Kindergarten teachers share advice for parents about school readiness

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As a new school year approaches, parents of rising kindergarteners will naturally have lots of questions about how to best prepare their child for school. Kids come to kindergarten with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and skill levels, so it’s helpful for parents to do a bit of preparation before the school year starts.

In May, The Robertson Center’s Success Academy hosted a live conversation with kindergarten teachers called “The Building Blocks of Kindergarten”, about preparing rising kindergarteners for school. Host Stacey Gershkovich spoke with teachers Cat Romano, Christina Labban, and Aleah Tarnoviski about what skills are helpful for their students to come equipped with before school starts.

What is the goal of kindergarten?

The teachers explain that the purpose of kindergarten is to introduce kids to school, get them excited to learn, and boost their social development. While parents may commonly feel some anxiety over their child’s academic readiness for school, preparing kids for school is more about building their confidence and making sure they’re mentally and emotionally ready for the transition.

The Robertson Center’s Stacey Gershkovich emphasized an important point for parents that each of the teachers reiterated in their own words: “Kids should enter kindergarten excited about being in kindergarten. Everything else will fall into place over time.”

6 practical ways to prepare your rising kindergarten student

The Success Academy teachers gave the following advice for parents looking for practical ways to get their kids ready to start kindergarten:

1. Have them practice reciting basic personal information such as their name, age, and parents’ or guardians’ names. 

2. Have them practice daily tasks independently, like putting on and taking off their coat, unpacking their backpack, and opening and closing their lunchbox.

3. Familiarize yourself and your child with the layout of the school and the way to their class and other important places in the school.

4. Practice saying their teachers’ names, and learn the names of other important members of the school community like the principal and the nurse.

5. Have them practice bathroom and hygiene skills independently, such as washing their hands, zipping their pants, etc.

6. Practice fine motor skills they might use frequently in school like cutting with scissors, coloring, and using a glue stick.

4 ways to mentally prepare your child for kindergarten

However, as the teachers emphasized, emotional and mental preparation are the most important factors in kindergarten readiness. Building a foundation of confidence will help any child succeed, no matter their academic or practical skill levels. Parents can try the following strategies to help mentally prepare their kids for kindergarten:

1. Incorporate reading into your child’s everyday life by reading to them, having them practice reading out loud to you, and having them read quietly on their own.

2. Read books and watch media featuring stories about school — particularly the first day of school. This can help kids visualize and look forward to starting kindergarten.

3. Empower kids to speak up for themselves — teach them to talk about their feelings, set firm boundaries, and tell an adult if someone crosses those boundaries.

4. Try role playing different social scenarios with your kids to help them plan and cope ahead with tricky situations.

Kids’ enthusiasm for learning and participating in school is far more important than any practical or academic skills they might come prepared with at the beginning of the school year. As parents start thinking about ways to get their kids ready for kindergarten, the best place to focus their energy is on building confidence and excitement for school.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.