Select Page

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist: Skills Kids Need

by | Aug 30, 2022 | Core

Is your child starting big school soon? If so, you might be wondering if they’re ready. The best way to determine this is through a kindergarten readiness checklist.

We’ve compiled a checklist that will help you understand the specific skills your child needs to have when entering kindergarten. This is a great way to check things off and see which areas your child can work on.

In addition, we’ve added a few tips to help if your child is having trouble with certain skills. After reading this guide, you and your child should be much more confident and prepared for the exciting new school journey ahead!

Table Of Contents

The Importance Of A Holistic Approach

Group of friendly children drawing in kindergarten

When most people think about a kindergarten readiness checklist, they assume it will be a long list filled with the academic skills children will need to master before they can thrive in school.

However, as you’ll see from our list below, kindergarten isn’t all about academics. There are other important skills, too. For example, kids will need to know how to show respect to their teacher and peers, follow instructions, play peacefully with others, and share.

Later, we’ll share some practical tips on effective ways to teach the skills required in kindergarten, but for now, let’s get to that list you came here for.

The Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

The following are skills your child will need prior to entering kindergarten:

1) Language

Kids playing in the park

Language is an important skill at any age! Here’s what you can expect from your almost-kindergartener.

  • Can start and join in conversations
  • Can retell a simple story
  • Can recognize words that rhyme
  • Is familiar with popular nursery rhymes and can recite them
  • Speaks clearly in simple sentences
  • Able to use words to communicate their needs and wants
  • Can confidently follow directions (specifically, two-step directions)
  • Can recognize and point out common words and signs (e.g., stop signs, traffic lights, the logo of a popular restaurant you commonly go to, etc.)
  • Curious about how things work and may ask questions for more details
  • Can make comparisons between objects and their relationship to one another (e.g., bigger, under, on top, etc.)

Children are still developing their receptive language skills at this age, so they must be exposed to different words, books, and discussions. This will help them grow their vocabulary and be better prepared to talk to others at school.

By now, you and others should be able to clearly understand what your child is saying most of the time. Of course, they’ll still have a couple of sounds that are hard for them, such as “r” or “s,” but they should be improving over time.

If they’re not or you have other speech concerns, consult your doctor or a speech therapist. They may need professional help with their communication skills.

2) Reading Readiness

Young kid reading for her kindergarten readiness checklist

Reading is perhaps one of the most crucial parts of a child’s education. Below are the milestones you can look for at this age.

  • Recognizes own name in print
  • Comfortable with holding a book correctly and paging through it
  • Demonstrates interest in reading and listening to stories
  • Able to maintain interest in a short story
  • Can name and recognize some uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Identifies simple rhyming words

Your child will spend much time in kindergarten mastering letters and sounds. They’ll also learn to blend these sounds to read simple words. The more letters they know when they start school, the better.

To help them learn letters, play alphabet games regularly. The HOMER Explore Letters Kit makes it simple to do so. Here are two ways to use the letter cards from this kit to practice letter identification.

First, pick out five or six letters your child is learning. Then, hide those cards around the room. Next, call them and ask them to search for the hidden letters.

Each time they find one, have them bring it over and tell you what it is. If they don’t know, that’s OK! Just tell them the letter name and put it aside. Once your child finds all the letters, have them identify the missed cards again to reinforce the concept.

Another game to try involves spreading the cards out letter side up on the ground, in ABC order. Sing the alphabet song together to help.

When the cards are ready, have them jump from one to the next, saying the name of the letter card they’re standing on. This fun, active game can help your child learn to identify letters while they get some exercise.

3) Mathematics

While your child may not yet be able to add and subtract with ease, there are many math concepts they practice before they start kindergarten. Here are a few:

  • Can comfortably count from one to 10 (or higher)
  • Able to identify at least three common shapes (this often includes circle, triangle, and square)
  • Can match a group of five or fewer items to a number (e.g., “She had three eggs.”)
  • Familiar with the concept of “adding” and “taking from” items (e.g., “I had three bananas. Mommy ate one. I now have two.”)
  • Comfortable with the concept of “less than” and “more than”
  • Able to arrange at least three items in order (e.g., from smallest to the biggest or the other way around)

Mathematical readiness is all about understanding and being able to explain simple concepts. These basics provide a foundation for the more complicated math your child will learn in kindergarten and beyond.

Counting helps your child with mathematical readiness. So count how many plates go on the table, how many tires are on the car, and how many steps you have to climb up to get into your apartment. Count everything!

By counting together, you help kids understand that math follows a predictable pattern. It also introduces the concept of addition and subtraction. For example, if there are three plates on the table and you add two more, how many will there be in total?

How many steps are left if you have five steps, and you already went down two? Asking these questions helps your child see that math is integral to everyday life.

4) Gross Motor Skills

Young kid playing hopscotch

Kids have lots of opportunities to run and play in kindergarten! That’s why gross motor skills are an important part of our kindergarten readiness checklist.

  • Can run
  • Able to hop with one foot
  • Can jump with both feet together
  • Can bounce a ball and attempt to catch it
  • Able to throw and kick a ball
  • Able to climb reasonably sized stairs
  • Can ride a tricycle

As your child plays, they strengthen their large muscles. This helps them develop coordination and balance, which they need for kindergarten activities.

Help your child practice gross motor skills at home or in the backyard. Set up an obstacle course with easy tasks, like hopping on one foot or crawling through a tunnel made of chairs.

Encourage your child to play with a ball. They can practice kicking, throwing, and bouncing alone or with someone else.

If they’re still working on coordination, try having them bounce the ball on a large piece of cardboard. It’ll help them aim and learn how hard to toss the ball to ensure they hit their target.

In addition, give them plenty of time for unstructured play. It allows them to use their imagination and explore their environment. And it’s one of the best ways to encourage kids to work on their motor skills!

5) Fine Motor Skills

Little girls' hands using scissors

While gross motor skills involve the large muscles in our arms and legs, fine motor skills involve the smaller muscles in our hands and fingers. Before starting kindergarten, here are some things your child should be able to do:

  • Use a pair of scissors to cut
  • Put together a simple puzzle
  • Correctly grip a pen, pencil, marker, or crayon
  • Copy basic shapes, such as a circle, triangle, a straight line, etc. (These may not be perfectly drawn. However, they can keep the general shape or pattern of the basic item they are copying.)
  • Build a tower using blocks
  • Attempt to tie shoelaces, zips, buttons, and buckles

Set up an arts and crafts station at home to help your child improve their fine motor skills. Stock it with items like scissors, glue, colored pencils, and crayons that they can use to create when they feel inspired.

This also helps them learn to use these materials appropriately, which their teacher will appreciate! It’s even better if you teach them to clean up after themselves when they’re done. That’s an important skill for kindergarten and beyond!

Teaching your child to cut safely is also essential. Show them how to hold the scissors in their dominant hand and guide the paper with their other one.

If they’re having trouble, demonstrate for them so they can see how to move their fingers. Then, try drawing some lines on paper and have them cut along them for practice.

6) Social And Emotional Skills

two kids playing in school

Your child will spend time away from you in kindergarten, perhaps for the first time. They’ll be in a new environment with new people and must follow different rules.

That’s why they need the social and emotional skills to feel confident in their new classroom. Here are some things to look for:

  • Can peacefully separate from parents (It’s perfectly normal if they get upset. However, your child should be able to separate without getting overly worked up.)
  • Can pay attention for at least five minutes without interrupting
  • Comfortable using phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me”
  • Able to start and complete a simple activity
  • Comfortable asking for help
  • Shows respect to peers and can work peacefully with them (e.g., takes turns, shares, etc.)
  • May occasionally offer to help peers and family members
  • Shows respect to adults
  • Can follow routines (e.g., gets up, uses the bathroom, brushes teeth, gets ready, etc.)
  • Attempts to communicate thoughts and feelings through words
  • Improved ability to regulate emotions
  • Can participate in cleaning up duties
  • Can take responsibility for their belongings (e.g., lunch box)
  • Tries out new activities, and if they fail or make mistakes, willing to try again

The Learn with Sesame Street app is one of the best ways to help your child build social and emotional skills. It’s packed with games and activities designed to help kids learn how to handle emotions, compromise with others, and tackle new social situations easily.

Your child will have so much fun playing that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning, too!

7) Self-Care

self care for kindergarten readiness checklist

Your child should have some basic self-care skills by the time they start kindergarten. At this age, they should:

  • Have decent personal hygiene habits (e.g., washing their hands before and after eating, after using the bathroom, etc.)
  • Be able to use the bathroom independently
  • Get dressed on their own (however, they may still need some help with shoelaces, buttons, etc.)

If you’re still helping your child with things like going to the bathroom or getting dressed, that’s perfectly normal. However, it’s a great time to start teaching them how to do these things on their own so they’re prepared for kindergarten.

Start by showing them how to do simple things, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth. Then, as they get more comfortable, slowly ease up on the amount of help you provide with those tasks.

Next, encourage them to try more complex tasks on their own, like tying their shoes. Helping them practice these skills will make the transition to kindergarten much smoother!

What If My Child Is Struggling?

Every child is different and learns and grows at different rates. If your child hasn’t mastered some of the skills above, that’s OK!

But now that you have a kindergarten readiness checklist, where to from here? More specifically, if you notice your child is struggling with some skills, what can you do about it?

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s normal for children to be strong in certain areas and a bit weaker in others. Of course, that’s the case with adults as well.

Most people like to stick to what comes easily, but that’s not always the best approach, especially with young children.

It’s essential that kids learn to celebrate the areas they excel in and work on those they struggle with. This will build children who are confident and comfortable taking on challenging tasks.

With that in mind, here are some things you can do after identifying your child’s challenge areas.

Carefully Select At-Home Activities

Dad going through kindergarten readiness checklist with daughter

The best way for a child to acquire a new skill is to get lots of practice. So, once you’re clear on your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you can use encouraging games and activities that will help build those certain skills.

For example, if your child’s gross motor skills are lacking, you can select more field game activities from HOMER. These will get your child running, jumping, hopping, climbing, and continuing to develop their gross motor skills while also having fun.

Don’t Try To Do It All At Once

You may be eager to help your child improve in all areas, but it’s best not to try to tackle everything from the kindergarten readiness checklist at once.

Instead, focus on one or two challenge areas and work on those first. Doing too much at once will only overwhelm you and your child. And it likely won’t be as effective.

Slow and steady is the best way to gain new skills. So spend a few minutes each day diligently working on one or two areas of the list. Then, do it again tomorrow. Before you know it, you’ll look back and see how much progress your child has made.

Let Them Know It’s OK To Mess Up

If your child is so scared of making a mistake that they freeze up and don’t want to try new things, it will be difficult to learn the kindergarten readiness checklist skills.

That’s why it’s crucial to let them know it’s OK to mess up. Teach them that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Encourage them to take risks, and praise their efforts, even if they didn’t quite get it.

Patience Is Key

Learning new skills takes time and practice, so it’s essential to be patient with your child — and yourself! If you get frustrated, your child likely will, too. Remember that setbacks are normal; the goal is progress, not perfection.

If you are getting impatient, take a step back. They still have time to learn and develop their kindergarten skills. Just because they’re not there yet doesn’t mean they never will be. So go slow and be patient!

Try HOMER Explore Kits

Mom using Homer Explore Kit with son to prepare him for kindergarten

If your child is struggling, there are ready-made kits and programs available to help you practice with them at home!

For example, our Explore Kits are perfect for children from three to six years old. These digital and hands-on learning bundles help children continue to develop essential skills in an entertaining way.

In addition, each kit includes activities that are adjustable in difficulty to ensure they meet your child’s needs. And each one can help them master skills on the kindergarten readiness checklist.

For example, the Explore Feelings Kit is a fun way to teach your child all about their emotions and feelings. As you play with the components, you’ll practice self-awareness and expression, identify different emotions, and build essential social skills.

In the Explore Letters Kit, your child will have a blast exploring ABC Island. They’ll learn their letters through play and work on essential early-writing skills.

Finally, our Explore Numbers Kit makes learning math concepts fun! This kit will help them get a head start in math as they practice identifying numbers, explore shapes, and more.

Talk To Their Pediatrician

As highlighted above, it’s perfectly normal for children to have strengths and weaknesses. However, if they are significantly behind their peers in certain areas, it’s a good idea to reach out to their pediatrician to see if there’s a more serious problem.

They might recommend talking to the school, seeking help from a specialist, or getting a formal or informal evaluation. In each of these cases, you’ll be able to voice your concerns and learn more about how to help your child succeed.

If you prefer, you can also speak to their teacher once school has begun. They will most likely have a couple of fun and unique activities you can try at home to help your child make up ground and get to where they need to be.

Here’s To New Beginnings!

group of kids putting two thumbs up

The start of kindergarten is an exciting time. And as a parent, you know how important it is that your child begins their school journey on the right foot. Part of that is ensuring that they have the necessary skills by using our kindergarten readiness checklist.

While looking at kindergarten skills, it’s essential to note that it’s not all about academics. Sure, that’s an integral part of school. However, there are many other critical skills that kids need to make it through school and thrive.

You can use our kindergarten readiness checklist to help you check off all the skills your child has developed and get clarity on the areas that may need some extra attention.

Once you’re clear on your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you can focus more on specific at-home learning games that will help them succeed.


  • Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.

Begin Learning Team
Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.