To us “big kids”, the stuff taught in kindergarten couldn’t seem more elementary in nature: ABC’s, recognizing numbers and shapes, the colors of the rainbow, etc … But to little kids, this first year of formal schooling is a huge learning curve that goes well beyond the curriculum. And this is because, for the first time ever, they’re embarking upon an academic, social, cultural, and real life adventure without you: their parent or guardian!

And so, the best thing you can do to prepare your kids for kindergarten is to give them a solid foundation in (1) what they’ll be learning and (2) the basic tasks they’ll be expected to do so that they aren’t completely overwhelmed on day one.

To help you do this, the team at Brainscape has put together the following “kindergarten readiness skills checklist”, which you can use to gauge whether your kid is ready for kindergarten and where their problem areas may lie. Then, using your chops as a parent—and Brainscape’s Early Childhood Education flashcards—you can help bring them up to speed before their first-ever day of school.

Kindergarten readiness skills checklist

The following kindergarten checklist covers all the essential skills your child should have grasped (or at least begun to grasp) before they embark upon kindergarten. It covers everything from reading and math skills to emotional intelligence, fine motor skills, and those fundamental social and emotional skills, which are just as important to your kids’ adjustment to kindergarten as the more academic pursuits.

Let’s dive in!

Language skills for kindergarten

Language skills for kindergarten

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Speak in complete sentences,
  • Be understood by others most of the time,
  • Use their words to express their wants and needs,
  • Understand slightly more complex directions (not just single-step), and
  • Make comparisons between objects and describe the relationships between them (e.g. first / last; big / small; underneath / on top).

Remember, this is just a guide—an approximation—of the skills that would greatly benefit your kids as they prepare for kindergarten. If they struggle with a few of the items we list here and in the skillsets below, it doesn’t mean they’re not ready for school … it just means you should perhaps invest a little time and attention into helping them improve those areas, such as:

  • Encouraging your kid to speak in full sentences and when they aren’t clear, to repeat themselves.
  • Asking them to verbalize what they want and feel (and then reward them for it, within reason).
  • Giving them tasks and instructions that are slightly more complex than they’re used to. They’ll grow into them!
  • Using Brainscape’s early childhood education flashcards—which has a whole collection of decks dedicated to reading skills—to help your kid practice words, sounds, letters, and comparisons!

(Also check out our Parents’ Academy guide ‘The best language & reading apps for preschoolers’.)

Reading skills for kindergarten

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Listen to and enjoy stories,
  • Open a book and flip through its pages,
  • Recite the alphabet and identify most of its letters,
  • Recognize their name when written (and try to write it),
  • Recognize rhyming words (like dog and frog),
  • Start to connect letters with their sounds (perhaps starting with the letters in their name), and
  • Draw a picture to express a concept, like an object or story.

Pro Tip: Lots of these skills are available in Brainscape's early childhood flashcards, giving you an easy and automated way to help your kid practice these essential skills! Also, make sure you read ‘How can I teach my young kids at home?’ if you’re new to homeschooling.

Math skills for kindergarten

Math skills for kindergarten

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Count from 1 to 10 without skipping numbers,
  • Match a number to a group of five or fewer items (“There are four birds”),
  • Recognize and name the basic shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle),
  • Arrange three objects in the right order, for example, from biggest to smallest, and
  • Name (or point to) the colors in a box of eight crayons.

Pro Tip: Brainscape’s flashcards for kids are a powerful tool for mastering numeracy at an early age. This collection is specifically curated to drill your kids on numbers, counting, comparisons, colors, and more, while keeping them engaged!

Also check out: ‘The best numbers & math apps for preschoolers

Self-care skills for kindergarten

Self-care skills for kindergarten

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Use the bathroom and wash up on their own,
  • Get dressed on their own; although they may still need assistance with more tricky tasks like buttons, zippers, and shoelaces,
  • Respect physical boundaries (both theirs and others),
  • Say their first and last name, and age, and
  • Pack up and clean up spaces they’re working or playing in when finished.

Social and emotional skills

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Separate from you or their caregiver without getting overly upset,
  • Interact with other kids,
  • Deal with conflict without hitting, biting, or scratching,
  • Say how they feel, particularly when they’re upset or angry (although, of course, this is a lifelong learning process), and
  • Focus on a task that their teacher is leading for at least five minutes (like listening to instructions for an activity or talking about the weekend during circle time).

Additional resource: ‘How to build your kids’ resilience (without traumatizing them)

Fine motor skills

You know your kids are ready for kindergarten when they can:

  • Use a pencil or crayon with some control,
  • Use scissors,
  • Copy basic shapes,
  • Make distinct marks that look like letters and write some actual letters, especially the ones in their name, and
  • Put together an age-appropriate puzzle.

Pro Tip: Struggling to motivate your kid? Check out our parents’ guide ‘How do you motivate a stubborn child to learn?

And remember, improving all of these skills simply comes down to practice, practice, practice. Allow your child to do them over and over again with your gentle guidance, encouragement, and correction, where necessary. These skills will eventually become second nature, even if it takes your kid a little longer than their peers.

How can you help your child get ready for kindergarten?

Father reading with young daughter

The goal of this ‘skills for kindergarten’ checklist is to give you an approximate gauge by which to assess your child’s readiness for their first-ever days, weeks, and months of formal schooling.

With so much newness happening, it’ll help them tremendously if they’re able to use a pair of scissors, are familiar with their ABC’s, can take themselves to the bathroom, or count to 10 by themselves, for example.

If you’ve just worked through this list with your kid, you’ve probably found one or two (or even many) skills they’re a little behind on, but that’s a good thing! By identifying potential struggles now, you can get up to speed before kindergarten, and also sail through it as they learn the building blocks of reading, math, social skills, geography, and so much more! And we have the perfect learning tool for the job:

Brainscape’s Early Childhood Education flashcards.

Brainscape’s Early Childhood Education flashcards.

Our expert panel of early childhood educators has collated all the most essential knowledge your kids need to know in order to make a seamless transition into kindergarten (and flourish in classes), covering letters, words, animals, colors, numbers, and so much more. They’ve then broken this down into engaging, bite-sized flashcards, which you can work through with your kids on any device.

Behind the fun colors and images is a seriously effective adaptive learning technology that is designed to leverage the way the brain is hardwired to learn in order to help your kids (or anyone really) learn more efficiently. And once you’ve shown them how to use Brainscape, this learning can take place anytime and anywhere.

For the full scoop on how our flashcards for kids work (and how to get the most out of them), check out: ‘How to use Brainscape with your kids or watch this video...

A final note on getting your kids ready for kindergarten

This is such an exciting time in your kids’ life. The transition from home to kindergarten marks the official start of their integration into society; their burgeoning independence from their guardians (which is a good thing); and the ignition of interests that could very well decide their careers later on, whether that’s ballet dancing or firefighting!

Since you only want the best for your little ones, use this kindergarten skills checklist to determine where they could use a little preparation and, armed with Brainscape’s early childhood education flashcards, help them rise to their challenge!

For even more great advice, check out some of the other awesome guides in our Academy: