Tons of workbook and worksheet companies, and even teachers might be mad at me for telling you this secret…. There is no such thing as kindergarten readiness. Kindergarten teachers and classrooms are designed to meet your child where they are and support them in their development to teach them how to be a student and the foundational academic content needed for success. In today’s blog post, I’m going answer the most common questions I get from parents about skills for kindergarten readiness.
Why is being “kindergarten-ready” a myth?
Millions of dollars are made every year catering workbooks and worksheets to parents telling them what skills for kindergarten readiness their child needs. Parents want what’s best for their child! They want their child to succeed academically and they don’t want them to struggle. But workbooks are NOT the way to do this. Children need quality time with the adults in their life. They need time to play together, read together, and converse. Children also need opportunities for productive struggle – it’s how they learn. They also learn best through play and hands-on experiences… workbooks are NOT the solution to giving your child critical learning experiences and helping them to get ahead.
Speaking for myself, I would rather have a new kindergarten student that is curious and excited about learning and can share ideas and toys with their peers and is a kind friend and respectful listener, as opposed to a new kindergarten student that can already read and write but isn’t able to play or work with another student. Most often in kindergarten, when students arrive with strong academic “kindergarten readiness” skills, they are often lacking in social-emotional skills. While these skills don’t show up in standardized tests, they are the skills most important for a successful life.
“Kindergarten is the new first grade”
The other reason that “kindergarten readiness” is a myth is the push-down that kindergarten has experienced in the past couple decades. “Kindergarten has become the new first grade” – heard that one before? I remember learning to read in first grade… now we have students leaving kindergarten being able to read. Kindergarten has become more and more academically focused and the play-based learning and the developmentally appropriate focus have been pushed aside, despite many kindergarten teachers pushing back. This push-down to “academicize” kindergarten is starting to trickle down to preschool now… preschools are become more and more academic.
My child doesn’t know all their letters – are they ready for kindergarten?
YES! Knowing all their letters is technically an end of the year benchmark for kindergarten! While a majority of my students come to school knowing most of their uppercase and about half of their lowercase letters, it is certainly not a requirement! All the activities we do will support students with whatever their background knowledge is of letters. I would say the most important letters to know are the letters in their name – that’s where they start their learning of letters and sounds.
You can playfully include foam letters in their tub, magnetic letters on the fridge, or have alphabet books and cards in their library to explore with. When letting them play with shaving cream, sand, or paint, encourage them to try writing different letters. When letters are included in everyday life and used playfully, your child will have a good exposure before learning them more explicitly in kindergarten. If your child does know all their letters – great! We will meet them where they are! But please know, it is in no way a kindergarten readiness skill requirement!
My child can’t read yet! Are they ready for kindergarten?
YES! Learning to read will happen IN kindergarten! They definitely don’t need to know how to read before starting! I want them to love books and stories before they come to kindergarten. Read WITH them. Talk about the books you are reading. Take trips to the library and pick out new books often!
So, what DO they need to know before kindergarten?
Nothing! There is nothing they absolutely NEED to know before arriving to kindergarten. However, there are certain things you can focus on with your child before they start kindergarten. You can encourage independence. Can they ask for help, go to the bathroom independently, or dress themselves independently? You can encourage social and emotional development. Can they share toys with others? Can they play independently and cooperatively with others? Finally, it’s not necessary, but it is very helpful when students come to kindergarten knowing how to write and read their name. This way they can easily find their materials and spaces in the classroom, as well as write their name on their projects and activities.
What else can I do this summer to get ready?
You can do a lot with your child to get ready! You can read WITH your child! Read lots and lots of books! You can count WITH your child! Count their toys, count their snacks, count their steps, count authentically with them! You can play WITH your child! Follow their lead! If you want to learn more about playing with them at home, check out this post on dramatic play at home. You can make art WITH your child. Give them experience to scissors, glue, markers, etc. before coming to kindergarten. You can talk WITH your child! Let them learn how to take turns in a conversation and show others you are listening. Provide opportunities to teach them new vocabulary words.
Kindergarten readiness skills is a myth. Your child does not need to be ready to enter kindergarten. However, there are several things that you can focus on the summer before going in to kindergarten to help them be independent, respectful, and curious and excited learners!