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School readiness skills your child needs for kindergarten

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

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This is the practical, parent-approved list of school readiness skills!

When it comes to kindergarten readiness, there are a variety of opinions. Some people will try to give you such a long list of readiness skills that I can pretty much guarantee that no child in your kid’s kindergarten class will possibly have managed to master it all. Here is the parent-approved list of skills your child needs for kindergarten, with explanations of why each skill is needed.

We’ve put 2 kids through kindergarten with different teachers, and I found that most of the skills your child REALLY needs going in can be narrowed down to just a few. Of course, the more skills the better – and by all means enrich your child beyond these if your child has interest. But I find that many school readiness lists tend to be overly long and give equal focus to important and unimportant skills. So here I’m covering just the most important skills that your child really needs.

Disclaimer: I am not a teacher or other professional educator. This list of skills does not constitute professional advice; instead it is mom-to-mom help regarding the basics of school readiness. If you have questions, would like more information, or if you have a gifted child or a child with special needs, contact an educational professional for guidance on this matter. If you don't know where to start, call your local elementary school with your question or request, and they'll make sure you're put in touch with the correct person or information.

1. Knowing how to read.

They say it’s OK if your child doesn’t know how to read entering kindergarten, but beware! Technically it’s true that your child doesn’t need to know, but if that’s the case then your child will start at a disadvantage and be playing catch-up most of the year. Nearly all kids these days go into Kindergarten with some basic reading skills. Reading impacts almost everything else they do in the classroom. For example children may be expected to read simple written instructions on daily activity worksheets, so it’s a huge disadvantage if your child enters Kindergarten without some rudimentary reading skills. Instead, use the summer to at least begin learning how to read.

If you don’t know how to begin, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. It won’t take the whole summer, so don’t stress if you’re only a few weeks away from the start of school. Here’s the parent’s guide to teaching YOUR child how to read and make it fun!

2. Being able to write his or her first name well, and being able to trace letters and/or shapes

Both of these skills must be able to be done relatively quickly and accurately by your child. This doesn’t sound essential but it is: we were caught on the back foot on this one for my second child. We found out by experience that sort-of writing his name and sort-of tracing letters isn’t quite enough.

Fortunately there are plenty of handwriting workbooks especially for this age and stage on Amazon.com

3. Basic counting and sorting

Counting objects from 1 to 20; sorting objects (by shape, color, size etc)

4. Using scissors to cut in a straight line

Children will be expected to cut out and glue things. Don’t worry about going around corners at this point unless your child actually wants to; just make sure your child can handle scissors for cutting paper in a straight line.

5. Removing a specified number of objects from a larger number

For example, giving a child a pile of 20 crayons and asking him or her to take aside 5 of these in a separate pile. This skill is actually much harder than it first sounds for a Pre-K child, but is truly a necessary foundational math skill for Kindergarten. It will make learning math in Kindergarten seem quite natural to your child.

6. Basic daily tasks

  • Being able to walk holding a tray with food on it
  • Able to obey 2-step directions, and ideally some 3-step ones.
  • Putting on and zipping up a jacket him or herself at least some of the time. Even if your child is not 100% consistent with their ability to do it (some days they can get the zipper started, other days not), that’s OK.

That’s all the important skills!

That’s it – those are the most important skills needed going into Kindergarten. If your child has these skills, he or she is in a good place already. If not, teaching the basics of any of these skills is not all that difficult. The biggest one is learning how to read, which isn’t easy, but I have another article especially for you about how to teach your child to read which makes it easier and fun.

If your child can’t sit still easily, can’t walk in line easily, other things like that, it’s OK: he or she will learn in Kindergarten. But if there are behavioral issues beyond restlessness or excitability, those are things you must address in order to give your child the best chance for learning well. If you have questions, check with a professional, such as an educator or your child's pediatrician.

Can all children achieve these school readiness skills?

Yes, they can! I’m aware that these skills sound a little complex to those who had entered Kindergarten in a slightly different era where few to no skills were required. Rest assured though, this shortlist of skills for school readiness is very achievable by virtually all children so long as you put in the time to help your child learn the skill. This is true even if your child is not especially academically oriented. The only exception I could see would be for some students who may have a learning disability. Even so, some (but not all) special ed students can manage this shortlist of skills prior to entering Kindergarten.

As you can see, the aim here is to make sure your child holds the key to his or her success in Kindergarten. It needn’t take long to teach your child these skills. I am willing to bet he or she has at least one, and probably a lot more, of these skills already.

“My child can do all these skills. What should I do for enrichment?”

Firstly, congratulations to you and your child! OK then, in many Kindergarten curriculums in the US, pattern-matching is seen as a very important early skill. Therefore one of the earliest skills they may teach in the classroom will be a) creating a pattern and b) extending an existing pattern. Eg: A B A B A B ___(child to fill in the blank) The patterns will get more complex, although not vastly so, e.g. A B B A B B A B ____? So pattern matching could be a good general concept to just start getting across your child, initially with something as simple as colors, for example with red and yellow disks. I would not worry however if your child struggles. There will be time enough for learning pattern matching in Kindergarten.

For enrichment beyond that, go with your child’s interests and aptitudes. Get out library books relating to your child’s interests that you can read together, or start a project in that field of study together.

But if your child isn’t having fun with enrichment in the summer before school, drop it – he or she will learn fine in school when the appropriate concept comes up. After all, it’s the teacher’s job to teach Kindergarten, not yours! – your job is just to make sure your child is ready with the basic skills we talked about above. Remember, this is your child’s last summer before Kindergarten, so focus on having fun!


The school readiness skills listed here for those entering Kindergarten are readily achievable.

There are many different guides and opinions as to what skills are truly necessary for those entering Kindergarten. As mentioned early on, this is a practical, parent-approved guide from moms to moms. These are a basic, minimum set of skills your child should need. If you are seeking a very complete list of all possible skills, please contact your local school system or other professional qualified educator.

Rest assured, when you help your child with these skills, you are allowing them to enter Kindergarten to their full potential.

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