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“Help! My Kid’s Not Ready for Kindergarten!”

“Kindergarten readiness” is the new obsession nowadays…

But did you ever see this nostalgic kindergarten report from the 1950s, posted on Happy Hooligans?

Ahhh the simple days…

Back in the 1950s, kindergarten was all learning how to tie your shoes and play with clay.

Today, it’s a wildly different story.

Once a wonderful, exploratory childhood experience meant to transition children gently into their school years, the “Big K” today is largely an instruction-based curriculum focused heavily on achievement.

According to a study from the American Educational Research Association, over 80% of teachers believe students should know how to read and write by the end of kindergarten, for example.

So, what’s with all the hype? Is “kindergarten readiness” really that important? Or have we all gone a little too kooky on kinder prep…?

Well, some researchers say that a little readiness may actually pay off.

According to a landmark new study out of Cincinnati just released in February 2020, researchers discovered that children who are ready for kindergarten have a better shot at academic success as much as 10+ years later.

Specifically: The “ready” students were more likely to score well on third and eighth grade tests and ACT exams. They also showed a greater likelihood of graduating on time.

Now, every parent wants to ensure their child is as prepared as possible for school – whether that’s socially, academically, or both. And as exciting of a time this is for new kinder parents, there’s sure to be a lot of worry and hand-wringing over readiness.

Rest assured: Kinder prep doesn’t have to mean running your child through hours of reading and math drills…

Take some time each day to work on these five simple steps below, and you will have all the “readiness” you need. Now you can spend the extra time letting kids be kids!

1. Work on those motor skills: There are few good skills every child should strive to have down before they start kindergarten.

  • Using a pair of scissors: By the time they start kindergarten, kids should be able to hold a pair of scissors and cut a straight line with them.

  • Writing: Children should be able to comfortably hold a pencil and write their own name. It doesn’t need to be the prettiest handwriting, but having a grasp of basic writing skills will help.

  • Dressing themselves: This one is for you and your kids. A kindergartner should know how to dress themselves. This means buttoning and pulling up their pants, zipping their jackets, and tying their shoes.

  • Using objects: Children at this stage should be comfortable with the basic handling of objects. This includes scooping items and pouring liquids.

2. Prepare them socially and emotionally: Every child should have some understanding of basic social and emotional skills when playing with other children. Here are some examples to work on…

  • Problem solving and conflict resolution: Children should have an idea of how to behave in a social situation and be able to solve simple problems or conflicts. A good way to socialize your kids before they start kindergarten is to set up lots of play dates and have them attend preschool or daycare. Putting them in situations with other children and adults (outside of their parents) is an excellent way to develop their social and emotional skills before they start school.

  • Sharing: Help your child understand how to work with other kids their age by teaching them to share their own belongings. It’s important to remember when teaching them to share that they may not always get what they want, and that’s OK.

  • Build their empathy and sympathy: A great way to get children to feel more empathetic and sympathetic is to put things into a perspective they will understand. Use the “Golden Rule” to teach them to treat others the way they want to be treated. Asking your children things like, “How do you think that made someone feel,” or, “How would you feel if that happened to you,” will help your child understand someone else’s perspective and feelings.

3. Read with your children and work on their letter recognition: All children should be read to as often as possible. Make story time a routine with your child and work with them on basic letter recognition. Set a time each day which is devoted to reading stories together at home. This will help prepare your child for sitting still and quietly when story time happens in the classroom.

4. Work on additional academic skills: In addition to reading and writing, a great way to ensure kindergarten readiness is to work on general academic skills. (If the following list makes you anxious about needing to play "catch-up," working with a good, experienced tutor one-time per week can be a great help!)

  • Recognize and name basic shapes

  • Recognize and name numbers 1-10

  • Count to 20

  • Say or sing the alphabet

  • Recognize the letters of the alphabet, in both uppercase and lowercase letters

  • Identify colors, especially those in an 8-count crayon pack

  • Know their first name

  • Write their first name

  • Speak in complete sentences

  • Identify rhyming words

  • Sort items based on size, color and shape

  • Hold a book and turn pages

  • Identify some letters and sounds

5. Play with your child: Imaginative and creative play is so important for children. Incorporate play time in each day – away from digital technologies – to allow your child to tap into their own imagination and creativity. A great way to do this is to have time for crafts or other art supplies. You can also enroll them in organized sports or preschool where they will learn to take turns and wait patiently. In addition to allowing time for free play, you’ll want to integrate structured play as well. This can be as simple as playing a board game or a card game with your child. Playing a game with rules, where there are winners and losers, will teach your child how to deal with disappointment which is an important tool for school.

Finally, before starting kindergarten, it’s a good idea to practice parting ways, especially if your child has spent much of his or her time at home. Soon, your child will spend the entire school day without you! Try enrolling them in daycare, summer camps, preschool and community sports for extended periods of time to get them used to the idea of you leaving and returning later, if they aren’t quite ready for that yet.

There’s no need to be concerned if your child hasn’t perfected everything listed above. That’s what kindergarten is for! The most important thing is that you spend time practicing these skills with them. The better grasp they have on their emotional and academic skills, the quicker they’ll thrive in their new school environment.

Of course, if you feel like your child is falling behind, or want help maintaining or improving your child’s readiness skills, we’re here to help. Jill’s Tutors offers one-on-one private, in-home kinder prep tutoring, along with summer group tutoring, which you can learn more about right here. Give us a call at 512-598-5135, visit, or email us at

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