of school without prior preparation from you. Do your child (and you) a big favor. Work on this now. Everyone, not just your child, will thank you. Check out our article on separation strategies for some helpful tips.
- Working Independently and in Groups: If you’ve done your job and exposed your child to a variety of group situations they should be respectful of others as well as their things. Your child should also be able to share, take turns, and collaborate in a small group setting. These skills are paramount in any Kindergarten classroom. Create opportunities for your child to develop these group skills. Playdates as well as playing in community play-scapes help children develop these important social skills.
- Responding to Verbal Questions: For some kids this takes a lot of practice. Next time you are eating out with your family encourage your child to order for their-self.
- Follow a 2-3 step Verbal Direction: You can practice this by asking your child to put one shoe and one sock on a chair. Kids love playing this game! If they have mastered this skill up challenge!
- Discriminate Between Common Sounds: Record common sounds and play a game with your child. Have them guess who or what is making these sounds. You can also play this game while watching their favorite TV show. This is a great skill for your child to learn, not only to understand the world around them, but for safety as well. Hearing the sound of a car coming can save their life.
Gross Motor Skills
These gross motor skills are a little broader. These skills are as important as the social and emotional milestones discussed above, but if you can give your child a head start it never hurts. These are definitely some skills that kindergarten teachers are looking for in your child.
- Keeping Hands to Themselves: Sounds simple, but it’s really important. Children need to learn a sense of their own space.
- Walking in a Single File Line: Practice with your child by playing follow the leader or other games. Give your child the opportunity to follow as well as lead.
- Sit Attentively for 15-20 minutes: Most Kindergarten activities last for about 15-20 minutes before a brief brake. A great way to practice is attending story time at libraries and museums.
- Comfortable running, jumping on two feet, kicking a ball, and throwing a ball: Create opportunities for your child to develop these skills but dancing to some songs or playing outside with a few other children.
- Carry a Tray Unassisted: Children love when you put their lunch on a small tray! Ask them to carry it to the table and delight in the smile and skill you’ll see take place.
- Walk Up and Down Stairs: This is a developmental skill. Practice makes perfect. It’s a simple as that!
- Handle Large Bins and Putting Toys Away: Children should learn to put their toys away in bins. It’s a very good way to organize your child’s play area, develop basic muscle movements and ingrain a sense of organization in your child.
You may have noticed that we didn’t list any academic skills. Being able to recognize their own name in print and even writing their own is a plus, but the above skills are far more important than any academic skill. Kindergarten are where your child will start to encounter many more academic skills. But having all of the above skills mastered allows them to focus on those academics.
Learning is a journey that should last a life time. Enjoy each and every milestone with your child and start with these. We know what kindergarten teachers are looking for in your child, because we were kindergarten teachers! What skills do you practice with your child outside of school?