New Pacific school

What is the kindergarten readiness checklist?

Kindergarten readiness is a hot buzzword right now in the United States. It’s a product of the overwhelming urge to help kids be academically advanced in school under the misguided notion that “earlier is better.” The logic being imposed on parents is inherently flawed. The earlier a child learns a skill, the better the child will be at that skill does not, unfortunately, hold true. But that’s the bill of goods that parents are sold.

As kindergarten standards became increasingly more academic in the United States over the past decade (the push to have children learning more and learning faster was shoved into preschools. Despite how developmentally inappropriate these standards are, parents (and educators without choice) have bought into the idea that the goal of preschool should be to prepare a child academically for kindergarten. This is a really sad way to look at early childhood education.

While kids are entering kindergarten knowing much more “academic skills” than they did 30 years ago, they lack in so many other areas (areas that will have a major impact on their life in and out of school).

The truth is: kindergarten readiness isn’t as academic as you might think….

Basic academics are not kindergarten readiness. We want to make sure our children are set up for success but we often OVER-value skills we can quantify and measure (like counting and knowing letter names) and UNDER-value the truly important skills which are much more abstract (like executive function skills, self-regulation, reasoning skills and social skills).

Let us go back to remembering that “kindergarten readiness” is about school and life readiness. This is about the whole child and their whole self being ready to take on a life outside their parent(s) and to become great learners, thinkers, and doers. This needs to be about life readiness, not kindergarten academic readiness. CHECKLIST for your new kindergartener:
  • Follow a multi-step direction: “Take off your coat, put it in the cubby, pick out a book and join me on the rug.”
  • Speak to adults (ideally that aren’t relatives): Give them chances to order at restaurants, talk to the cashier at Target, or ask a question to the doctor/dentist/pastor/neighbor. Let them learn to use their voice and find confidence in speaking to others.
  • Know 2-3 strategies to solve peer problems: It’s easy when a parent is around to walk right up to them whenever there’s an issue, have them swoop in with solution ideas, and magically fix it. But that’s not how school or the real-world works. Teach conflict resolution strategies and game plans together.
  • Ask questions to gain more information: Smart people are smart because they ask questions. They do not sit there. They do not hang their head when they do not get it. They are not silent, sitting in their unknowing. Instead, smart people ask. They seek information.
  • Share and take turns (on communal items): “When you’re done, can I have a turn?” “Yes, when I’m done you can have a turn.”
  • Win and lose graciously: Kids have to learn how to both win and lose graciously and with respect. Please let your child lose. Don’t let them win at Go Fish every. single. time. They will not win at everything in school and that is a hard lesson to learn with 20 other kids staring back at you. In life, we do not always win.
  • Listen to a story without interrupting: The ability to sit and listen starts with books. Read picture books at home and ask them to wait until the end for questions or comments. Go to the library for story time. Try reading simple chapter books with limited pictures. Limit screen time-this helps with not depleting their attention span.
  • Be able to self-entertain: Life is inherently boring at times, but we can mitigate this boredom by helping children develop self-entertaining skills. Kids develop much of their self-entertaining skills when they are playing without adults.
  • Know how to fail and try again: Let’s raise kids who know that failing happens, that failing isn’t the end of the world, and that failing means you get to try again. It is okay to fail. Normalize failure. Normalize mistakes.
  • Be able to make a decision: They need to have skills to navigate life without parents hovering over them. Help your child develop their own life skills. If they respond well to choices, give them a few (2-3) options to choose from – let them decide simple parts of their day (like which shoes to wear or what sandwich to make). If they have an idea for how to do something, let them lead. Show them that you value their thoughts and their ideas.
  • Learn to self-regulate: Children need to learn how to navigate big feelings, big emotions, impulses, and their own desires. This is a big part of life, not just kindergarten. Some children may need additional help and that’s okay too. Come up with strategies together for what to do if they feel dysregulated at school, like hugging their body and taking 3 big breaths or taking 5 sips from their water bottle. This is not about learning to hide your emotions. It is about learning how to convey your feelings in a safe way and keeping others safe from your impulses.”

As you get your child ready for kindergarten, focus on the person they are rather than the academics they know (or don’t know).There are lots of things kids will learn in kindergarten and so many skills to master. Kindergarten will be a year of great growth in your child.

Remember, this isn’t just about today, tomorrow, or the year they’ll have in kindergarten. There is so much life in front of our kids. Let’s help them be ready for all of it.