Kindergarten readiness is a huge topic of parent questions this time of year. When potential Schoolhouse families call me, they often ask: “How do I know if my kiddo is ready for Kindergarten?” This is a great question and something I have on my own mind right now.
You see, my daughter will turn five in July and I need to assess her Kindergarten readiness, just like all of you! So, I thought I would put together a Kindergarten Readiness checklist, personalized for A One-Room Schoolhouse!
You might be surprised by some of the things on this list. At A One-Room Schoolhouse, readiness has a lot less to do with pencil grip and reading skills and much more to do with social and emotional skills.
Before you read the checklist…
Before scrolling, ask yourself the most important question: Is your child ready to be away from YOU for six hours a day? A One-Room Schoolhouse is a full-day program. If your child is taking an afternoon nap or are not ready to separate from you for that long, then they are not ready! Just wait a year, no big deal. You are a good parent, your child is a good kid. Just wait a year.
Now, on to the checklist…
1) Personal Care Independence
Can your student use the bathroom COMPLETELY independently? Is your child totally potty trained? Yes, ahem, this includes wiping their bum! For boys, can they use a urinal properly? Speaking of boys, how is their aim? Really, work on this! If an accident happens, can they change clothes by themselves?
Can they wash their hands all by themselves? Can they blow their nose without help? Can they cover sneezes and coughs? Can they express to an adult that they are not feeling well? These are key skills to success in Kindergarten!
2) Eating Independence
Can your child eat a snack and lunch by themselves? Can they open their lunch box? Although not totally necessary, teachers love it when they can open all packaging by themselves. Do they know that it is important to eat when they are hungry? Can they delay play for a few minutes while they eat? How about basic table manners? Sitting and eating for about 15 minutes can be hard for some kids. Practice sitting down at a meal, with no electronics, and eating a meal without getting up. Practice carrying on a pleasant, friendly conversation. Help your child use utensils, napkins, juice boxes and water bottles independently. Eat lots of picnic lunches at the park. Sit at a picnic table, eat your lunch while chatting about what you see and hear, then go play. This may be the BEST practice you can give your child while learning to eat away from home.
3) Dressing Independence
It is no secret that we spend a lot of time outside at A One-Room Schoolhouse. Dressing goes hand-in-hand with playing outside. Although I don’t expect total independence in this area, the more independence, the better. New kindergarten students should be working toward being able to zip up coats, put on boats, slip into gloves, and secure hats all by themselves. They should be able to manage outdoor clothing by putting it away after they wear it. If you take time to practice these dressing and clothing management skills, your child will be a kindergarten superstar!
I hesitate to put this one on the list. Organization is a nice skill to have, and it will put your child at “the front of the class” if you can send them off with some basic organization skills. What am I talking about here? To start: can they put similar objects away in the correct place. For example: can they put their crayons back in their crayon box? Next level: if they are using crayons, glue, markers, and scissors, can they sort out these objects and put them all back in their individual places?
This is a big ask! But having the ability to keep track of their supplies, clothing, and books is a big job to manage in Kindergarten, but such a helpful skill. For my little lady who is getting ready for Kindergarten, this is something we will really start practicing. If you need some ideas on how to start teaching organization, check out the Habits of Learning: Organization lessons.
5) Following Directions
At the schoolhouse, we often give a few directions at a time and expect students to follow them. A situation might go like this: “Clean up your crayons and papers, get your backpack and lunchbox, put your crate on your chair, and wait to be dismissed.” I think I say this every day! The kiddos that can follow multi-step instructions will have so much more independence and success. Helping your child independently follow multi-step instructions will also boost their confidence.
Teachers, volunteers and other children cannot read your child’s mind. New friends and adults are not as good as you at picking up on your child’s subtle cues. Make sure your child can speak up for their needs. Things in this area might include: asking to use the bathroom, telling an adult when not feeling well, getting needed supplies, seeking assistance with a social situation and reporting an injury.
Talk to your child about how to talk to new, trusted adults. Practice expressing feelings, getting needs met and situations when it may be necessary to tell an adult about a troublesome social interaction. This will help your child feel comfortable and confident while they are away from you.
7) Sustained Listening and Waiting
This one is a big one. Maybe I should have put it closer to the top of the list. But, guess what, even at A One-Room Schoolhouse a child has to wait, they have to listen and, at times, they have to stay in their chair. We get up and move a lot, but listening and waiting are still VERY important skills. Can your child listen to you read aloud for 20 minutes? Can they stand in a line for 5 minutes without having a meltdown? Can they sit and attend to a coloring, craft, or sensory task for 20 minutes?
How do you practice these activities? IN. REAL. LIFE: PRACTICE. Take them to the grocery store or bank and practice waiting in line without complaining. Read to your kiddo every day while they just sit and listen. If they are not accustomed to this, start with just a few minutes and slowly increase the time. Go to storytime at the library. Attend Sunday School at church. Do art projects at home. Engage in a daily sensory bin. Encourage independent play.
8) Adult Interaction Skills
Can your child talk to an adult? Can they express their needs and wants to adults while looking at them and speaking clearly and with appropriate volume? Many young children have developing speech sounds and that is just fine! Here is a speech chart that can help you understand what speech sounds are still developing and what sounds should be mastered. Even better yet, can they wait their turn to talk when adults are talking? Do they know when to get help from an adult while playing or learning? Talking about tattling, social problem solving (more on this later) and when to get help are all very important Kindergarten skills.
But, being around new adults is more than just advocating for your needs (see #6 above). If you have just been home with mom and dad for five years, getting comfortable with a new adult is a big step. This item might even be more important to consider because of the pandemic. Trusting a new adult and understanding which adults to trust might be an important item to consider and discuss.
9) Peer Skills
This one should be at the top, but I put it at the bottom, so you will remember it. Social skills are the bread and butter of Kindergarten. If you are really concerned with setting up your child for success, put the pre-reading books on the shelf and work on social skills. Seriously.
Guess what, they will all learn to read: PROMISE! But will they all learn to win, lose, share and take turns? Well, I hope so, but this is NOT a given coming out of any old classroom. But, what will predict a happy successful life? HINT: It is not when they learned how to read!
Start working on winning and losing skills now. Stop letting your child win every game. Model how to be a good winner and a good loser. Can they deal with the frustration of when a game does not seem fair? (This is the “f” word I hear the most!)
Can they take turns with a preferred object? Can they figure out a way to share? Can they wait their turn in a game? How can you work on these types of skills? Play games. So many games. Board games, sports games, recess games… ALL THE GAMES! Also, have play dates with friends and help children navigate these types of social situations in real-time.
How about friendship skills. Can they ask another child to play with them? Can they navigate joining a game? Can they say sorry when they mess up socially? Can they keep their hands to themselves and solve problems with words?
(These are big skills and will not be mastered by five. But, these are skills to be actively working on. Just like you have been working on teaching your child the names of the letters and the sounds that they make: teach your child the social skills needed to succeed.)
If these are not all mastered, no worries. We work on the continued development of pro-social skills through Habits of Learning and Habits of Friendship. You can even use these at home. They are meant to be taught over and over again for mastery and growth.
10) Academic Skills
Yes, we have finally made it to what many people would ONLY list on their Kindergarten readiness checklist. Which academic skills does your child need to have in order to start at A One-Room Schoolhouse? Here’s the list:
- Can sing or say the alphabet without the help of a parent
- Recognizes all of the letters and many of the sounds but has not mastered all of them
- Can count to ten, recoginze these numbers and match the correct number of objects to these numbers
- Knows basic shapes and colors
- Uses scissors to cut on a line and uses glue (liquid and stick)without making a horrible mess
Think your child is ready to join the schoolhouse for Kindergarten? Stay tuned for more information about registration and check out this recent blog post about our plans for the 2022-2023 school year.