School readiness of the kindergartners greatly impacts their school adjustment and academic success. You can play an important role in getting your child ready for kindergarten by focusing on developing their prerequisite skills.
Essential skills for kindergarten readiness
The development of pre-academic skills leads to a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten. In this reference, access to a quality early childhood education (ECE) program can be highly essential because a study conducted in the central Florida school district found a positive correlation between ratings of the ECE center and their students’ scores on kindergarten readiness assessment.
A recent study indicated that involving preschoolers in early reading programs can significantly positively impact their performance in kindergarten. Such findings highlight the value of pre-academic skills for kindergarten preparedness and the child’s future academic achievement.
In recent years there has been an increased shift of focus towards academic achievement and assessment for kindergartners. When it comes to readiness assessment for kindergarten, teachers tend to focus on all domains of development. Still, when asked to rank the specific domains, they rank non-academic skills above all others.
Similarly, parents tend to consider social interaction skills more important than academic skills when it comes to kindergarten readiness. Research findings also support that strong personal and social skills play a considerable role in developing reading and mathematics skills in the early school years.
Based on all research findings shared in the preceding section, we can say that academic, self-care, and social skills are equally crucial for a child’s kindergarten readiness.
Kindergarten readiness assessment
In the US, almost half the states have a definition for kindergarten readiness, and in 25 states, your child is required to take kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs).
Mostly the findings of KEAs are used to:
- Identify students with educational challenges and plan specialized academic support.
- Make informed decisions about classroom instruction, personnel training, and curriculum development.
- Get a statewide learning profile of children entering kindergarten at a given time.
- Use data for informed decision-making and policy development.
Kindergarten readiness checklist
As an educational psychologist, I have been involved in the kindergarten readiness screening of kids in my country. I have personally experienced that it’s not just academic skills that establish any child’s school readiness but a combination of skillsets across developmental spheres that help children adjust and flourish in their early school years.
Professionals use a combination of standard tests for kindergarten readiness assessment. These tests assess functioning levels in different developmental areas, e.g., cognition, socialization, self-care, fine motor and gross motor abilities, speech and language, pre-academic skills, etc. In some countries like the US, states have also developed their own standard assessments.
It can benefit the parents if they have access to a checklist outlining all major developmental areas and skills necessary for kindergarten preparedness.
I have adapted the following checklist from different standardized tests and inventories. The sections and items enlisted under each section can give you a good idea of the minimum skill requirements for school readiness.
Do remember that every child develops differently, and individual differences are typical. It is an informal checklist and is only intended to help you get a relatively clear picture of developmental requirements from a kindergartner. If your kid didn’t go to preschool or you are homeschooling, this checklist can also serve as a baseline for the expected functioning level of your child.
1. Communication skills
- Your child communicates wants and needs.
- Speaks 4 to 5 word sentences.
- Follows 2-3 step directions, e.g., cut a circle and paste it on a worksheet, put toys in the basket, place basket in the cupboard, bring books from the shelf, circle all A’s, and cross all B’s in the worksheet, etc.
- Explains recent events in order of occurrence.
- Retells a story.
- Knows common opposites.
- Repeats four to five-word sentences immediately after hearing.
- Initiates and engages in meaningful conversation with another person.
2. Social skills
- Your child understands turn-taking and waits for their turn while playing or waiting to be served at the dining table.
- Says “sorry,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” without a reminder.
- Mostly engages in socially acceptable behavior.
- Asks permission before using things owned by others.
- Shares own things with others.
- Explains own feelings, e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.
- Plays with 3-4 peers.
- Follows the rules of the game when explained by an adult.
- Selects and makes friends.
- Can adjust to a new environment.
- Tries to regulate own emotions and behavior according to the situation.
- Empathizes with peers in distress or pain.
- He tells and enjoys simple jokes.
3. Cognitive skills
- A child knows the meaning of first, middle, and last.
- Explains the position of an object, e.g., over, under, behind, after, left, right, etc.
- Can name different textures such as hard, soft, rough, and smooth.
- After watching different objects in a picture, they can recall at least 3 objects.
- Can name different colors and shapes.
- Repeats 4-5 numbers in correct order immediately after hearing.
- Uses creativity to solve problems.
- Can match a pattern or sequence of beads or blocks.
4. Motor skills
- Your child jumps and hops in place.
- Kicks stationary and rolling ball.
- Bounces and catches a ball.
- He catches and throws a large ball.
- Traces with the help of stencils.
- Snips and cuts with scissors.
- Colors simple drawings, staying inside the lines most of the time.
- Pastes small pieces of paper.
5. Self-care skills
- Your child goes to the toilet, flushes, and washes independently.
- Washes hands and face independently.
- Can comb hair.
- Can button, unbutton, and zip; might require some help.
- Puts on coat and shirt; might need some help.
- Puts on socks.
- Opens lunch box, serves self and after lunch, puts everything back.
- Uses utensils appropriately.
- After playing, puts away toys in a designated place.
6. Academic skills
- Your child knows their own name, address, and phone number.
- He knows some alphabets by their shape.
- Knows some alphabets by sound.
- Tries to read familiar words.
- May draw basic shapes, e.g., circle, square, triangle, rectangle, etc.
- He draws simple objects, e.g., ball, moon, apple, star, etc.
- Writes few alphabets.
- Writes own name.
- Orally counts up to 10.
- Knows numbers up to 10.
- Adds objects to count how many, up to 10.
- Sorts objects based on size, height, length, weight, etc.
- Knows the concepts of add, take away, and equals.
Assessment, not judgment
In most states that use kindergarten readiness assessment, the primary objective is not to test the kids’ learning. The primary focus is to identify challenges, needs, and requirements to design instruction, core curriculum guidelines, and teacher training accordingly.
So, dear parents, use this readiness checklist as support material. DO NOT judge or rank your child based on their performance but rather use it as a guide for designing future activities.
Many useful books are available to help parents get their children kindergarten-ready. These books cover different aspects of school readiness.
Here are a few getting ready for kindergarten books you can use for your kids.
- Get Ready for Kindergarten Workbook provides colorful worksheets around the concepts of letters, syllables, vowels, and beginning sounds. Children also get to practice addition and subtraction. School Zone and Joan Hoffman are the authors of this book.
- The Summer Bridge Activities Workbook is a compilation of phonics, handwriting, math, science, summer learning activities, and flashcards. Summer Bridge Activities compiled this book to prepare children aged 4-5 for back-to-school success after a summer break.
- The Night Before Kindergarten, authored by Natasha Wing, is a colorful book part of her bestseller series “The night before.” It helps get the child ready for the first day of kindergarten by explaining how exciting kindergarten is.
- Get Ready for School: Kindergarten presents concepts like the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, sight words, and math skills in over 300 activity pages. The author is Heather Stella, a teacher who holds a master’s degree in elementary/special education.
- Kindergarten Big Fun Workbook created by Highlights contains many imaginative puzzle-based activities to make children more confident and ready for kindergarten.