Kindergarten Readiness

Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read

Kindergarten Readiness Skills

Studies show us that being ready for kindergarten can greatly increase a child’s ability to learn and succeed.

Below are 10 skills, crafted by educators and early childhood experts in Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County, that can help your child be kindergarten ready. 

Can your child work on a task on their own?

Do they…

  • Assist with simple chores and tasks?
    Complete one task before moving on to the next?

How can I teach this?

  • Allow them to struggle a bit as they learn – trying to connect the zipper, trying to tie their shoes, etc. Give them specific feedback and encouragement as they work.
  • Talk to them as they work and use their creativity (“You are using a lot of blue, are there other colors you will use?”; “I found these toilet paper tubes, I wonder what we could make with these”)
  • Let your child help – sort and match socks, put away silverware, etc.
  • Give them projects that take time – puzzles, crafts
  • Nurture free play and creativity

Can your child get dressed, put on a coat, and use the bathroom independently?

Do they…

  • Play dress-up?
  • Get dressed and undressed by themselves as much as they can without help?

How can I teach this?

  • Play dress-up together.
  • Pull a zipper off an old pair of pants and have the child practice with it.
  • Make a game out of getting dressed. Help your child count how many items they put on correctly by themselves. It’s okay to let them struggle with zippers or buttons while learning.

Can your child hold a pencil and use scissors?

Do they…

  • Hold a pencil with the tips of the thumb, index and middle finger (tripod grip)?
  • Have strong wrist and hand muscles to open and close scissors?
  • Know their dominant hand?

How can I teach this?

  • Use mazes, dot to dot, tracing, Tic-tac-toe, drawing, coloring, and games instead of worksheets and writing letters to practice!
  • Use short pencils, crayons or chalk to encourage a good grip.
  • Using safety scissors, cut clay or play doh first. Once practiced, move to cutting strips of paper.
  • Practice for 5-7 minutes every day!

Can your child work and play well with others?

Do they…

  • Build blocks with others?
  • Take turns playing catch?
  • Hold hands with an adult while crossing the street?

How can I teach this?

  • Encourage your child to use this language: Can I join you? Can I play too? Can I have a turn? Will you play with me?
  • Use this language as you play with your child too, so they hear it.
  • Be clear with your child about how you expect them to behave.

Can your child talk about and manage their feelings?

Do they…

  • Say, ¨I’m mad, Joey just hit me¨ rather than hitting Joey back?
  • Say, ¨she’s happy¨ when they see a photo of a girl smiling?
  • Name feelings in characters in stories or on TV?

How can I teach this?

  • Help them to connect their actions to feelings words: For example, “you are clapping, that makes me think you are happy”, or “you have a mad face and are stomping your foot, you must be mad!”
  • Teach them strategies to calm down when having strong feelings (fear, anger, over-excitement) – count to 5, take deep breaths, take some time away with a stuffed animal or blanket, encourage them to use words to talk about what happened.
  • Ask your child to name 3 things that happened today that made them happy.
  • Listen to music and talk about how it makes you feel.

Can your child solve problems?

Do they…

  • Rotate puzzle pieces until it fits?
  • Use a variety of materials to construct an object (example: make a boat out of milk cartons, craft sticks, foil, etc.)?
  • Use imaginative play? For example, while playing doctor, do they wrap a doll’s “broken” leg using play objects?

How can I teach this?

  • When completing puzzles, give specific feedback to encourage your child to solve a problem. For example, “Keep turning the puzzle piece to figure out how it fits;” “Find where the colors of the puzzles pieces match up”
  • Provide opportunities for children to create objects using everyday materials
  • Ask open-ended questions when your child has a problem:
    • What do you think would happen if you ___?
    • What else could you do with ____?
    • Can you think of another way to ____?

Can your child maintain attention to a task?

Do they…

  • Provide their undivided attention to one task for 15 minutes?
  • Stick to a routine or schedule?
  • Wait for others to finish talking before jumping into a conversation?

How can I teach this?

  • Play memory games such as red-light-green-light, I-Spy or Simon Says.
  • Break consistently difficult task into smaller pieces.
  • Use clear, specific language when making requests and, if necessary, show them what you want them to do.
  • Activities that have a defined start and end point such as puzzles, construction tasks, mazes, and dot to dots.

Can your child listen and follow directions?

Do they…

  • Pay attention to people, things, or the environment when interacting with others or when engaged in play?
  • Listen and respond when spoken to
  • Listen and follow 2 to 3-step directions?

How can I teach this?

  • Teach your child how to be a good listener by practicing. For example, practice these steps: stop, look at the person talking, wait your turn, and respond.
  • Give instructions step-by-step about transitions during the day like going to bed, taking a bath, leaving the house; and ask your child to repeat the steps as they complete them; using positive praise.
  • Encourage your child to make a pile of pretend food/objects with play dough on their own and then offer them to peers and observe.

Does your child like to listen to stories?

Do they…

  • Ask questions about the story or the characters?
  • Get excited for story time?
  • Have a favorite story that they ask for again and again?

How can I teach this?

  • Read together every day.
  • Be interactive while reading! Ask questions about what will happen next, point out things on the page, and use fun voices to keep your child engaged.
  • Say how much you enjoy reading. Telling your child how much you enjoy reading reinforces the idea that reading is fun.
  • Know when to stop. It’s ok to put the book away if your child loses interest. You can always pick it back up later.

These skills were put together by a team of local early childhood education professionals and experts with direct feedback from Council Bluffs Community School District and Lewis Central Community School educators. Idea adapted from the United Way of the Quad Cities Area.