Ready for Kindergarten Checklist

The school year is coming. As a parent, you want to be prepared. So grab the ready for kindergarten checklist pdf and practice those skills.


“I want to go to kindergarten and I want to make friends.”

I’ll never forget the day my four-year-old daughter told me that. First, she was speech-delayed and that was an impressive sentence.

And second, I was a little clueless about how to support her.

Even as an experienced teacher, I wanted a guide that would help me.

So I create one for you. The ready for kindergarten checklist pdf has the top 15 skills that will help your child be school ready.

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Ready for Kindergarten Checklist PDF

The ready for kindergarten checklist pdf is a quick and easy way to see what skills you want to target for your child before Kindergarten.

Depending on how much time you have prior to the school year, choose a couple of goals to work on.

A word of warning: no child is going to be completely ready for kindergarten. That’s okay.

Work on the skills you can with your child and then trust that your child will learn and grow the rest of the skills in school.

What should a five-year-old know for kindergarten?

For a child to be ready for kindergarten, they need to have skills in several different areas. In the ready for kindergarten checklist pdf you will see that I broke it down for you into five categories.

The skills for kindergarten doesn’t just boil down to simple academics, but there are tangible concrete things you can work on to develop skills in each of these areas:

  • Social-emotional skills
  • Self-care skills
  • Executive function skills
  • Academic skills
  • Fine Motor Skills

Learn Social-Emotional Skills at Home

Social-Emotional Skills to be Kindergarten Ready

The first area highlight in the ready for kindergarten checklist pdf is social-emotional skills. This is truly the most important. An emotionally capable child will have an easier time learning.

Now if you have a kid with BIG feelings like me, just keep plugging away on these concepts.

1. Identify their feelings

By the time children start kindergarten, it’s important that they can name their emotions and notice the emotions of other around them.

This is the foundation for emotional regulation which is essential for social skills. It becomes hard to make friends or listen to a teacher’s instruction if your child is overwhelmed by their own feelings.

2. Regulate emotions in some situations

While most 5-year-olds are going to need help to regulate their emotions in some situations, there will be times when they should be able to get calm independently.

Situations like the need to wait for a turn or losing a game require children to manage their own feelings.

3. Show empathy for others

Show care and concern for others in a foundational social skill. In order to have healthy relationships, we need to consider how other people are feeling.

Self-care Skills to be Kindergarten Ready

At home or daycare, your child has access to an adult to help with many self-care tasks. At school, there will likely only be one teacher to 15-30 children.

Your child needs to be able to tend to their physical needs.

4. Have independence with the bathroom routine

Your child needs to be able to go to the bathroom by themselves: from pulling down their pants to wiping, they need to be independent.

Make sure to choose pants with elastic unless your child has mastered buttons. If the school requires a button, practice that now, too.

5. Wash hands thoroughly

Kids are germ machines and schools are germ factories. Even before the pandemic, it was important to have good hand hygiene.

This will increase your child’s likelihood to stay healthy and miss less school.

6. Open their own lunch containers

This might be a surprising one for parents, but children should be able to open their own lunch containers.  Lunchtime can be really short and if they have to wait for the one adult to help dozens of other children, they won’t have a lot of time to eat.

So practice this now. Or invest in a lunchbox where they just need to open the lid and all the food is ready to go.

Everything Alphabet Printable Pack

Executive Functioning Skills to be Kindergarten Ready

The group of skills around planning and focusing are called executive function. The part of the brain that manages it doesn’t finish developing until people are 25 years old.

So practice and develop skills around following a plan and completing tasks.

7. Follow a five-step routine

Your child’s teacher is going to want your child to put away their backpack, turn in a folder, put their lunch box in the right spot or choose hot lunch, and then get to work.

You can practice routines at home. I recommend you start with the morning routine because it will make your school mornings smoother.

8. Listen to directions the first time

Your child’s teacher is going to give directions once and expect your child to follow the directions. You can practice this at home with games.

Tell your child something like, “Jump three times.” Then make it more complex with “Jump three times then find a book and give it to me.”

This builds your child’s listening skills and ability to follow instructions.

9. Finish a simple academic task independently

Think about something as simple as trace then color a picture. In kindergarten, your child will be expected to do this.

Can they do it without you hovering? If not, you’re going to want to practice.

Find something like these pages in the Everything Alphabet Bundle. An activity where your child knows the instructions because there is repetition will build that muscle memory on how to finish a task to the end.

Learn to Write Numbers Printable Pack

Academic Skills for Kindergarten Readiness

When parents think about skill for kindergarten they often go the academics. That’s because it’s school right?

While there are other areas, it’s true that some foundational academic skills will help your child be ready for school.

10. Understand numbers 0-10

Math is based on numbers and having a basic knowledge of the numbers 0 -20 will be really helpful.

We want to move beyond rote counting and make sure your child understands those quantities. So when you work on it, choose a material that will help your child both write the numbers and learn their values.

11. Know the alphabet

Ideally, your child will know all 26 letters. Research indicates that letter naming and letter-sound fluency are predictive of early reading success.

As you work on this, include both lowercase and capital letters and use different types of font.

12. Know the letter sounds

After learning the letter names, you can introduce the letter sounds.  This the beginning of phonemic awareness – or the ability to hear the speech sounds that the letters represent.

English is a language of 26 graphemes (letters) that represent 44 phonemes (sounds).

We use picture cut and pasting to focus on the sounds that are represented by the 26 letters. In the Everything Alphabet Printable Pack, also includes the 5 long vowel sounds. So your child will master 31 of the 44 sounds in English.

Fine Motor Skills for Kindergarten Readiness

Having strong fine motor skills will really set your child up for success in kindergarten. Much of school work is dependent on writing so strong hand muscles will go a long way!

13. Hold a pencil

Most schools teach children to write all 26 lowercase and capital letters in kindergarten. In order to do this, they need to be able to hold a pencil.

Fortunately, you can work on this at home really easily.  Choose 1-3 strategies listed in the post to work on daily with your child.

Our personal favorites are q-tip painting

14. Write their first name

Know our names is an incredibly important milestone. Before your child can write it, make sure they can spell it.

You can use hands-on activities like writing letters of their name on MegaBloks and then building their name with the blocks before you put a pencil in their hands to trace it.

15. Use scissors and glue

Children will be asked to do a lot of cutting and gluing in kindergarten. Give them systematic practice with cutting on a straight line and then pasting down small pieces.

How many letters should a child know before kindergarten?

As I mentioned above, research shows the value of learning the alphabet and having fluency with it (ie. quick effortless recall). So ideally your child will know all the capital and lowercase letters.

But if your child doesn’t know them yet, just practice for five minutes a day until kindergarten begins.  Learning those letters and their sounds is a common core standard for kindergarten and your child’s teacher will work on it with them.

Friendly reminder: mastering the pre-academic skills like knowing the alphabet is just one part of being kindergarten-ready.

How high does my child need to count before kindergarten?

Knowing the numbers 0-10 is just fine.  The teen numbers can be tricky so if your child is ready for that, then go for it!

But, your child needs to count them and also understand the value of each number.

So before you teach your child to count to 100, see if they can count a group of just 8 objects accurately. This is called one-to-one correspondence.

In kindergarten, the common core standard is to learn to count to 100. So your child will have plenty of time to master that.


Dropping off my daughter on that first day of kindergarten gave me all the feelings.  But the best was the pride that she was accomplishing a goal she’d set for herself: going to school.

You can have that same experience at drop-off. Print off the kindergarten ready checklist pdf and check off what your child can already do.

Choose a few skills to work on before school starts and find your resources. Then enjoy those special times working with your child on those kindergarten skills.

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