Keys to Kindergarten: Is my child ready?

Help your child get ready for kindergarten by supporting development in 4 key areas.

Learning Stages

By Becca Ross

Kindergarten & First Grade Teacher

Becca is a schoolteacher and blogs at She loves to cook, bake, garden, sew, quilt, teach and simply spend time with her family. She strives to find art in everyday things.

Getting ready for kindergarten? It’s an exciting time! Whether your child is nervous, excited or a combination of both, there are a few things you, as parents and caregivers, can do to help prepare your child for the academic challenge of a kindergarten classroom.

The new kindergarten classroom

Times have changed since you and I were in kindergarten! It’s no longer storytime, a few letter sounds and then time to go home. I should know! I’m a kindergarten teacher and mother of two school-age kids. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that kindergarten is becoming the new first grade. Standards are changing, academic rigor is increasing, and sometimes parents are shocked at the increased pressure children are facing at such an early age.

In my home state of Washington, incoming kindergartners are assessed in social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, the arts, and English language acquisition skills. Wow! 

Only three-quarters of students demonstrate the appropriate level of readiness in social-emotional and cognitive skills, and in math, only about half do.

What does readiness look like?

It goes without saying that all parents hope their kids are ready, but what does this actually mean? Let’s look at Literacy, for example. Incoming students should be able to:

  • Notice and discriminate rhyme, alliteration and smaller units of sound
  • Identify and name letters and use letter-sound knowledge 
  • Appropriately handle books and demonstrate concepts of print
  • Interact during read-alouds and book talks
  • Use emergent reading skills
  • Retell stories
  • Write their name
  • Write to convey meaning

Having these skills even BEFORE starting kindergarten allows teachers to focus on more difficult skills during the kindergarten year. The Common Core Standards have been adopted in 45 states. The Common Core are a set of standards for grades K-12 which will prepare students for college or career. In writing, for example, according to the Common Core, a kindergarten student should be able to use a combination of drawing, dictating and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened. In reading, students will read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding. That’s a big jump from the good-old-days of play, rest, learn a few letters, and have a snack!

Keys to kindergarten readiness

Knowing that kindergarten is more academically challenging than it once was is the first step in helping your child prepare. When my own kids were entering school, my mind went first to making sure my kids knew their letters and letter sounds before kindergarten. The other areas can sometimes feel like a mystery. What else can parents do to support their child’s development and level of kindergarten readiness? Kindergarten readiness doesn’t have to look like a child sitting down with a workbook, practicing letters and numbers. There are four key areas which parents can focus on to support their child’s development, and the exciting part is that they are really fun!

  1. Vocabulary and Oral Language Development
  2. Attention to Sensory and Visual Detail
  3. Small Motor Control
  4. Social-Emotional Skills