Last week we attended Welcome To Kindergarten night at the school. Yes, our little Frannie is starting JK in 4 short months. Not only did we go to this function, but we actually argued over who was going to get to take Frannie, as siblings were discouraged from coming, and someone had to watch Maggie. Bear in mind that we are both teachers, (I’m even at the same school Frannie will attend), and we have a pretty good understanding of what goes on. However, we are clearly keener first-time parents who didn’t want to miss it, so we ended up getting a sitter. I was glad we did though, as almost every child arrived with both parents, and everyone respected the “no siblings” recommendation.

Among the parents, there was a lot of discussion and many questions about kindergarten readiness. As a primary teacher, I am often asked by friends, family and my readers what kids need to know and be able to do before starting school, so I hope this post topic will be helpful to many. I also bugged Frannie’s future teacher (who knows something about it, having taught the grade for 20 years) to get some insider information — because let’s be honest, we all want to know how our child compares.


Before starting school, and even in kindergarten, play is preferable to flashcards and academic drills. A ton of learning can be done through exploration and  role-play, so you’re a good mom if you let your kids play. A lot. Through play, kids also have a natural opportunity to learn about their environment (colours, shapes, nature, weather), so try answer their questions as much as possible as they explore. Play should be the basis of the development of the next four categories.

I know my girls play a lot, and learn while doing, both at daycare and at home. My weakness though is actually taking the time to engage with them. It always seems like there is something more pressing to do, but I am trying to make more time for fun with my kids. It’s a pretty painfree investment in their development.


This comes as no shocker, I’m sure, but you should read to your children often. Research shows a direct correlation between kids’ reading achievement and the number of books they have at home. Our principal mentioned at the Kindergarten night that a child needs to hear 3000 (yes, that says three thousand!) books before being ready to read him or herself. That said, your child does NOT need to be able to read before starting school. The teachers will look after the phonics instruction; your job is to help build readiness. It’s great for kids to know what way to hold a book, that we read left to right, to be able to point out where the words are and where the pictures are, and to turn pages properly. Repetition is important, and there is a reason your child wants to hear the same story over and over (and over…) so indulge her, even when it’s painful for you!

You can already start using orally many of the comprehension strategies we teach in school, such as questioning, predicting, and retelling. At the Kindergarten Night, one of our teachers was at the Reading Centre, and as she read a book (The Hungry Caterpillar) she encouraged the kids to make connections to their lives. At one point she asked the children what they would eat, if they could choose anything in the world, and my people-pleasing and fruit-boycotting daughter announced “apple slices”! Hmm. She’s bright enough to know that she might get praised for that healthy answer…but also a bit of a liar!

You want to instill a love of reading in kids, and not make it any sort of chore or drag. If your child is ready, it’s certainly valuable to work on letter recognition (there are many different games you can make or purchase to help with this – I love the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics and even cheap magnetic letters), and then letter-sound correlations, but don’t rush. If your child can recognize and/or print his or her name before September arrives, that’s a bonus. Games using rhymes will also help develop your child’s literacy skills.

You can google all sorts of pre-reading activities on the net, but aim for the interactive and hands-on stuff, and try to stay away from workbooks and worksheets. I have to admit this one is hard for me even though I am well-versed in educational research, so in the interests of full disclosure I am hereby admitting that Frannie does use letter and number workbooks purchased from the dollar store. She has also learned to print her name, thanks completely to Aunt Rose and her fantastic daycare program.

Insider information: at our school, the majority of JK’s entering in September can identify a quarter to half the alphabet, and very few know letter sounds.

Again, put the flashcards away. Number recognition from 1 to 9 is terrific, and a lot can be accomplished through counting games (discovering one-to-one correlation), measuring while baking, and looking for numbers in the environment (license plate games, on signs, etc.) Frannie has a Princess card game that she loves, where she matches the numeral cards from 1 – 10 with cards showing corresponding numbers of diamonds (they’re princesses, after all!) You can also match up cards where the numbers are written in words, but she’s nowhere ready for that yet. Knowledge of shapes also fits in under Mathematics.

Insider information: The majority of beginning students can identify numerals 1 to 5, and count to 10.


Here’s what to work on before September:

-independent toileting
-opening and closing snack/lunch containers and packaging
-tying laces, zipping coats, doing buttons

-blowing nose
-gross motor skills such as skipping and hopping on one foot
-fine motor skills: use of pencil, crayons and scissors (working with play doh is fantastic for finger control and coordination, and helps prepare your child for writing)

On another physical note, you should ensure that your child has all necessary immunizations before starting school.

Insider information: Most students start school holding a pencil with a functional grip, and cutting with scissors properly, but not perfectly.


Many would argue that this is the most important aspect of preschool and the kindergarten program. Children at this age are learning to regulate their own behaviour, and therefore need practice with the following (again, remember that there are many games you can play at home to reinforce these skills, with a wealth of resources available on the internet):
-taking turns
-paying attention for short periods of time (e.g. for stories)
-using manners (kids love to role-play “don’ts”, followed by well-praised “dos”)
-sharing (socialization with other children is important for this one)
-following one and two step oral directions
-using oral language to converse with others
-cleaning up after self

Your child’s future academic success will be determined in part by his enthusiasm towards school and learning, so get him off to a good start. Visit the school in advance, get as much information as you can from his teacher, and start him off with a routine right from the beginning. A good night’s sleep and a full breakfast are always important, and kindergarten teachers recommend that if your child will be taking the bus, send her off that way right from Day 1. Personal drop-offs and pick-ups can be an occasional treat, but children do better without an emotional parent hovering at the classroom door. Teachers are well-practised in dealing with tearful little newcomers…it’s the tearful big ones who pose more of a problem!

So, now that you’ve taken all that in, how do you feel? You’re probably already doing most, if not all, of these things, and still wondering if your child is ready. By these standards, I know Frannie is all set, partly because she is a March baby, and a girl. She definitely requires some work on sharing and taking turns, though — I think our little chatterbox is in for a rude awakening when she realizes that she won’t be allowed to just talk when she wants to, and that she will have seventeen other four year olds vying for the teacher’s attention! Let me be honest, though. I’m not aspiring for my child to just meet minimum standards, I want her to excel, (do any of you disagree?), so we will continue to work on letter and number recognition and printing her name throughout the summer as well.

We have to remember that kids develop at different levels. Although we are not “supposed to” compare, I note with interest of all of the differences between Frannie’s and Maggie’s developments, and how they compare to their peers as well, but the intellectual side of me knows it’s okay that they don’t necessarily achieve milestones at the same rate, especially at such a young age.

I sent this post to my colleague for her approval, and when she sent it back with the “thumbs up”, she also made the following comment, which sums things up so beautifully that I will let her have the last word:

“As parents and educators, we always have to remind ourselves to let our children be children. There are so many pressures put on today’s children, and they are little for such a very short period of time. I truly believe they will reach their potential in the early years with endless love, support, and kindness. The world is huge in their eyes, and it’s sometimes the adults who have to be reminded how precious these years are, and to celebrate all their grand successes. I just believe in nurturing well-rounded children who have a great love and passion for life. I truly love watching children who believe everything is possible. It’s so delightful to see.”

So, now it’s your turn. If your kids are already in school,  I’d love to hear your kindergarten stories! Did you feel your child was ready, unprepared, or overprepared? Do you have tips for making the experience less stressful for everyone? I’d also be interested to know what concerns you preschool parents have about the impending occasion, or if any other teachers can offer their perspectives. We’re all in this together!

8 comments on “Is Your Child Ready For Kindergarten? (Are You?)”

  1. Thanks for theh post Kate. As you know my son is a December baby and is registered for jk in September with your Frannie and the whole crew of boys:)
    We're still in debate about sending him to school – he seems so young and little to be going to school already.
    Academically, I know he's ready for school (even though he can't write his name as well as Frannie:), he does know all of the letters of the Alphabet and can recognize some of the sounds.
    It's the emotional side that scares me. He still cries when he gets hurt and needs Mommy to kiss him better.
    He's still my little boy who needs Mommy to help get him dressed in the morning – partially because life is crazy in the morning and I don't have time to wait for him to figure it out for himself – this is one of my summer goals, slow down and let him figure it out for himself.

    I think maybe the letting go is the hardest part – I'm quite interested to hear what other parents have to say about this topic…

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mary! BTW – Frannie is pretty good at dressing herself, but my problem is relinquishing the control of clothing choice. If I let her, I am quite sure she would wear a princess dress every day (or a sundress in January, or other inappropriate or mismatched selections) so I still lay everything out for her. And will continue to do so!

  3. Your mom again..after reading what "Frannie"'s teacher had to say in your last words, I am really glad that she will be my granddaughter's first teacher…she really seems to know what is important.

  4. I know my girls were ready. We read all the books, practised the walk to school, takled about new friends, what their day would be like. My advice on that first day of drop off…wear dark sunglasses. No matter how prepared you think you ust might have a wee tear! Most of us do!

  5. Not here yet (with my 1 and 3 yr old) but after reading I feel like I am on the right track… and that I'm right to ignore the housework a little and just PLAY with my little ladies 🙂

  6. Wow! Awesome Post! My Ben will be starting Primary this year (I assume that's the same as Junior Kindergarten) and I worry about him…He's the first I am sending off to 'Big School'. My worry isn't with his acedemics though, I'm worried he'll be bored. He just turned 5 this month and he reads chapter books, does basic addition and subtraction. A great problem solver… He is going into a split class with Primary/Grade 1, which I am thankful for. As the rules changes in the last few years, he'll be one of the older Primary students.

    Where he is a little behind is in socialization. He's great 1 on 1 but if asked a question in a group discussion, he tends to shy away. And he doesn't like to share…hasn't really had to.

    Good luck to your little darling this september!


    Your post was amazing! just what I needed.I just brought my son to his First impressions meeting and he did great…its me that is the worry-wart! Thanks so much for allowing me to recognize that other parents are in the same boat, and that our children are infact ready for JK. Lots of luck!

    btw can I feature this article? so many great facts 😉

  8. I know this is a little late, but thank you for this post. I have a daughter enter Kindergarten in the Fall and I had been feeling all sorts of anxiety about it. My major concern was that she wasn't ready. My sister, who is a Kindergarten teacher, assures me that she will be okay. But as a mom, I feel for her when she cannot recognize some letters in the alphabet or certain numbers. I don't want it to have a negative impact on her confidence if she cannot do certain things and other kids can.

    This post is reassuring and has put a lot of my anxiety at ease. Snuggle Bunny can write her own name, she loves listening to stories, we take frequent trips to the library, and she has a very active imagination….so between those things and the info from this post, I think we will be okay. I have to remember it is a process and children do learn differently and at different rates. Positive reinforcement and repetition are the most important things to consider.

    Thanks again for such a great post!

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