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Help Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten

Moving up to kindergarten is a major milestone and marks one of the most important transitions in the young life of your child.

With a little preparation in three key areas—Academics, Social and Personal Competencies, and Health—you can help your child make a smooth adjustment to their new world.

Academics

  • Read to your child at least 20 minutes every day. Encourage them to help select books, talk about the story, and practice retelling it in their own words. Allow them to hold the book and turn the pages, pointing out letters or words they know.
  • Provide your child with plenty of opportunities to draw, preferably without coloring books. Ask them to draw the things they see around them.
  • Teach your child the uppercase and lowercase letters and, most important, the sounds each letter makes through play and games.
  • Play a game in which your child hunts for shapes: circles, triangles, squares and rectangles. To reinforce these shapes, point them out while you are at the store or taking a walk.
  • Help them write their first name using uppercase and lowercase letters, if possible.
  • Teach your child numbers and colors. For example, you might count the number of plates needed for dinner, or talk about different colors while sorting laundry.
  • Help your child get comfortable using scissors, glue, paint and other art materials.
  • Help them grip a pencil, crayon or marker correctly (with the thumb and forefinger supporting the tip).
  • Offer your child a variety of learning activities during the day, including quiet stories, and arts and crafts projects.
  • Teach your child basic information, such as their full name, address and telephone number, as well as your full name and where you work.

Social and Personal Competencies

  • Provide plenty of play opportunities with other children. This will help your child learn to get along with others, to share toys and to take turns.
  • Play games that teach your child how to wait or take turns, such as “London Bridge” or “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
  • Talk to your child. Involve them in your daily routine, ask questions, and encourage them to speak up and express ideas.
  • Allow your child to spend time in a quality preschool or childcare program. This not only helps them learn to separate from you, it also helps you prepare for leaving your child in a kindergarten program.
  • Tell your child you expect them to clean up after play. Encourage your child to clean their own room and help with simple chores around the house. And be sure to praise their efforts.
  • Talk to your child about kindergarten. Build excitement and reduce concerns while explaining what kindergarten will be like.
  • See if you can go in and look around the classroom, and meet the teacher before school starts. That will help alleviate concerns about separation. Click here for more information on coping with separation anxiety.
  • Most schools have an Open House or a Visiting Day for children who are beginning kindergarten. Make it a priority to attend with your child.
  • Teach your child that all feelings are OK but that not all actions are OK. For example, it’s OK to be upset but not OK to hit someone.
  • Use positive statements to teach your child appropriate behavior. For example, “I like how you shared your toy with your sister.”
  • Set consistent limits. Your child will feel safer and more self-confident if he or she knows you are paying attention and helping them to behave appropriately.
  • Help your child learn from mistakes. When things go wrong, help him or her think about what to do differently next time.
  • Help your child’s social and personal readiness for kindergarten by reading them books that talk about feelings. Find a list of books of excellent books that focus on friendship and feelings.
  • Try to have your child meet a classmate before the first day of school so they will already have a friend when school starts.

Health

  • Work on proper bathroom skills—how to zip, button and pull clothes up and down, how to use toilet paper, how to flush the toilet, and how to wash and dry hands. Be sure to provide a step stool and place things like soap and a towel within your child’s reach.
  • Make sure your child is in good health—physically, socially, personally and intellectually.
  • Before the start of kindergarten, make sure your child has had a recent physical exam and is up to date on immunizations.
  • Provide your child healthy meals and snacks, including whole grains, protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit the use of fats and sugars.
  • Make sure your child gets 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
  • Limit TV watching. Get your child outside to play. And join your child in active play, such as going to the park.
  • Help your child get enough rest every night. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says school-age children should get at least 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • Make sure your child has an appointment with a pediatrician and dentist at least once a year.

Additional Resources

Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten.

A Parent’s Guide to Starting Kindergarten.

Kindergarten readiness: Help your child prepare.

Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Tennessee’s Head Start program.