10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness
by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
Kindergarten has become the new first grade. Yes, I am from the “old school” where free play, guided activities, and milk and cookies gave Kindergarten it’s role and purpose. I know they included nap time in there, as well, but I was never a napper. So, I spent that quiet time day dreaming and cooking up story ideas in my head! Kindergarten was a place to dream, grow, and get to know all about yourself. But all that has been designated as preschool activities and Kindergarteners are expected to have certain skills at the “ready” when they come to school. So, let’s take a look at some Kindergarten Readiness Skills, shall we?
First Some Research
- A 2004 study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (2) looked at the factors and components that account for differences in children’s skills and performance in Kindergarten. They found that “the cognitive and social skills with which young children enter kindergarten make a difference in their achievement in kindergarten.” Findings indicated that a child’s family experiences and interactions “strongly correlated with their relative skills and abilities upon entry to kindergarten.”
- The authors of a 2002 National Center for Early Learning and Development study (1) found that “school readiness is not defined as a trait of a child but rather as a product of interactions in terms of the settings in which the child participates.” Family, social, and educational environments prior to Kindergarten provide youngsters with opportunities to learn behaviors, language and communication skills, and problem solving strategies.
- A 2000 longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, (3) determined that “the foundation of cognitive skills and knowledge that children build in kindergarten will influence children’s experience in school and their cognitive growth in later school years.”
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve selected 3 studies that are not current. I’ve done that to emphasize that Kindergarten readiness has been known to be an important factor in a child’s educational success for some time. Even us stick-in-the-muds have to admit that! There is a great deal of effort in the communities to get children, their parents, and the schools together early to foster the development of children’s skills during the critical first 5 years. Knowledge is the most important tool we can give parents in their quest for educational success for their children. And it all needs to start before they enter the door to their Kindergarten classroom.
What are Kindergarten Readiness Skills?
Children who come to Kindergarten are expected to have a wide range of skills that will help them to learn and grown in school.
- Enthusiasm toward learning. A child should be excited about exploring new activities, comfortable with asking questions, and diligent enough to persevere with challenging tasks.
- Language skills. He should be able to communicate his needs and express his feelings in an appropriate manner. He should have an accurate sense of body awareness with an understanding of directional terms such as around, under, over, and through.
- Ability to listen. A child should be able to follow simple instructions and listen to an entire story without interrupting.
- Desire to be independent. She should be able to separate from her parents for the length of the school day, be able to use the bathroom by herself, and be starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings.
- Ability to interact with children and adults. A child should be able to follow a simple two-step task and independently problem solve. He should be willing to share, compromise, and take turns with his classmates and teachers. It helps if he remembers to say “please, thank you, and excuse me,” as well!
- Strong fine-motor skills. A child should be able to hold and use a pencil, cut with scissors, and be learning to write her name. It is important that she be able to carefully turn the pages of a book, pack and unpack her backpack, and fasten snaps and buttons on her clothing. (Zippers are nice but not an essential just yet!)
- Basic letter and number awareness. A child should be able to sing and recite the alphabet and to recognize some letters He should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers one to five. Teachers would also like him to be able to recognize his name printed in in upper and lower case letters (James). It is also helpful if he knows the basic colors and shapes.
Despite my stick-in-the-mud viewpoint, I have come up with 10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness! These are the very skills that eventually, when the time is right, will help children to master their handwriting skills! So, let’s go and discover just what they are, shall we?
10 Handy Helpers That You Can Do At Home!
Have fun with learning by having your children include these activities in your daily routines:
1. Count the number of steps from the bedroom to the bathroom, to the bath to the kitchen, and from the door to the mailbox. (visual-motor and visual perceptual skills)
2. Shout out directional terms as he sets the table (left for the fork, right for the knife and spoon) or when you go for a walk (up for the sky, down for the sidewalk, and over for the bridge). (body and spatial awareness)
3. Find book titles in the library that begin with each letter of the alphabet in order. (sequencing, visual memory, letter recognition)
4. Sort and match the laundry when it’s dry and deliver it to the owners. (visual discrimination) Use clothespins to dry them outside on the line! (fine-motor)
6. Draw a picture of something he did that day and verbally describe it. (language, fine motor, visualization)
7. Count out small snacks as she puts them into a bowl. (fine motor, sequencing, visual-motor)
8. Prepare a simple recipe by measuring, pouring, mixing, and stirring the ingredients. (fine motor, visual-motor, sequencing, following directions)
9. Dictate a letter for you to write for him to grandmother, sister, or friend. (visualization, language)
10. Unpack the groceries and help to put them away. (visual scanning, fine- and gross-motor, visual discrimination)
Of course, there’s always puzzles, board games, books, and crafts to help your child get ready for school! So much fun, so little time!
As always, thanks for reading! I hope you will honor me with your comments, feedback, and suggestions for more ways to include Kindergarten readiness in a child’s daily routine!
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
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(1) Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. (2002). Early Childhood Research and Policy Briefs; Transition to Kindergarten. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: National Center for Early Development & Learning.