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Is Your Child Ready for a Full Day of Kindergarten?

Ready for Kindergarten
Make the transition to full-day kindergarten exciting and anxiety-free by helping your children develop specific skills at home.

Ready for KindergartenFull-day kindergarten is a big step for kids and parents alike. New friends, new ideas, and new rules can make for long days, but kindergarten can also provide a wealth of fun, learning opportunities. Parents can help make this important transition to full-day kindergarten easier with a little help at home.

Listening Skills

Listening skills are very important for kindergarteners. Not only do they need to listen to instructions from their teacher, but also from all the important adults in the building (like the nurse or playground supervisor). Following directions is equally important. Completing tasks when asked and following classroom routines and schedules are necessary to stay on track with the teacher and classmates. To encourage listening skills, try playing a clapping game, going on a “sound walk,” or asking questions.


Even with small class sizes, the teacher’s attention will still be divided. This means that children need to have a basic level of self-sufficiency. Aside from shoe tying, the child should be able to get dressed by him or herself. This skillset includes putting on a coat, hat, and gloves or mittens—a teacher’s preference on a child’s ability to zip or button a coat independently varies. He or she should also be able to independently complete bathroom tasks, like wiping and washing hands. Although often overlooked, a child should also be able to eat an entire meal while remaining seated at a table. School lunchtimes are notoriously short, so eating a meal without getting up is essential.

While children are not expected to be perfect, they should have a basic understanding of taking care of their belongings. They need a certain level of responsibility as it pertains to remembering their backpacks, having supplies and materials, and completing homework. Parents should work these responsibilities into the daily routine during the first few weeks of school. Try practicing dressing dolls and toy or using a sticker chart to reward responsible behavior.

Cognitive Readiness

Teachers want children who are ready to learn, and beginning kindergarteners should at least be familiar with letters and numbers to twenty. They should show signs of reading readiness, such as understanding how to hold a book, turn pages, and recognize environmental print (i.e., the McDonalds sign or the Coca-Cola logo). Perhaps the most important sign of cognitive readiness is an eagerness to learn. Excitement and curiosity should overshadow fear of the unknown. Try making up stories together, finding letters and numbers in the environment, and reading to your child every day.

Physical Readiness

Certain skills that adults take for granted are actually learned skills that kindergarteners need to develop. Holding a pencil, coloring with crayons, cutting with scissors, and pulling stickers off a sheet are all the result of fine motor skills, which will later be necessary to help a child learn to write. To help develop these skills, make simple craft projects with scissors, crayons, or stickers, play with stringing beads or sewing cards, or color pictures.

Social Skills

Some children have been around others their entire lives as a direct result of daycare. Others have limited exposure to other children. Kindergarten provides a time for children to learn and improve social skills through daily interaction with classmates. The abilities to successfully share and take turns are obviously desirable traits, as well as skills like teamwork and appropriate interactions (no one wants to be friends with the kid who knocks others down with chest bumps). Empathy, which means caring for others, should also be developed. Children who haven’t been away from parents for any length of time should “practice” by spending a fun day away from Mom and Dad prior to the first day of kindergarten.
Try arranging play dates, practicing taking turns by playing a board game, or encouraging children to “use their words” when they are frustrated or upset.

Other considerations

Kindergarten is hard work, and children need proper rest in order to learn. After school activities are fun and can inspire additional learning outside the school day, but too many activities can put stress on a kid and impede learning. Limit after school activities so that kids can get the rest they need. Kids of kindergarten age need 10–12 hours of sleep each night, so plan your bedtimes accordingly.

In addition, even though breakfast is hailed as the most important meal of the day, a disturbing number of kids arrive at school each day without it. Of those who do eat a morning meal, many are running on the simple carbs of sugar-laden breakfast cereals. Eating breakfast is important to learning, but eating a nutritious breakfast is even more important.

To keep your children happy and healthy, try engaging them in one or two extracurricular activities, set and adhere to a regular bedtime, and make sure they start each day with a healthy breakfast.

Kindergarten teachers recognize that not every child who enters the classroom will be developed in every skill area, and that’s OK. It’s not a big deal if he or she falls short in a couple of areas. The whole purpose of school is for children to learn what they need to know. Do what you can to promote a solid start and help the teacher do the rest!

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  • Sandra Beeman

    I think there are quite a number of accomplishments that todays’ children need to have “under their belts” to be ready for a full day of kindergarten five days a week. For some, this may have been or will be an easy task. For others, not so much. Hopefully, parents can do continuing work at home to help their child succeed in their first formal educational setting.

  • lisa

    Kindergarten is a big step. More for the parents. Even if the child is ready. I cried the first day with both children. Not in front of them, of course.

  • Jana | Merlot Mommy

    This is a great topic. Mine definitely were, but they’d also been in daycare and then preschool all along. Thankfully half-day K wasn’t an option by the time mine started.

  • Great post! I think some kids are more than ready, while others may not be. It is a very big step both for the child and Mom! Mine seemed to make the transition easily, but had been in daycare since they were infants and was use to being around a lot of kids and were more independent.

  • Jen St Germain Leeman

    It really does depend on the individual child. My daughter went a little early but she would have been bored at pre-school another year.

  • Katie

    We skipped kindergarten all together and begin first grade course work. We homeschool and Pre-K was a lot of relaxed unschooling methods. We knew he was ready for more serious work and simply progressed from there. Kindergarten is actually not mandatory in most states and is easy to waive should a parent choose to avoid this question altogether.

  • Almost Supermom

    We homeschool, so we can really focus on starting kindergarten curriculum when they are ready, whether they are 3 or 6 🙂

  • Great tips to remember. Children will be at different levels of ability but having them feel comfortable there is the most important thing.

  • notageek4u

    Who knew there was so much to do in prepping your kids for kindergarten!

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    These are great tips for Kindergarten readiness!! Thank you once again for these helpful tips!!

  • Sadie

    I am of the mindset to throw them in! They’ll swim! 🙂

  • Diane Nassy

    Great tips on how to determine when kids are ready for Kindergarten

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