What Should Kids Know Before Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is an exciting step towards growing independence! As the first day of school approaches, your child should be able to do a few things on their own without much prompting or assistance. To learn what your kids should know before kindergarten, keep reading!

We’ve made a shortlist below but remember asking for help is also an important skill for your kiddo to possess! Zippers will get stuck, buttons will fall off and difficult social situations may arise. Teachers will be happy to assist your child with these hard-to-navigate situations but your child being able to handle certain day-to-day tasks will help bolster their confidence and keep up with their new friends.

Your Child Should Be Able To Take Care of Their Basic Needs

Kindergarten is about much more than just reading and counting.  Your child’s ability to complete certain “basic needs” tasks are significant indicators of their readiness for kindergarten.   

Can they independently get ready for school and recess?

What they should know: There can be a lot of preparation for your child to go outside: shoelaces, jacket zippers, backpack straps, buttons, and more! Having a routine and knowing the steps to go to school, recess and come home can help your child grow their confidence. 

How you can help them prepare: As you pick out items for the upcoming school year, take your child with you to pick out clothes. This will get them excited for the school year, provide practice for getting dressed on their own and give you a chance to see potential issues with certain types of clothing. For example, when they try on a coat, does the fabric get caught in the zipper? Is there a better alternative available? If your child hasn’t quite mastered the skill of tying their shoes, your child’s teacher may appreciate you picking up a pair of velcro shoes until they master shoe-tying at home. 

Can they independently go to the bathroom?

What they should know: This task may seem easy but it has quite a few steps! Do they identify when they need to “go”? Does your child feel comfortable asking if they can go to the bathroom? Can your child unzip their pants? Go to the bathroom alone without making a mess? Flush the toilet? Wash their hands? 

How you can help them prepare: This is a task they can work on every day, whether at school or at home! It may or may not be an unusual concept for your child to have to ask permission to go to the bathroom but this will likely be something they need to do in school. Have your child practice asking to go to the bathroom while at home and then going to the bathroom on their own. Afterwards, you can ask your child questions to make sure they went through all the appropriate steps: “did you remember to flush?” and “did you wash your hands?” until they complete these tasks regularly without prompting. 

Does your child clean up after themselves?

What they should know: Whether it’s an unexpected mess or just the chaos of kindergarten arts and crafts, your child should be prepared to clean up themselves and their messes in kindergarten. This may be as simple as learning to put toys back where they belong to bigger messes like spilled milk or snotty noses. 

How you can help them prepare: Take a look around your home. Are their toys strewn around the house? Is the house immaculate… but that’s because you put all your child’s toys away yourself? A “clean-up” song (like the tried-and-true Barney song) is a great way to remind your child to clean up and make cleaning fun! Your child should also have some experience cleaning themselves up (blowing their nose on their own, washing their hands after using glitter/glue, stomping their boots before coming in from playing in the mud/snow, etc.).

Social Skills are important going into Kindergarten

When your child starts kindergarten, they won’t have you there to explain to people that they are feeling shy or your leg to hide behind. The realization that you aren’t available to “break the ice” in a new situation can be a difficult transition. The more practice they have before school starts, the better! This is a skill that is very helpful for your kids to know before kindergarten.

Separation from Parents

What they should know: You’ll be back! For children who don’t have much experience with daycare, the first week of kindergarten can be upsetting (both for parents and children). After a few days, this issue should start to resolve itself but we do have a few tips to help you and your child get ready.

How you can help them prepare: Practice spending time apart. Sports/music lessons or play dates are great practice! When you drop them off for the first day of school, the less emotional you can be, the better. Kids can sense your sadness… and it makes them sad. The first day of school is exciting! Keep their attitude (and your own) positive by reminding them how much fun they will have and keep this attitude until you wave goodbye (then you can go have a good cry in the car). 

If your child’s school offers opportunities to go to the school before the first day, take them. Your child feeling comfortable in a new environment and knowing their teacher will help make those first few days easier. 

Meeting New Friends

What they should know: New friends are great and everyone at school is excited to meet you! 

How you can help them prepare: Practice makes perfect. The more opportunities your child has had to interact with other children their age before school, the better. It may also help to send your child to school with something they are excited to tell others about. Have they been telling you about a cool rock they found or showing you neat new trick they learned in tumbling? Remind them to share this in kindergarten! Learning to interact with others at school can be tricky, but it’s an important skill kids should know before kindergarten.

Academic Skills Your Kid Should Know Before Kindergarten


What they should know: A few reading skills your soon-to-be kindergartner should have are how to hold a book (right-side up!), turn pages, possibly identify a few sight words and maintain focus as they listen to adults read. Your child should also be familiar with the alphabet song. Your child will be spending time in Kindergarten learning sight words so you can start to introduce them to the kindergarten sight words they’ll be exposed to in the coming great. Check out all of our sight words worksheets too.

How you can help them prepare: Read to them! It’s also helpful to have them “help you” by choosing books, turning pages, discussing images with you before you read a page and “reading” along with you. You can help them by putting your finger under the words so they can follow along as you read. When there are rhymes in books, point them out to your child. Then, you can encourage them to point out other rhymes to you as they hear them. 

Practice the alphabet song with your child. Have your child point to letters and try to correctly identify them. 


What they should know: How to count to twenty, count objects and name shapes

How you can help them prepare: Names of shapes is something you can incorporate into art activities (“can you draw me a circle?”). Counting can be practiced through songs and every day activities. For example. “how many pieces of cheese would you like on your sandwich?” and “how many legos are in your hand?” would be great activities to practice.  


What they should know: “Don’t run with scissors!” comes to mind but your child should also know how to hold scissors and how to cut paper with them. It’s important for your child to know how to use crayons/colored pencils as well. They should also be practicing writing their name, shapes and identifying and using different colors before kindergarten. 

How you can help them prepare: Arts and crafts time at home is a great time to bring all your child’s skills together! Practice math by counting crayons. Practice writing by having them write their name. Use coloring books with text and practice reading as well! Your child can also practice social skills like sharing and basic needs skills like cleaning up during arts and crafts time. 

Have fun!

If your child isn’t interested in learning all the tasks above— don’t worry! They are entering kindergarten to learn and no one expects them to be a kindergarten pro on their first day! The most important thing is to make those first few days as fun and stress-free as possible. We hope this article helps in guiding you on what your kids should know before kindergarten!