What Skills Does My Child Need to Start Kindergarten in the Fall?

Can you believe that your baby is old enough for public school? You know the kind that you don’t need to pay for? Seriously, daycare and preschools are expensive, right? More important than the savings, starting kindergarten is a big milestone for both children and their parents. It can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is ready for this next step in their education. But what exactly does that mean? Every child is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, I will cover the most important topics to consider when making this HUGE decision: start now or delay one more year?

What does my soon to be kindergartner need to know? You can use this article as a kindergarten readiness checklist. But you may be surprised, it is not just about the academics:

Social Skills

The ability to socialize and get along with other children is one of the most important skills your child can have when starting kindergarten. After all, they will be spending most of their day with their peers. For many littles one this may be a big adjustment if they haven’t been in a school setting.

Some things you can do to help your child in this area are:

-Encourage playdates with kids in the neighborhood

-Sign them up for group sports or other extracurricular activities to:

– Build friendships

– Practice following rules and respecting authority

– Help them understand emotions by labeling them and talking about how they make people feel. For example, “I see you are feeling frustrated. It’s okay to be frustrated, but we need to use our words to solve the problem.”

-Sign them up for a church play group class

Communication Skills

One of the most important skills for kindergarteners is being able to communicate effectively with their teachers and classmates. You want your child to feel safe. If they can communicate their basic needs, it will make for a smoother transition. Work on their language skills throughout the summer.

  • Can they tell the teacher that they need to use the bathroom? Get a drink? etc
  • Can they follow multi-step directions?
  • Are they able to sit for short periods to listen to a story or talk to you?
  • Do they know and use good manners?

Phonological Awareness

One of the most important building blocks for reading is phonics. Phonics is the ability to hear and say the individual sounds that makeup words. Your child will learn about letter-sound relationships and how to put those sounds together to read simple words in kindergarten. Don’t worry, if they can’t do this yet. Your child will learn the basic skills for reading in kindergarten. Here are a few important new skills you can work on before then:

Ask yourself:

  • Can your child identify some capital letters and lowercase letters?
  • Can they name the letters of the alphabet without singing?
  • Can they identify any letter-sound relationships?
  • Do they know the letters in their own name?
  • Can they write their first name? full name?
  • Can they identify rhyming words?
  • Do they have the ability to segment spoken words into individual sounds (phonemes)?
  • Do they have the ability to blend individual sounds (phonemes) together to make a word?

Don’t panic, if they make mistakes. But ask yourself, how are they progressing in these areas? Download this comprehensive ebook and practice ALL the skills before kindergarten.

Reading Readiness

Do you read at home with your little one? What are their favorite books? After you read a story with your preschooler, ask your child questions about the story. Build their listening comprehension skills, before they head to circle time at school.

Before reading questions:

What do you think the story will be about?

Do the pictures gives us any clues?

Does the title help you to figure out who or what the story will be about?

During reading questions:

What do you think will happen next?

Who is the story about?

Do you notice a problem in the story?

Do you like the main character? Why or why not?

Would you do the same things as…. Why?

What do you notice in the pictures?

After reading questions:

Who was your favorite character and why?

What was your favorite part of the story and why?

Make up your own story, using the same characters and settings, but with a different ending.

If your child is not where they need to be developmental, don’t worry. You still have time to work on these skills at home and they will learn a wealth of information when they start formal school. The teacher does not expect that your child comes in knowing everything. Every child will come to kindergarten with a different set of important skills.

boy in blue and white crew neck t-shirt reading book

Suggested book titles: A Few Of Our Family Favorites:

Mathematical Thinking

Practice counting. Kindergarteners need to be able to count to ten. On our family car rides Gianna (age 10) asks Kristen to count to 100. It is always makes me happy to hear Gianna helping and teaching her little sister. She will model how to count and then Kristen repeats. Kristen can’t get to 100 yet, and she is starting school in the fall (2022).

But I am not worried that my four-year-old can’t count that high. I enjoy hearing the two of them bicker about what comes after 29. They are talking and not on their electronics, so I listen and enjoy the ride. The bottom line is as long as your child can count to ten then he/she is in fantastic shape.

Speaking of shapes, can your child identify basic shapes and colors? You can even start working on shape patterns with them over the summer before school.


Can your child take care of his/her personnel belongings? Their kindergarten teacher doesn’t expect them to be perfect. Think basics. School may be the first time they are away from a parent. Encourage independence.

  • Can they open their own juice box? Snack?
  • Can they put on their shoes and socks?
  • Can they zip up their coat?
  • Can they use the restroom independently?
  • Do they know how to wash their hands properly (for at least 20 seconds)?

If they can do some of these things, then they are in good shape for kindergarten. But if not, DO NOT PANIC. The teachers and staff will nurture and love your bundle of joy. Every teacher I know is sensitive to the needs of children starting kindergarten. We welcome and love the little ones into their first year of formal school.

These are all things that you can work on with your child over the summer. Kindergarten is such an exciting time for both child and parent. But it can also be a little scary. You want to make sure your child is as prepared as possible before making that huge transition from home to school.

Should I wait a year to send my child to kindergarten?

Kindergarten is a big deal. You know your child best. If you are really feeling reluctant and you want to hold your child back a year, then listen to your gut. Research studies have shown that there are mental health benefits of delaying kindergarten. The study, aptly titled, “The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health,” was published Oct. 5, by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “According to the study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee, children who started kindergarten a year later showed significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity, which are jointly considered a key indicator of self-regulation. The beneficial result was found to persist even at age 11.”

Some parents want to give their children the gift of time, and that is okay. A great way to think about this is to go with your instincts! No one knows better than Mom or Dad.

Mentally Prepare Yourself for Your Child to Go to School

woman holding kid at the street
Keep Smiling Mama

Okay, your child may be ready. But are you? It will be a new adventure for the both of you. Start talking about school with your child. Be positive. Highlight all the benefits of attending a new school. They will make life long friends. It is a journey of lifelong learning.

It will be a year of firsts for you and your child. If you are a nervous wreck, try not to let on. Your child will read you and respond. If your school doesn’t have a kindergarten visitation, call the school. I am confident the District will accommodate you.

You can cry all you want when they go, but try to hold back those tears until they confidently walk into that building. I promise you Mama, they will be okay.

If you have a child starting kindergarten in the fall, I hope this article has helped to ease some of your fears and given you some ideas of skills to work on over the summer. Your child is going to do great.

Let me know in the comments below if I can answer any of your questions xo, from Modern Mama Melissa

Every child is different and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

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  1. This is such an informative post! I wish my parents had read this, especially about the importance of social skills! ‍♀️These tips would have definitely helped me avoid the though journey I took to overcome socially awkwardness and anxiety! The formative years are what matter the most!

  2. This is a very informative post! My daughter is going to start kindergarten soon, so I’ll be needing some of these tips! From what I have read, I think my daughter is ready, but I’ll have to consider some of the other questions too. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. I taught kindergarten for 20 years and I must admit, this is a great list of suggestions. Fostering a love for books by reading at home is the best way to get kids excited about school. It is such a magical year.

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