School might seem so far away for your soon-to-be Kindergartener, but as we all know, time flies! Preparing your child for Kindergarten can feel very overwhelming, as it’s a big transition.
This is a helpful guide to get you thinking about what kind of skills are generally expected as your little one walks through those school doors on their first day. You want to know how to prepare your child for Kindergarten, and you want them to feel confident and empowered with their skills.
Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten
Independent Tasks (Gross Motor Skills)
Kindergarten is such an exciting time! As we know, all kids develop and attain skills at different rates. So there is no clear cut and dry rule on what gross motor skills should be achieved before starting kindergarten.
With that being said, it will greatly benefit your child if you expose them to the skills listed below and start practicing them prior to starting school.
- Get outdoor weather apparel on/off mostly independently
- Shoes on/off independently
- Walk and carry a tray with food on it
- Hop, run, jump, skip
- Navigate various playground equipment/obstacles
Social Expectations & Fine Motor Skills
Social skills, emotional regulation and sensory processing are also important for entering Kindergarten. There are many craft projects and activities, and often this may be something that their little hands and fingers aren’t quite strong enough for. Not to mention all the new sensory experiences – sounds, visuals, and tastes, can all affect their ability to regulate.
Here is a simplified list of some skills to help your Kindergartener feel confident in:
- Pre-writing lines (vertical, horizontal, cross)
- Scissor skills
- Feeling confident in the bathroom (*see Toileting Expectations below)
- Opening caps/covers/snack packaging
- Sitting for longer periods of time/sustained attention
- Playing with peers
- Regulating emotions if there is conflict
- Joining in group play
- Problem solving
- Dressing for winter (clasps, zippers, snaps, and shoe tying, if applicable)
Toileting Expectations in Kindergarten
One of the big topics parents shy away from when getting preschool/kindergarten-ready is how to prep your child for a change in bathroom routine. With new a toileting environment, a new person assisting (if needed), and the potential for urinary or bowel leaks, this is an important topic to discuss with your Kindergartener.
Here are some great things to keep in mind and practice leading up to their first day:
- Practice getting dressed and undressed (underwear, pants, socks, and shoes).
- Practice using the bathroom in different environments.
- Build your child’s confidence with hygiene skills, such as wiping and washing hands.
- Discuss who will be available and trustworthy to help them with their bathroom needs.
- Have a discussion with their teacher about what your child’s bathroom schedule will look like.
- Practice their new expected routine for school at home.
- Have your child practice letting you know they need to use the bathroom.
In the case that your child is having more difficulty with this transition and are dealing with incontinence symptoms, here are some things to be aware of at home and in the classroom as you are preparing your child for Kindergarten:
- Daytime urinary leaks
- Fecal streaks in underwear
- Difficulty “holding it”
- Not voiding at school and having leaks when home
- Nighttime wetting
- Know your child’s signs of constipation.
- Encourage the use of a water bottle and water breaks.
- Recognize the different signs of needing to void (potty dance/shuffle, touching private area, wiggly in their seat).
80% of what a child learns comes from their visual system. All children should have their first eye test by an optometrist by the age of 3, and reviewed at least every year as they grow up. Good vision is vital for a child’s growth and development, since vision problems can lead to development delays.
Visual perceptual/visual motor deficits affect a child’s ability to understand the information they visually see. This impacts a child’s ability to read and affects their ability to draw or copy and often leads to a short attention span.
It is very important to have a formal vision examination by an optometrist, as the school vision assessments are a screening. How clearly a child sees is just one area that should be assessed. How the eyes move and work together is also very important. Having 20/20 vision doesn’t include other factors like peripheral vision (seeing what’s on either side of you), and your ability to see colors or your depth perception.
(Note: Your vision insurance will often pay for 1 exam a year. However here are some options if funds are limited. InfantSEE®, a public health program, provides a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age free of charge regardless of family income or access to insurance coverage. You can also visit visionstart.org to find assistance with vision screening.)
Communication/Language in Kindergarten
The start of kindergarten includes the beginning of big changes and big feelings! We want our children to have the language skills required to communicate any thought or feeling they have. Children will also be required to follow a variety of directions throughout their day with increasing demands put on their attention and listening skills.
Here are some language skills we would expect children to display between ages 4-5:
- Understands words for order, like first, next, and last.
- Understands words for time, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
- Follows 3-4 step directions such as “Go get your shoes, put them on, and then put on your coat.”
- Follows directions involving shapes and categories such as, “Draw a circle around something that you eat.”
- Responds to “wh” questions appropriately (where, what, when, etc.).
- Names letters and numbers.
- Uses complex sentences.
- Tells a short story.
By the time a child is four years old, we would expect them to be 100% intelligible to both familiar and unfamiliar listeners. Your child may still have difficulty with later-developing speech sounds such as l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and th, however you should be able to understand what your child is saying even with these inconsistent sound errors.
Here are some ideas for continuing to promote language and communication development at this age:
- Talk about where things are in space, using words like first and last or right and left. Talk about opposites, like up and down or big and little.
- Give your child clues, and have him guess the object.
- Talk about categories, like fruits, furniture, and shapes. Sort items into categories. Have your child tell you which item does not belong. Talk about why it doesn’t belong.
- Let your child tell you how to do something.
- Pay attention when your child speaks. Respond, praise, and encourage him when he talks. Pause after speaking, and let him respond to what you said.
- Keep teaching your child new words. Define words, and help your child understand them.
- Teach your child to ask for help when she does not understand what a word means.
- Point out objects that are the same or different. Talk about what makes them the same or different.
- Act out stories. Play house, doctor, and store using dolls, figures, and dress-up clothes. Have the dolls talk to each other.
- Read stories that are easy to follow. Help your child guess what will happen next in the story. Have your child draw a picture of a scene from the story. Ask who, what, when, where, or why questions about the story.
- Play game like “I Spy.” Let your child describe something he sees. This helps him learn to listen and to use words to talk about what he sees.
- Give your child 2-step directions, like, “Get your coat from the closet and put it on.” Let your child tell you how to do something. Write down your child’s story as she tells it. Your child will learn the power of storytelling and writing.
- Play board games with your child. This will help him learn to follow rules and talk about the game.
- Have your child help you plan daily activities. For example, have her make a shopping list for the grocery store. Or, let her help you plan her birthday party. Ask her opinion, and let her make choices.
Need extra support?
The team of therapists at Beyond Boundaries Therapy Services can help support you and your child as you begin preparing your child for Kindergarten. If you feel they need extra support in any of the areas above, Beyond Boundaries can provide a free screening with their experts! Call 701-356-0062 or visit beyondboundaries.us/free-screening to get started.