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What are Some Things Children Should Know Before Starting Kindergarten?

By Jessica Hobby
Updated May 16, 2024
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When parents are preparing their children for starting kindergarten, there are numerous things that schools want children to know before they start. Depending on the part of the world where children start kindergarten, they must be around five or six years old. Different countries have different prerequisites for a child entering school, so it is important for parents to check with their child’s school for a specific list of requirements for starting kindergarten.

Although schools differ across the globe, reviewing the common skills required prior to starting kindergarten will give parents a good starting off point. Children entering kindergarten need pre-academic skills in reading, writing, and math. In addition they should know some items about safety, health and nutrition, responsibility and social skills.

Children starting kindergarten do not have to completely know how to read, however, they should have a good start. They should be familiar with numerous books and stories, know the alphabet and be aware of the direction that words are read on a page. Children should also be able to speak in five or six word sentences, tell stories, ask questions and they should be able to read their own name before entering school.

In regards to writing skills, children should know how to properly hold a crayon, pencil or marker. In addition to being able to write their own name, they should be able to draw simple recognizable pictures of people, places and things. Children should also know basic colors when they are drawing. Because drawing coincides with writing, a child learning how to properly use scissors and glue or paste also necessary.

The math skills that are required for children prior to starting kindergarten consist of learning numbers 1 to 10 or 1 to 20 and understanding how they work. For example, one finger is 1 and two fingers are 2. Children entering school should also know basic shapes and understand the concepts of less and more.

For safety purposes it is required in many schools that children entering kindergarten know their full name, address, phone number, parents’ or guardians’ names and place of employment and the location of the school by either walking or driving. Children starting kindergarten should also know where their bus stop is and how to cross the street and look both ways. The most important safety item that children should learn before starting school is how to contact a safe adult when there is an emergency.

Other important skills for children to know before starting kindergarten are connected with health and nutrition. Children should know to wash their hands before and after each meal and to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough. Pre-kindergartners should also be able to pick healthy foods from the basic food groups.

Prerequisites for kindergartners that are a bonus have to do with responsibility and socialization. It makes life much easier on teachers and other adults throughout the day if children starting kindergarten are able to dress and undress without assistance, tie their own shoes and put on footwear. Children should be able to share and play nicely with other children in their age group and above all else, follow rules and directions that are given by an adult.

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Discussion Comments

By Tabes — On Oct 27, 2012

I also feel compelled to comment on post no. 11. Hopefully, this was just a teacher's acute visceral reaction to the negative public school post and this teacher does not actually think their job ends when the bell rings. If you want a job that ends when the bell rings, I suggest you find one working on the assembly line or stocking shelves.

It may have been more helpful to explain how after the children leave, teachers still have a lot of work to do and often families who need them at home. It is rude and unacceptable for parents to expect teachers to watch children after school is let out.

By Tabes — On Oct 27, 2012

I love the third paragraph from Anon 136415. I have a stubborn 3 year old. The key to learning at this age seems to be play. I have failed multiple times over this past year to sit down and formally teach him something.

Most recently, I tried to teach him to catch a ball. (I know, not one of the listed skills.) I tried at first on level ground, but he lost interest almost immediately. The next day, when I came home from work he asked, "Do you want to play catch?" He then took a bunch of balls to the landing half way down to the basement and directed me to the bottom of the stairs. He proceeded to throw all of his balls to me, so I could catch them. I tried to get him to catch the easiest ball, but was mostly unsuccessful. He wanted to throw the balls and when I tried to get him to catch more, he would find something else to do. I eventually decided to let him throw and retrieve the balls because he loved it so much. After about a week of this, he walks down to the bottom step just in front of me and lay down on it. I tossed the ball up the stairs, against the wall, so it bounced back over his head and I caught it. He started to laugh. I threw it again so it would land on him. When it hit him, he started to giggle uncontrollably. He enjoyed this so much all he wanted to do was lie on the bottom step and have me try to bounce the ball so it would hit him.

At first, I loved that he was having so much fun. Over time, I began to worry that I was stunting his development, as he was no longer catching or throwing the ball. I tried to think of ways to get him back to catching and throwing, when he suddenly swiped at an oncoming ball and knocked it into the next room. I yelled, "You smacked it!" He gleefully replied, "I did smack it!" Soon, he was kicking the ball as it came down and then, to my surprise he began to catch it and toss it to me. I suspect, I could have spent the next year battling with him to get him to learn how to catch the ball my way, with little success.

I used to think structure and concentration were most important for learning, but my son is teaching me learning is often best accomplished through parental patience, and fun.

By anon162762 — On Mar 24, 2011

response to post #9: Parents want the schools to be responsible for their children until they decide to pick them up. They know what time school is dismissed, but they come whenever they want to and expect the teachers to wait for them. FYI Parents: Teachers are off work as soon as the bell rings. Start being responsible for your children.

By anon160015 — On Mar 14, 2011

My grandson will need to get on a bus and ride home, in kindergarten. Not all areas of the country are alike. Daycare and preschool teaches kids social skills, so if not that, you better set up playdates.

By anon157654 — On Mar 03, 2011

If the school is doing their job, when should my 5 year old ever be left alone or in a situation to have to know how to get to her house or know her address. But then again, when lately has the public school system done their job? They are too worried about what kind of office chair they are sitting in.

By anon144184 — On Jan 19, 2011

My son is very stubborn, and difficult to teach because of that. It took a year to potty train him, because I guess he wanted to stay Mama's baby boy. He's nearly four, and I haven't got a clue how I'm going to teach him all of this. I was planning on sending him to public school so I could get a part time job and help Hubby with the bills. Now I'm not so sure.

By anon136415 — On Dec 22, 2010

I happened across this article by chance and I'm glad I read it. My son will be starting kindergarten next school year and I was curious as to whether or not he knows the things he should know by the time that comes.

He more than meets the expectations of the kindergarten teachers in my opinion. Heck, his two year old sister more than meets the expectations for that age group and neither of them had any kind of "formal" lessons.

I work with both of them by making learning games out of the simplest things like putting away their toys, story time, etc. That's how they both learned to count and to recognize shapes and colors.

The only thing I have left to teach him is our home address, but that will be difficult since we are a military family and move around a lot. My husband can't even remember our home address half the time. haha.

It's comforting to know that my children are on track as far as what is expected, but I do agree with those who say it is a lot to be expected to learn. Kindergarten isn't what it used to be, but unless you plan to homeschool (which is an option I have been considering for our family), you'll want your children to know these things to keep up with their peers.

By anon134536 — On Dec 15, 2010

I don't think this is asking too much. My daughter knows the majority of this stuff and she's 3. She still has 2 years before kindergarten and I believe that is more than enough time for her to learn. I agree that not every kid is going to ride a bus but a child would only benefit from knowing to look both ways before crossing a street and knowing their address and phone number

By anon132582 — On Dec 07, 2010

Well I am glad I am homeschooling my son. They are asking too much for them to learn by K.

By anon122008 — On Oct 26, 2010

I don't know how to say it but these days, the kids they do learn a lot in kindergarten. To know how to read by december is a lot for me to think about for a 5-6 year old child. I would like them to socialize more, like one of you said, and I do not understand why there is so much rush for them to learn how to read and do stuff so early and at one point they stop.

I am from Europe and there the schools are very strict and hard and academic. most of the people go to university and college and start kindergarten and first grade smooth and take it step by step.

Please help me out and tell me if is right to push a kid so young to read, by december? Thank you!

By anon104430 — On Aug 16, 2010

Great article! I wish kindergarten was still for socialization skills and preparing for learning. Now in kindergarten they are expected to go to school for seven hours with no nap and be able to read by December or they are labeled behind in school.

I remember kindergarten and loved it but I am terrified what my six year old will be made to do. My mother-in-law taught kindergarten up until last year when she retired and she agrees that the kindergarten of today is like the end first grade and the beginning of second grade from the 70s.

I have a problem with us pushing too much on children and not allowing them to be children and I am an educator.

By latte31 — On Jul 08, 2010

Sunny27- I agree. I drive my kids to school, even though bus service is an option. I do not feel comfortable having my child ride a school bus at that age, much less cross the street alone. That level of independence is required much later in a child’s academic career.

I think the purpose of kindergarten is the development of social skills with the introduction of academics. Children learn to wait their turn and be respectful of others. These skills make learning easier because the teacher can focus on the lesson at hand rather than the discipline that takes time away from the instruction.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 08, 2010

Great article- But I have to disagree with one point. Kindergarten children do not need to know where the bus stop is.

Most kids this young are usually accompanied to school by a parent or at least an adult. I can not think of a circumstance, in which my child walked to a bus stop alone or even crossed the street alone.

While I agree that knowing their phone number and address is helpful, a school should have this data on file in case of an emergency.

The school office will contact parents if there is a problem, as most kids that age are not going to remember such significant details.

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