Got a little one who’s becoming not-so-little anymore and heading off to kindergarten soon? You’ll want to make sure your child is well prepared for the new adventures and challenges that this next schooling step presents for them!
While our minds may first go to letters and numbers and all the “academic” knowledge they should have under their belt before kindergarten, we shouldn’t forget that there are other important skills kids should have mastered by the time they go to school - like self-care and self-help skills.
We asked our Preschool Director Kayla Holod and our long-time Kindergarten teacher Jackie Lake to tell us what things are important for kids to know beyond the “book smarts” before their foray into kindergarten, and they gave us a handy “top ten” list of basic skills they’d look for. Summer is a great time to develop these abilities together with your kiddos, so take a look and get some ideas!
10 Self-Help Skills Every Child Should Master Before Kindergarten
It's important to teach your kids the importance of washing hands properly and when to do it. We all know how rampant those germs can run during the school years!
- Kids should make it a habit to wash their hands:
- After potty time
- Before meals
- After playing with messy things
- Make this fun and on their level. Sing songs like the alphabet or twinkle, twinkle little star (or another favorite) to help them stick with the sudsing for the appropriate amount of time.
- Have them make bubbles on the tips of their hands as well as the bottoms and I between their fingers so they clean their entire hand.
- Don’t forget proper drying techniques (ie, not their pants or shirts)! Remind them to use a towel or a dryer (though we know some kids are more traumatized than others by those loud hand dryers, which is just fine!).
Using the potty
Ah, potty training. A source of strife for many a family. Take a deep breath and realize that you and your child really are on the same team with this. Potty training can quickly become a (messy) power struggle under the wrong conditions and with certain personalities, and parents, you can be encouraged to relax and let your child grow into it at their pace. Rest assured, no matter how frustrating it can get when your three year old is in diapers, they won’t be going to kindergarten in diapers. Kids develop at their own pace, and yours will, too. A couple of tips to keep in mind:
- Boys tend to take a bit longer than girls to get potty trained.
- Lead by example. Daddys can show boys how to use the potty and mommys can show girls.
- Since preschoolers love doing things themselves (knows every parent who’s had to endure long minutes of waiting for a child to finish their buttons when they’re already late), allow them to pull down their pants and pull them back again and do as much as they can independently. Show them by placing their hands where they need to be on the sides of their pants to they have the best grip.
- Don’t forget to flush! Many kids walk away without remembering to flush it down, so help them get into the flushing habit.
- Pull ups can sometimes be the enemy, unless it’s for car rides and bedtime. Take a few days to just keep them in underwear and pack lots of extra clothing. They will not like the feeling of wet clothes and will likely learn quickly to recognize their body cues and go and use the potty.
- If they are not verbal or expressive enough to say that they need to use the potty or ask for help, it’s suggested that you wait until they are.
- Allow your young children to take on the role of saying the prayer for one of their meals. This is a great opportunity to continue guiding them into being comfortable talking to the Father.
- Again, lead by example. Show them how to use a fork and butter knife and how you can use the knife to slide food onto their fork.
- If you place food on the table to pass around, allow them to scoop their portion (with guidance), use a smaller plate so they are not inclined to scoop a lot.
It’s important to help children understand their responsibility of cleaning up the mess they make with their toys. After all, in school they will be expected to clean up efficiently. There seems to be a plethora of ideas on the web for parents to get their kids to clean up, ranging from Mary Poppins-eque "Spoonful of Sugar" fun to “all the toys I find on the floor go into the dumpster” discipline. Here are some of our thoughts:
- Make a game out of it. Place a basket out and see how many toys they can toss into it. Make it a race and see if they can beat the timer.
- Ask them to pick up items by their size, color or a different category.
- Talk to them about how good they feel after making that big accomplishment.
- Allow your child to help you clean. After you vacuum, let them vacuum an area while you move onto the next area. Let them help you sweep a pile onto the dust pan. Give them a small spray bottle with a little bit of mild soap and water with a towel to wipe walls or furniture down. Let them stand with you to help wash the dishes. We have a good post on age-appropriate chores here.
Children love to help and take a lot of pride in helping! It also teaches them responsibility and how to clean the correct and safe way.
Getting Dressed and Ready
Between going in and out for recess, using the potty, and mishaps that are sure to occur throughout the day, school-aged kids usually need to be able to manage their buttons, zippers, and shoelaces. Plus, at Veritas, belts are part of the boys’ school uniform, so they should also be able to buckle a belt!
- Most of this comes along with fine motor skills development, so allowing your child plenty of opportunities to play with toys that these skills is helpful. Beads, ribbon threading, even drawing are good fine motor skills activities.
- To help them develop the muscles and concept understanding of a zipper, try threading plastic bread bag ties on a long, wide ribbon to help kids grasp how to hold one end down and engage the other hand on the zipper (see more here).
- There are many roads to a perfectly tied shoe nowadays beyond the bunny ears, so check out some YouTube tutorials and see what strikes your little one’s fancy!
Sorting it out
This might be a somewhat overlooked, simple, yet important task for preschoolers to master before kindergarten: knowing how to sort objects into groups. Luckily, kids love doing this kind of thing already! Here are some ways you can encourage this:
- While you’re playing with them, suggest they sort their toy cars (or other toys) by color, type, or size.
- Let them put away the silverware and sort forks, knives, big spoons and little spoons.
- Give them a pile of coins to sort by size and color (you know, like when you're waiting somewhere, they're getting antsy, and you've got a handful of coins in your purse!).
- Let them sort their own clean laundry by tops, bottoms, socks, and underwear (and you can even go further with long and short sleeves, color, etc.).
Open and Close
Do you always open your kids’ snack containers and water bottles? Start giving them the opportunity to practice doing it themselves! After all, between snack time, lunch time, getting drinks after recess, and opening glue bottles, pencil boxes, and more, school-aged kids should be mostly ready to handle these tricky tasks. Again, this employs fine motor skills, so those activities we mentioned above in the "getting dressed" section will be helpful in developing this skill.
Right and Left
Your little one should be able to distinguish between his right and left by the time he heads off to school. If he’s right handed, it’s easy enough to tell your child that their “right is the side they write with!” You can also show them that their left hand makes an “L” with the thumb and pointer finger to help them remember “L” is for “left.”
Sniffles and Sneezes
With ample time in a room with lots of other kids comes ample opportunities to catch whatever sniffly-sneezy bug is going around. Help your teachers out by making sure your child is adept at knowing when they need a tissue and how to use one. There are some great ideas from other parents here on how to teach kids to blow their nose by making it fun and on their level!
Listening and Obeying
This might be the most important developmental skill of all for a child to be ready for kindergarten: being able to listen and obey. Give your kids plenty of opportunities to be under other trusted adults’ authority, like a Sunday School teacher, preschool teacher, or babysitter. Affirm them when you get a good report on their obedience.
At home, help your child practice and perfect “first time obedience.” This means that when you give them an instruction, expect them to respond the first time you ask. If they don’t, give a calm consequence right away. No more yelling “I’ve asked you FIVE TIMES already to put your shoes on!” Instead, if they don’t put their shoes on the very first time you ask and you find them playing with a toy, calmly take that toy away... right away. Teach your child to look at you when you speak their name, and to address you politely when you call them (something as simple as “Yes, Mommy?”). If they feel they cannot do what you are asking right away, show them how and allow them to respectfully explain why they need more time if necessary.
Whatever the situation, make it clear that you expect a response right away. After all, as an adult, we don’t want our peers to ignore us several times when we ask them something. Your child’s whole classroom will benefit greatly from this discipline, with kids and teachers being able to accomplish more and enjoy the learning process more together when the kids are able to listen the first time. And, of course, your home life will benefit greatly, too!
Are you looking for a nurturing preschool that will help prepare your child for kindergarten, or a kindergarten program that will inspire your child's heart and mind toward a lifelong love of learning? We invite you to check out Veritas Preschool and Veritas Academy! Browse our video gallery, check out our Facebook page, or come visit us at our locations!