Getting kids Emotionally, Socially, and Physically Ready for Kindergarten

The start of the school year is coming up in just a few weeks and you may have a kindergartner who is getting ready to go to school for the first time, or to an all-day school for the first time. Your little one is probably excited to go to kindergarten, but you might be feeling a little nervous.

Talking to parents, we heard that many parents are more worried about social and emotional readiness than academic readiness. Because of this, we have decided not to focus on academic readiness in this blog, instead on social, physical, and emotional skills that will help your kindergartner get a good start. Read next Monday’s blog to learn about academic readiness for kindergarten.

Social readiness

According to Barbara J. Smith, a doctor from the University of Colorado-Denver and Health Sciences Center, evidence shows that kids who are socially and emotionally ready for school have a higher chance of early school success. When kids are not ready, they misbehave and experience rejection by their peers, parent-teacher relations become mostly punitive, and school failure. Read the article here.

Dr. Smith says the most important social skills for academic success include:

  • Getting along with others
  • Following directions
  • Identifying and regulating emotions and behavior
  • Thinking of appropriate solutions to conflict
  • Staying on task
  • Playing and talking with others
  • Being able to interpret other’s emotions and behavior
  • Good self-esteem and having positive feelings toward others

Being socially ready for kindergarten is really important, because participating in the class and making friends is a big part of their first year in elementary school. Depending on your child’s class size and whether or not they have siblings, interacting with a large group of peers for around 7 hours a day can be a big change. Helping your child prepare to make new friends, negotiate difficult social situations, and participating in new activities will help prepare your kindergartner.

Start by taking your child to places where there are kids who he doesn’t know. A gymnastics class, music class, or a reading group at the library are all good places. Encourage him to talk to the other kids and try to make friends. Make sure he practices good listening with instructors and participates in all the activities. If he can do this easily or with light prompting, he is probably ready.

Encourage more active citizenship activities around the house. Teachers love when students are aware of civic duties, even if they are just in the classroom. Talk to your pre-kindergartners about why it is important to be a part of a group and to help the group when you can. At home, they are part of a family group and at school their class will be their group. Ask kids to do small chores like picking up toys and making the bed.

Emotional Readiness

Being emotionally ready for kindergarten is really important and you can help. Start by minimizing rewards for good behavior, focus instead on the emotional rewards, like self-confidence and good relationships. Give positive verbal rewards for doing a good job, like “you worked very hard making your bed, how do you feel now that your room looks so nice?” or “I like that you set the table without being told.”

You can help teach your child good manners by being a good role model, making sure you always say please and thank you. Pointing out when other children do something polite, or when your child acts politely can also help these manners stick.

Help your child develop strong empathetic skills by helping him identify other’s emotions. Help your kindergartner with labeling his own emotions as well, “You must be frustrated that your sister won’t share, if you share your crayons, she might let you use her paints.”

Physical readiness

Going to kindergarten isn’t only about developing the mind, there are physical demands as well. Helping your child fine-tune her fine motor skills in the next month, will help her ability to write, draw, and more. Make sure they spend some time every day drawing with pencils and crayons, cut shapes out of paper using safety scissors, and writing letters.

Gross motor skills are important too! Being able to participate in gym and recess fully will help your child feel good about himself. Make sure your kids get plenty of unstructured play time outside. Take them to a local playground and let them get some energy out, running, jumping, climbing, and swinging.

Getting Kids ready for Kindergarten

Help your kids become socially, emotionally, and physically ready for kindergarten.


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