Getting Your Child Prepared for Kindergarten

School may be out, but for kids starting kindergarten this fall, now is the time to get ready for the classroom, both physically and emotionally. Kindergarten readiness includes both practical skills that children will need to succeed, as well as social emotional skills that will help them successfully function in a classroom of peers. Parents play a key role in preparing them for that first day, from establishing a routine and easing their fears, to holding a pencil and listening to directions. By helping your child master a few key skills, you can give your child the confidence he or she needs to succeed on his or her first day of school – and every day after!

First 5 San Diego wants every child to enter school healthy and ready to learn, and now is the time to work with them before the big day arrives. Here are some tips to prepare your soon-to-be kindergartner:

  • Talk, Read and Sing to Your Child – It’s crucial for children to have the confidence and ability to use their words. Parents can help develop language skills by having frequent conversations with their child and encouraging him or her to use words to express his or her feelings and reactions to the world around him or her. First 5 San Diego recommends speaking 30,000 words to your child each day. Read to your child for at least 20 minutes every day and talk about the story, the characters, and what happened first, next and last. Sing songs and read stories or poems with rhyming words to expose them to different sounds as they build their vocabulary.
  • Practice “Sharing” – Preschoolers are just beginning to understand the concept of sharing. Parents can make sharing fun by teaching cooperative play, like completing puzzles or building a block tower together. As you’re building the block tower, walk through the concept of sharing by saying, “Now it’s your turn to add a block and then it will be my turn.” Use positive reinforcement to encourage sharing. When you see your child sharing with someone else, point out how she or he made the other person happy
  • 1, 2, 3…Count! – Children entering Kindergarten can typically count to 10 on the first day of class. Teach your child to count by using everyday objects like blocks, buttons, soup cans, or even your child’s fingers and toes! Parents can make counting part of your daily routine by asking your child to count the number of plates needed for dinner or the number of steps you’re climbing together. Or tell your child to pick out “two” books to read before bedtime.
  • My Name is… – Children are expected to be able to print their first name. Start by teaching children how to spell their name when they’re toddlers. Point out the different letters of their name whenever you see them. You can also play word games by saying, “Your name starts with ‘T’ like tiger. What else starts with that letter? “Your child can practice writing their name with their finger to get the feel of the letters. Try spreading shaving cream or sand on a cookie sheet for fun practice. You can also work with your child on the correct pencil grip by encouraging your child to use his or her thumb and index finger to pick up small objects with his or her fingers. This will make your child practice the proper pincer grip. Playing with play dough can also help develop muscles in the hand that are needed for writing or cutting.
  • Listen Well to Learn Better – Kids learn best when they are taught to actively listen when the teacher is speaking to them. Improve your child’s listening skills by encouraging him or her to repeat directions back to you. This will prompt him or her to repeat instructions in his or her mind and then act on them. Use multi-step directions to build your child’s attention span by outlining multiple tasks for them to do, such as “Pick up your toys first, then grab your coat.” Try playing games with your child that require listening and following simple directions. Games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light are fun games that require listening and following directions.

First 5 San Diego’s Healthy Development Services (HDS) offers free parenting classes to help parents and caregivers get their child ready for Kindergarten. Call 1-888-5 FIRST 5 (1-888-534-7785) or visit

Be sure to check us out at events, as we will be featuring our newest book: Potter the Otter Gets Ready for Kindergarten! Events we will be attending are posted on our website calendar as well as our Facebook page.