By Elizabeth Wotherspoon

In my experience, a big stressor for parents is the concern that their child is not “ready for kindergarten.” This looks differently for everyone, some parents may be worried that their child mumbles through the L-M-N-O-P cluster in the alphabet song and others might be concerned with counting, colours, and writing skills. So, what exactly is your child required to know before entering Kindergarten?

After an extensive search for Kindergarten readiness checklists and articles that state what a child needs to know before entering Kindergarten, I came up short. The only identified requirements for a child to have met before entering Kindergarten is that they must be at least 4 years old on or before March 1st to start Kindergarten in September of the same calendar year.

With that in mind, starting Kindergarten is a big step and there are some things you can do to help your child adjust to starting school!

  1. Encourage your child to get dressed alone, including putting on shoes (remember, the laces might still be tricky).
  2. Take your child to the school playground.
  3. Encourage your child to follow 3-step directions. Example: “Find your crayons, make a picture, and bring it to me.”
  4. When your child comes home from school, avoid open-ended questions and ask specific ones instead. Example: “Tell me about the story your teacher read today.”
  5. Establish a consistent bedtime for your child.

Kindergarten has a curriculum, and even though there are no prerequisites for Kindergarten, here are some things you can do at home while your child is learning at school.

Children learn some basic colours and shapes in Kindegarten. You can help your child become more aware of colours and shapes in the following ways:

  • Give your child options that require him or her to label colours. Example: “Do you want to wear the blue sweater or the red sweater?”
  • Be a shape and colour detective while you’re walking around the neighbourhood. See who can find the most shapes and colours.
  • Make Play-Doh at home, experimenting with food colouring and creating different shapes.
  • Get your child to help with sorting laundry by matching socks by size and colour.

Kindergarten introduces the letters of the alphabet and the sounds those letters make. You can increase your child’s awareness of letters and sounds in the following ways:

  • Trace letters with your finger on each other’s backs and guess what letter has been traced.
  • Have your child think as many rhyming words as possible for simple words like “cat” or “bee.”
  • As your child prints their name on crafts and cards, say the correct letter name.

In Kindergarten, some base skills for math are introduced such as, counting groups of objects from 1-10, learning about patterns, and learning about measurements. You can help your child become more aware and interested in math at home by:

  • Counting the plates with your child as you set the table.
  • Baking together using words such as “empty”, “full”, “more”, or “less” as you add ingredients.
  • Playing games like “Snakes and Ladders”, “Memory”, and “Go Fish.”
  • Encouraging your child to look for patterns in his or her clothes and around the house.

Kindergarten is an important time for your child to develop friendship skills. They are learning to show a positive and caring attitude toward others. You can help your child develop and practice his or her social skills by:

  • Allowing/encouraging your child to have a play date and share toys.
  • Encouraging your child to help friends or family members by doing things like holding a door open.
  • Getting your child to help with making supper by giving him or her simple jobs. While doing this, talk about the names of the foods and utensils being used.
  • Encouraging your child to create cards or gifts (something special) for friends and family members

Children start to learn about science by investigating living things in Kindergarten. You can help your child learn more about living things by:

  • Having your child name each animal while looking at pictures in books or on a trip to the zoo. Talk about where the animals live, what they might eat, and the noises they make.
  • Read simple stories to your child. After reading the story, ask what happened at the beginning, middle, and end, of the story.
  • Making animal puppets out of paper bags or socks and have a puppet show.

In Kindergarten, children learn about time. They talk about the days of the week, months of the year, and the seasons. You can help your child become more aware of time in general and the seasons by:

  • Using a calendar at home to talk about the day, date, and month of the year.
  • Go for a walk and look for signs of autumn, winter, and spring.
  • Go on a treasure hunt for different sizes and colours of leaves and pinecones and then make a craft out of them.
  • Have your child help you rake the leaves in your yard. Have fun jumping in the leaves, throwing, and catching them.
  • Have your child help you shovel the sidewalk.
  • Playing in the fresh snow. Making different footprints, snow angels, and snowmen and going tobogganing.
  • Making paper snowflakes.
  • Encourage your child to talk about the changes they can find outside (e.g., the snow is melting, the leaves are growing, the grass is getting green) in spring.
  • Encourage your child to hang up this or her jacket and hang their jacket when they come home from school to develop a sense of responsibility at home.

Now that you know there are no requirements (other than age) to be ready for Kindergarten, you can send your little one of to his or her first day of school with confidence. Have fun and enjoy this exciting time in your child’s life!