How to Prepare Your Preschooler for Kindergarten

So many of our moms have asked, "How can I prepare my child for kindergarten? What skills, if any, should he/she master before kindergarten? What else do I need to know before we start school?"

We decided to go right to the source on these very important questions. We reached out to Jaclyn Morris Bower, former pre-kindergarten director and teacher of an Orange County preschool, Founder of and Author of the Kindergarten Readiness Guide--as well as a handful of k-12 public school teachers to get their opinion on this topic.

**How Can I Prepare My Preschooler for Kindergarten**

What Age Do Kids Start Kindergarten?

"In California, children start kindergarten at age 4, 5, or 6 depending on their birthday. The kindergarten cut-off date in California used to be December 1st. So if your child’s birthday was on or before December 2nd, they were eligible to enroll in kindergarten. But we found that with this date, for almost half the year, we had children ages 4, 5, and 6 in the same classroom and the range of emotional and academic abilities was just too great. So for this current school year (2012-2013), the cut-off date was changed to November 1st. Next year, the cut-off date will be October 1st and by Fall 2014, the official kindergarten cut-off date for the state of California will be September 1st. As a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who has taught in several different states, I have always preferred the September 1st cut-off. I believe that children are most successful when entering kindergarten at age 5. Four year-olds in my mind are more suited for a quality pre-k program. If a child is not 5 years old by the cut-off date or is 5 but exhibits delayed social, emotional, or academic skills, I would recommend a transitional kindergarten program or a pre-k program to help the child build a solid foundation before entering kindergarten the following year. Some parents choose to hold their children back a year and have them enter kindergarten at age 6 which is fine in most cases, although if a child exhibits most or all of the signs of readiness at age 5, he or she may be bored or under-challenged in a pre-k program. And a bored child usually finds ways to get him or herself in trouble"- Bower

Are there k readiness tests that can be administered to see if one's child is in fact ready?

"Yes, there are a few options, and this is definitely a good idea. First, I would recommend my book, The Kindergarten Readiness Guide, which provides parents with checklists and tools to “test” their child in the areas of reading skills, math skills, writing, speaking and listening, motor skills, and social/emotional development. It is very comprehensive and user-friendly, available as an e-book or paperback, and can be used from the age of 2 or 3. Furthermore once you have assessed what your child knows and what he or she can do, the book offers simple, fun teaching suggestions to help them improve upon whatever their weaknesses may be. The Kindergarten Readiness Guide helps parents take their children’s preschool and kindergarten education into their own hands. For most parents, using my book is probably sufficient to determine whether or not a child is in fact ready. But if a parent still has concerns, I would recommend getting a professional, unbiased opinion from either your child’s preschool teacher or by Googling “kindergarten readiness testing” in your area and making an appointment. I think the combination of my book and a recommendation from a private testing company or trusted preschool teacher would give you all the information you need to make a confident decision"- Bower

How Can Parents Find Their Home Schools and Learn About Test Scores Etc?

"Definitely talk to other parents in your neighborhood and get their opinions on the local public and private schools. Parents are the best resource for one another! Join a Moms of Preschoolers group or OC Mommies and get to chatting with other moms and dads. Aside from that, there are several websites that can guide you in the right direction including: and . Call the preschools or elementary schools you are interested in directly and make an appointment for a tour. Online, you can find lists of what to look for in a good school. I like this list which is located on my website on the “Articles” page: -Bower

What Academic Skills, If Any, Should Kids Have Mastered Before Entering Kindergarten?

"Public schools can't really require that kids have a certain set of skills upon entering kindergarten. However, the more solid the foundation they enter with, the easier time they will have adjusting and the more confident they will feel with the overall transition. Private schools on the other hand can require that students be at a certain level in order to be accepted into their program. If a parent is seeking admission to a private kindergarten, it would be helpful to contact a counselor at the school a year or so ahead of time to understand the requirements in order to be adequately prepared"- California K-12 Public School Teacher

"I definitely think there are academic skills that a child should have mastered before entering kindergarten. In my book, these are designated as “Basic” skills. Mastering these basic skills before kindergarten builds self-esteem and confidence in a child and allows the child to enjoy their kindergarten experience without struggling to play catch-up all year. These skills include: saying the alphabet; recognizing 5-10 letters of the alphabet (especially the letters in their name); writing their name fairly legibly; holding a crayon nor pencil properly; holding scissors and attempting to cut paper; drawing basic people; counting to 10; recognizing 5-10 numbers; identifying most colors and shapes. Socially and emotionally, a child should be able to follow one and two-step directions; use complete, coherent sentences when speaking; listen with interest to stories for 10-20 minutes; stay focused on an activity for 10-20 minutes; play and get along well with other children; ask simple how and why questions; follow rules and routines; and dress and clean up after him or herself. If children have mastered these skills by the time they enter kindergarten, they should have an enjoyable, confident, and successful year."- Bower

"Children don’t have to have any skills mastered to enter kindergarten however, they will have a big advantage if they know some or all of the following skills: recognizes first name, writes first name, knows the alphabet, recognize/identify letters of the alphabet, knows the sound each letter makes, knows when words rhyme, can count to 10, recognizes numbers 0-10, can hold a pencil, crayons, and scissors, can cut on a line, knows concepts like over, under, through, etc"- California Public School Kindergarten Teacher

What Are Some Things Parents of Pre-K kids Can Work On Right Now to Prepare Their Kids For Kindergarten?

"Encourage sharing, respect for adults and other children, and listening and following directions. Get your child used to the idea of a routine. There is a time to eat, to sleep, to play, to read. Children who enter school without this understanding of rules and routines have a harder time with transitions from one activity to another, or can be found playing with a truck when they are supposed to be sitting on the rug listening to a story!

For academic suggestions, I have to refer you to my book because there are so many ideas that parents will find helpful! I wrote the book to answer exactly this question. So many preschool and kindergarten parents asked me what they could do at home to help prepare their kids and I got tired of repeating myself. So I thought, 'This needs to all be put in a book!'

Besides games and puzzles that encourage learning colors, shapes, letters, and numbers (which are wonderful!), I am a huge advocate of reading with your children and talking to your children every single day. These sound like simple concepts but we all get caught up in our busy lives and sometimes reading and really talking to our kids gets pushed to the side. You should be reading at least 3 children’s books per day with your child. Before bed time or nap time is the perfect time to read together. I have compiled a list of my favorite “must-read” children’s books on my website, located on the “Books/DVDs/Toys” page. Also, the Reading Together Checklist in my book shows parents how they can maximize this precious time with their children. And TALK to your children about everything that comes up throughout the day, be it the weather, rocks, birds, water, road signs, friendship issues, or anything else under the sun. Kids are curious little sponges and providing books and talking with adults and other children are the best way to quench their insatiable thirst for knowledge"- Bower

"Parents can help their children prepare for kindergarten by practicing the following: letter recognition of both capital and lowercase letters, practicing associating sounds with printed letters,practicing identifying numbers 1-10,practicing writing their names,practicing correct pencil grip, practicing following verbal directions, practicing cleaning up after activities, practicing sitting quietly for short periods of time"- California K-12 Public School Teacher.

By The End of Kindergarten, What Will Kids Have Mastered?

"Many parents don’t realize it, but kindergarten is SUCH an important year!  Kids learn so much!  To see what kinders should master by the end of the year check out this link Look at Kindergarten in California Public Schools"- California Public School Kindergarten Teacher

So many things! I was always amazed by how much my students would learn and grow in their kindergarten year. Obviously, this varies from child to child but generally speaking, they will be able to: identify all 26 uppercase and lowercase letters and the corresponding sounds they make; be able to blend 2 or 3 letters together to read and produce words; identify the basic elements of a story including the characters, the beginning/middle/end; read 10 words or more by sight; write all 26 letters; recognize and write numbers up to 20; count to 30 or beyond; and cut, trace, draw, and color with some proficiency. They will also have a better understanding of so many world and life concepts such as time, money, rewards and consequences, music, art, physical education, weather, plants, historical holidays, nutrition, and the list goes on! My book, The Kindergarten Readiness Guide, designates skills as “Advanced” if they are those that will be mastered by the end of kindergarten. So the book can be used at home throughout the entire kindergarten year, not only leading up to it"- Bower

How Can Parents Prepare Their Child For Kindergarten From A Social Emotional Standpoint?

"Some children have no problem with the transition, for others it can require a lot of support. If a child has trouble with separating from parents, schedule opportunities leading up to the beginning of school where they can spend some time away from parent. Preschool is a great way to do this"- California K-12 Public School Teacher

"I believe that sending your children to preschool is the key to helping them smoothly transition to kindergarten. In preschool, they will learn to live by the various rules and routines that they will inevitably need to live by for the rest of their academic careers so it is best to start young. Plus preschool helps children learn to respect and listen to other adults besides their parents, and to play nicely with other kids. If they enjoy their preschool experience, they will be excited about entering kindergarten! I recommend that a 3 year old attend preschool 3 days a week, a 4 year old 4 days a week, and finally a kindergartener who is 5 years old, 5 days a week. This plan allows the child to gradually increase the amount of time they spend happily at school and gradually decrease the amount of time they spend at home with mom, dad, or a caregiver"- Bower

What Is Your Number One Recommendation to Parents With Kids Who Are Entering Kindergarten?

"Always try to stay positive and enthusiastic about school. Sometimes, the experience doesn't go exactly the way that a parent had hoped and planned. Remember that this year is pivotal in laying an emotional and academic foundation for the rest of a child's academic career. Always help children find things that they love about school and help them see where their strengths are. Try to get involved as much as possible either at home or at school or both. Every benefits from a family that is involved"- California K-12 Public School Teacher

"Make learning FUN! Kids love to learn and experience new things. Take your children to museums, aquariums, parks, art galleries, camping, and hiking. Encourage their interests, whatever they may be, and show them that your family values learning and fun, and that they can be one in the same. Have family reading time when you turn off the TV and turn on some classical music and everyone in the family reads for 30 minutes. Start a weekly family game night where you play games that encourage drawing, acting out scenes, or promote letter and number recognition. To teach counting, count cheerios or toys. To teach colors, play “I Spy” or color Bingo. Learning doesn’t have to be rote workbooks and flashcards. It can and should be fun"- Bower

A BIG THANK YOU TO THESE FABULOUS EDUCATORS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS!! TEACHERS ROCK!!! To learn more about Jaclyn Morris Bowen and her suggested resources, visit her website Kindergarten Readiness--a website devoted to helping parents and ed...






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