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Is your child ready for Kindergarten?  Today we’re going to talk about it!  I’m sharing a Kindergarten readiness checklist – for life skills! I was a teacher and I saw many things that I wish my students had known before coming to Kindergarten – and I’m not talking about Kindergarten Sight Words.

While they aren’t mandatory, these five things your kid should know before starting Kindergarten can certainly help your child to feel more independent.   

pin for 5 skills to teach them before kindergarten

Update: This post, “Ready for Kindergarten?” was first shared here several years ago, but as parents are thinking about sending their children to Kindergarten in the fall, I wanted to reshare it today. These skills will help your child adapt to Kindergarten…

5 Non-Academic Skills to Help Your Kindergartener

As a teacher myself, I’ve been lucky enough to see things from a teacher’s side, as well as from the side of the parent.  I know that Kindergarten teachers in every school district are always willing to help young children.  They guide them on the first day of school and beyond, without question, but teaching your child these things will help them to be more confident in this new setting.

Parents can get a head start & teach these skills as their child is getting ready for Kindergarten.  It’s a great way to help your child to feel more confident & comfortable in their new class. 🙂

*Note: Before reading, you should know this is not an academic skills post.

I have many Kindergarten posts on this blog (and Pre-Kindergarten posts) where I share ideas about everything from what you need on the first day to a Kindergarten Sight Word Bundle, but this one is more about teaching your child independence and self-help skills.

How to prepare your child for Kindergarten:
Five things to teach your child before Kindergarten

There comes a time when we are all ready to send our little ones to Kindergarten & we want to know if they are ready for Kindergarten.  We want to prepare them and guide them before we send them. 

I waited an extra year to send ours (you can see why I decided to “red-shirt” my kids here), but now it is almost time to send our second child to Kindergarten. And this list of five skills to teach your child before kindergarten helps them get prepared for success from Day 1.

These things may seem little to you, or not important, but I can tell you that for your child, they are HUGE when getting your child ready for Kindergarten.  As a teacher, play therapist (working with a child aged birth to five years), and parent, I can tell you that they matter.

5 things to teach your child before Kindergarten with our Readiness Checklist

These life skills will give your child confidence and they show the teacher that your child is ready and independent. They will be excited to take on Kindergarten!  
Remember… It’s the little things that give your child that feeling of success and leadership.

1. TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO TIE THEIR SHOES. 

This is not as hard as you think. Just let your child practice it in steps.

  • For a few days, teach them to do the X and go through the first loop (the easy part).
  • Do this over & over.
  • Let them tie everything (cushions on chairs, your shoes, aprons, etc…).
  • Next, move on to the rest of the tying process (past just making the X).

Yes, they will get frustrated…that is a given. Don’t panic if they don’t pick it up quickly because every child is different. Three out of our four kids became frustrated when learning at one point or another, but with a little encouragement, they caught on and ended up confident and proud of themselves.

I know that each child is different (some kids want to practice for two minutes a day… while others can master this new skill in 30 minutes), so just be patient and helpful.  It took all of our kids about a week.

They were so proud of themselves (our kids had me take a video of them tying their shoelaces to send it to their Dad at work and to their grandparents.) Remember that when you want to jump in and tie it for them, when you are in a rush, or you see your child struggling, you need to STOP doing that for your kids.

From a teacher’s perspective – these things take away so much classroom time. If I had a penny for each shoelace that I tied when I taught…I would be RICH!! 😉

2. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO OPEN A JUICE BOX (or bag of chips, or whatever else is in their lunch box.)

Yes, it’s strange, but you’ll soon understand why it’s on this list.

To be honest, I RARELY send my kids with juice boxes in their lunches, because they drink water with their lunch, but parties and celebrations in schools make this one of those little things that are happening more & more often.

When I taught, I felt like I opened 27 juice boxes on those days (birthdays happen quite often in a classroom with 20+ children).

How do you teach a child to open a juice box?  Step-by-step.

  • Take the straw off of the juice box, carefully so it does not crack.
  • Open the straw & put the paper in your lunchbox or on your tray.
  • Insert the straw into the juice box, without squeezing the juice box.
  • Drink the juice and then set it down and wait until you are finished with your lunch.
  • Throw it all away (do not wait for the teacher to come by and get it).

These directions seem to be easy enough, right?  There are many 5 and 6-year-olds that do not do this because no one has taught them how.  It is one of those skills that we just assume they will know when the time comes, but it’s actually one that needs to be taught.

While you are at it, you might want to teach them to open a bag, too (bag of candy, dried fruit, a bag of chips, etc… then when they get these special treats a school, they will be able to help themselves, their teacher, or a friend).

3. TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO USE THE BATHROOM, WASH THEIR HANDS & BUTTON THEIR PANTS without help.  

Again, easy enough.  If your child can’t button their pants without help, you might want to send them in different pants. Most kids do not want to walk out, in front of 25 fellow students, to ask their teacher to button their pants. Practice, practice, practice, to avoid your child being embarrassed.

4. TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO HANDLE GETTING WHAT THEY NEED. 

You want your child to take responsibility for him or herself.

Think about if your child breaks their pencil in class. Will they know that they need to raise their hand to get another one? Or will they sit there, doing nothing, because they don’t know that they need to take care of themselves? 

If they are lost while trying to find a page, will they sit there and continue to turn the pages, or will they ask for help?

One day our son came home, only a few days after entering Kindergarten, and told me that he didn’t eat his yogurt at lunch that day because I didn’t pack him a spoon.

I said, “Don’t they have spoons in the cafeteria that you could have used?”

The look he gave me told me the answer: He had no idea he could go to the cafeteria to get silverware. He never even asked his teacher for help.

I went on to explain that if I forget to pack a spoon (or napkin or a straw), he needs to get up, get into line (or go right to the spot where they keep these things), and take care of his needs. No one is going to do it for him.

Remember, you are raising your child to be a responsible adult. This is a step in that direction.

5. KNOWING THE BASICS (name, number, address)

Does your child know their name, phone number, or address?
These are IMPORTANT and I encourage you to work with your child to learn them while you are getting them ready for Kindergarten!

You are relying on adults that have 24+ other students that day. While I’m sure that our kids will be safe, I still make sure that they know these things.   I would never want to send our little ones out ‘into the world without this information.

Oh, and this means knowing their LAST NAME, too, in case a teacher asks, “What’s your last name?” Teach them how to say it and how to spell it. 

Here is a little trick that I used to teach our kids their last name (spelling), phone number, and address. 

If your child doesn’t know this, slip a piece of paper in between their sock & their shoe with the info on it.  This is what I do when we go out somewhere with a lot of people, like an amusement park… and the kids know to look for it there, in case they “forget”.

TIP: Teach your child to memorize your phone number with this idea from my brother!

What About Academic Kindergarten Readiness?

Academic Kindergarten readiness is important too!  The wonderful thing about Kindergarten is that they will learn everything that they need to know when they are there. However, giving your child a foundation at home is a great way to help your child be confident, prepared, and feel like they have a solid grasp on what they are learning.

If you are ready to help your child academically, I suggest using this Kindergarten Sight Word Bundle.

This printable packet is easy to use – you can download it and print it over & over to help your child.   Teaching Kindergarten Sight Words are so important!

The kids love it & they learn so much from the repetition of seeing the same words again & again. It’s a great way to help your child learn their sight words, which helps them to learn to read well.

Kindergarten sight word optin

You are welcome to download this free Kindergarten Sight Word List here. 


Also, be sure that you are reading to your preschooler & Kindergartener.  Read, read & read again.  It’s so important. 

Kindergarten is an exciting time, and I’m sure that your child’s teacher will have a blast teaching your little ones!  Use this Kindergarten readiness checklist of life skills to get your little one prepared, and enjoy the journey of Kindergarten with your child!

Ps- Don’t be afraid to check in on your child while they are in school by volunteering or sending your child’s teacher a weekly email at first.

Often, teachers will ask for help from an adult who can attend class during the day to offer a hand or even attend another class to help a different teacher.

Most teachers like parent volunteers.  You can often choose to volunteer weekly, or you can sign up for parties, help out on multiple dates (in person), or offer to send in the supplies. I have done both. 

When our younger kids were too young (infants – ages birth to 12 months) it was hard to go to school, so I helped out by cutting out shapes, organizing papers, or sending in supplies. Here are more ideas on volunteering when your have young children.

MORE KINDERGARTEN POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:

link to kindergarten items post

link to wait to send child to Kindergarten post
link to teaching letters in one week post
link to teach kids how to spell last name post
link to What your child’s teacher wishes you knew about reading post

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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45 Comments

  1. Hi. This list is great, thanks. Also, I really gleaned great information from a few of the comments. I am concerned that we all seem to be a “look at my child, no look at MY child’ type forum. It seems to be a contest to see who can get their child to learn what earlier and earlier. I’m fairly sure that it will be the child who determines when they are ready to absorb whatever information they are able to as long as we keep it available and present. It’s important to not demean others for not having children learn at 18 months or 24 months ( seriously?!! ). Just because a few can doesn’t mean we should all have our kids holding pencils and Big Chief tablets. Children who don’t …are not failures nor are their parents/grandparents. As I said in the first place though, thank you for the majority of the information. It is a goal and can be reached for the most part in general for most kids.

    1. exactly- they learn at their pace… we just help them along the way. 🙂

  2. The biggest thing I was told was if you are going to teach them to write their name, teach them to write correctly. That means Capital first letter, lower case rest of letters – not all caps. I was starting to teach my son with all caps and was told he was going to have to be re-taught. Makes sense; don’t know why I didn’t think of it at the time! 🙂

  3. Just curious. When you say your kids drink water with lunch, what format is it in: a water bottle, a re-usable container, from the fountain?

    1. I have these reusable water bottles from tupperware that I LOVE!! They look like little bears, but they are great. Our 8 year old takes a mini- water bottle (from Aldi) every day & just throws it out when he is done (well- they recycle at their school) 🙂

  4. my two cents. My child cannot do most of these and starts kindergarten next week. He can read and counted 30. academically he’s ready but it’s just not developmentally there with many of these skills. Teachers need to be patient with children who have fine and gross motor issues. It shouldn’t keep them from being successful in kindergarten. Great list though!

  5. These skills are so great and so needed! Kindergarten was not my favorite grade to substitute for a lot of the above reasons LOL. My daughter starts kindergarten this coming school year… (Sigh). I’m glad she has most of these skills down! I never thought about explaining that she if she needed something like a spoon she needs to get it, or in the case of her school raise her hand for the helpers to come to her. Great post!

  6. Just WOW . So glad such parameters are not doled out in my grand babes lovely pre school. This ” teacher ” needs to step back and realize help with shoe laces and juice boxes is the small stuff. Can the child converse, look people in the eye, respect the ebb and flow of conversational style. Can the child empathize with sad kids, integrate into play time , recognize passages from favored books . Is the child able to listen and be attentive, be enthusiastic and excited , to join in the fun . That IS THE BIG STUFF that matters. Shoe lace and juice boxes , however outdated will come . These sparks of pure energy, humanity and intelligence are home born.

  7. I do like how you mentioned that teaching them to be independent and responsible for themselves before enrolling them into kindergarten can be very beneficial for their school experience. That is why I would be sure to teach my twins as much as I could way before getting them into kindergarten. Hopefully, my teachings would be enough to help them have the best possible school experience next year once they are old enough to be enrolled. Thanks!

  8. I appreciate your tip to choose a kindergarten that your kid will be able to use is sills a. I like how you said that you should make sure your child is confident enough to go to school on his own. My husband and I are looking for kindergartners for our toddler son to learn at.

  9. I remember those scary and difficult days when my son was introduced to schooling. But he has slowly learned to do his task like opening juice box. I wish I had someone to guide me like this in those days. The blog is really useful for the young moms.

  10. I take care of my two preschool grandchildren. The 4 year old wants to read. I have begun with the letter sounds It seems like I am on the right track but I would like to see more progress It seems like we are a road block.

  11. Such a great list! Helping your kids feel independent and empowered at an early age will go such a long way in life!

  12. I loved that you mentioned your kid should be able to button his pants to prevent embarrassment in the kindergarten. My sister is thinking about looking for a preschool for his kid, and we are looking for advice to help her. I will let her know about the importance of preschool to help his kid to learn the right skills that he will need in kindergarten.

  13. These are excellent suggestions. I’m going to share this article with my sister, who has a two-year-old kid. These suggestions are both simple and effective. I loved the point where you mentioned that kids should be encouraged to stand up for themselves and learn simple things on their own rather than relying on teachers or parents from a young age. Being self-sufficient helps a child begin learning new things on his own, take chances, and have a greater understanding of the world.

  14. Thanks for sharing
    i will share it with one of my friend as she got twins last year,Definitely it will help alot in terms of learning and planning.Now a days its a must to add extra curricular activity in kids routine which help them in longer routine of life

  15. As an understanding educator, I have seen unreasonably many children not know what a book is. Love your thoughts for knowing essential self improvement abilities yet families NEED to invest in some opportunity to peruse together, sing melodies, appreciate Nursery Rhymes once more. Those abilities will assist them with acquiring rhyming and appreciate language which will assist them with figuring out how to peruse simpler. In any case, kindly, put a BOOK in their grasp even when they can get a handle on something. Greatest assistance of all time!