If you have a child who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall, it is a good time to be thinking about how to prepare for the transition. There are two categories regarding preparedness: how your child will handle the academic piece of school and how they will handle everything else (group settings, being independent, etc.). All schools are going to have different expectations in their curriculum, but here are some basics to consider.
Beginning math, reading, and writing skills will be very important. Students should enter knowing basic counting skills. Rote counting (counting out loud) and counting with one-to-one correspondence (counting specific items) are both important. Students should have some basic letter and sound recognition. Identifying and writing some, if not all, letters of the alphabet will be expected, in addition to identifying letter sounds and rhyming words. The ability to categorize and sort items (round vs. square, big vs. small, etc.) is necessary as well, and starts to develop beginning logic and organizational skills. Knowledge of colors will also be essential for starting Kindergarten.
You can also think about how academics will be presented and what kind of work your child will be doing. Being able to legibly write their name in pencil (with a capital letter at the beginning and the rest in lower case) will be key. There is a great deal of activities involving cutting and pasting paper, so responsible use of scissors and glue is a must. Kindergarten requires a considerable amount of fine motor skills (opening glue, peeling off stickers, buttoning, etc.), so the ability to manipulate all of these small materials independently will help.
Many parents get overly worried about whether their child will be academically prepared for Kindergarten. However, the reality is that there are many other skills that a child will need in order to be successful during their school-aged years, and this can become apparent as early as that first Kindergarten year. All students need to be at least somewhat independent in a large group, and they need to be able to adjust around new people. This means advocating for themselves and knowing how to ask for help when needed. Group social skills like sharing, listening, initiating a conversation, waiting for your turn, etc. will be necessary. For Kindergartners, their adaptive skills (practical, everyday skills needed to function and meet the demands of one's environment) should be at an independent level as well. They need to be able to eat, go to the bathroom, put on their coat, etc. by themselves the vast majority of the time. Word to the wise - don’t buy your child any clothing, shoes, or food items that they cannot open/close/take off/put on completely independently.
Talk About It
Nothing prepares children more than talking about what is to come and exposing them to new experiences. Even if your child has been in daycare, a change to a new environment can be scary. Exposure to different learning experiences, even day or week-long ones, will be good for them and help them get used to new settings and realize that different doesn’t always mean bad or scary. Talking up Kindergarten as being fun and exciting will be a good way to eagerly await the arrival of the first day.
A good Kindergarten readiness checklist can be found at this link (PDF).
If you have concerns that your child is of age for Kindergarten but may not be ready, you may want to consult your pediatrician and/or the school you plan to enroll in.