Starting kindergarten is a major milestone in your child’s life. As parents, we want to do everything we can to make sure our kids are ready for this exciting new chapter. But what exactly should we be doing to set our little ones up for success?

“Basic information a kindergartener should know is their first and last name, age, birthday and parents’ names,” says Teherrah Mathis, kindergarten teacher at College Achieve Public School in
Plainfield, who has worked with kindergarteners and their families for seven years.

“They should also have some background knowledge with identifying and reciting the alphabet, counting numbers up to 20, can say and name basic shapes, listen to a story and retell some details from the story and sort by color, size and shape,” she adds. Parents should also work on making sure their child can hold a pencil or crayon, use the restroom independently and that they know how to put their shoes or sneakers on, Mathis says.

Beyond the basics, there’s much more that kindergarteners should have under their belts on the first day of school. Lindsay Frevert, assistant principal at Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville, says kindergarten readiness encompasses the social and emotional, fine motor and personal skills categories, in addition to academic readiness.

When we think of social-emotional learning, we think of students who have the ability to ask for help and express their own feelings, says Frevert.

Social-emotional readiness also includes:

  • Positive interactions with peers and adults
  • Strategies to cope with various emotions
  • The ability to use social cues appropriately

“I have been teaching kindergarten and first grade for many years and there are several concepts that students should be able to grasp upon entering kindergarten,” says Jacqueline Constantinou, kindergarten teacher at College Achieve Public School in Plainfield.

“Socially, students will learn self-regulation in kindergarten. Self- regulation is a skill that helps students learn to listen actively and react calmly to things that they do not want to hear.” She says practicing self-control is an important skill that can start at home.

“Socially, they should be able to play and share with friends and convey their wants and needs. In addition, they should also be able to follow simple directions.”

Beyond being able to use the bathroom independently, kindergarteners are expected to be able to wash and dry their own hands, Frevert says.

Other skills include the ability to:

  • Zip and unzip a backpack, jacket and pants
  • Develop skills to eventually tie their own shoes
  • Use markers, pencils, crayons, scissors and glue correctly

Your kindergartner should be able to read upper and lowercase letters and write and read their first and last name, says Frevert.

Other skills include the ability to:

  • Count items
  • Write and read numbers to at least 10
  • Answer questions about a story either read to them or one they read
  • Follow multistep directions

“On an academic level, students should recognize their name and be able to write it,” says Constantinou. “Emerging writers are expected to draw a picture to help express ideas.”

As for math skills, Constantinou says in kindergarten kids will start with one-to-one correspondence and number recognition.

“Counting and recognizing numbers upon entering school is a helpful skill to ensure success, as well as understanding the concept of more and less.”

While this may seem like a lot to prepare with your child, Frevert reminds us it’s easy to incorporate a lot of these skills into everyday life.

“Read as much as possible with your child,” she says. “This can even be made-up stories you tell while driving in the car.” Parents can also get their kids ready by always asking them questions and allowing them to do things for themselves.

“Allow your child to zip up their own jacket before assisting,” she says. “When getting a snack, allow your child to practice opening it themselves.”

When driving in the car, you can also point out letters or numbers on signs and ask them the name of the letter or number. You can also practice social-emotional preparedness at home. “If your child gets upset, provide them with the opportunity to share with you what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way,” Frevert says.

Even if your child doesn’t have all of these skills by the first day of school, don’t worry. Kindergarten is a nurturing place and kids learn at their own pace with teachers there to guide the way. And remember, when it comes to getting your child ready for kindergarten and everything that follows, you are their number-one best asset.