Starting School with Confidence | 8 Things I Wish Every Kindergarten Parent Would Know

Is your child starting kindergarten this year?

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Kindergarten is very different then it was when I was student teaching just back in 2003! It’s much more like first grade then when we were kids. None of this is set in stone, every school district is different and every student moves at a different pace but these are some things I have noticed over the years will help a child enter kindergarten with confidence.
Many students will pick up these skills as they go but many will never get the chance to play with blocks, explore with paint, or develop a love of creativity in their early childhood classroom in today’s modern world of education.

Model and Lead Don’t Test or Create Pressure

One important note between introducing your child to concepts and testing them. As your child’s first teacher you should always be modeling and leading. These skills should come in an enjoyable, low pressure environment. As a parent your job is to help your students feel comfortable around letters and numbers.

Be careful not to create stress anxiety by expecting them to remember all or even any letter sounds. But helping them learn the names of the different letters and practicing saying them is the best pre-reading practice you can give your child. Some children may need to hear a letter sound 700 times, no exaggeration, others will get it after just a few. Many need 70 repetitions before they are confident with each phoneme represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet.

1. Just because your child knows how to sing the alphabet song doesn’t mean they know the alphabet…

Begin with the letters in their names.

Write the alphabet on a piece of paper and have your child point to the letters in their own name.
MT Bear School

Click on image to see video

Start with their first name and then learn their last name too. They might want to find the letters in your name or mom or dad, siblings etc. This is fantastic. But get them to start learning the letters in random order.

Letter Sounds.

Students should also recognize that letters have a name and a sound. I think the most confusing thing to any child is that s makes the sound sss, and most of the time c sounds like a k! How many words sound like city, circle or cereal? Why doesn’t sort or sink, or September start with a c? Why do candy, color, or counter not start with k? It actually amazes me how fast they pick it up!
If you have magnets on your fridge and you’re having an apple for snack, help them   find the letter that makes the sound a. If you’re making dinner point out the letter d and talk about dinner starting with the sound d. If you’re having ice cream for dessert, point out the i and the c. Recognizing the beginning sound of words is the essence of phonics.
They will learn all of this in kindergarten but it is helpful to have it reinforced at home.

2. Your child should know how to write their own name.

Name Writing at MT Bear School Link
But this is pretty easy to teach most 5 years olds inside of a week. They love to write their name! Start by having them trace it and before long they will be writing on their own.
You can write their name with a pencil and let them trace the letters with a marker, you can write with the marker and let them trace it with a pencil, or you can make stencils.
Many times I have just written the letters with small dots by hand, but you can also download tracing fonts for free very easily. Most schools use D’Nealian script because it blends well to cursive.
Easy free download u can type any name and it will print it for them to trace. If you have any trouble don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email , and I will type them in your child’s name and send them to you to print.
Writing in capitals is fine and easier for young hands. They will learn how to write lower case soon.
 golf penclsl for small hands
One big thing I learned at Head Start is the itty bitty pencils you get at the miniature golf course to write your score with are perfect for tiny hands. Imagine eating out of a tablespoon all the time. That’s what holding one of those oversized pencils is like for children. Having a small pencil is just right for their child sized grip.

3. Your kindergartener should be comfortable with the numbers 1-20.


They should at least be familiar with the numbers 1-20 even if they can’t say them all in order. They should be able to count their fingers up to ten and start to recognize the numbers up to 20.
Recognizing Numbers 1-20 at Montana Bear School

Recognizing numbers

Recognizing numbers counting 5 objects at Montana Bear School

One of the hardest concepts for students to learn is that 13 starts with the one and not the 3, fourteen is not written as 41… The rest of the numbers work that way, 24 starts with twenty and ends in four, ninety-five starts with a 9 and ends in 5, so why does fifteen not start with 5 and end in teen (10)? Talk about confusing!
So the more opportunities they have to count up to 20 or even 100 (especially as the year progresses) the better!

My favorite things to count that you can find around the house:

  • pennies
  • buttons
  • beans
  • cereal
  • paperclips
  • pompoms
  • small rocks
  • leaves or flower petals

Not just say the numbers in order but actually count objects. Start with 5 items, move on to 10 and then eventually get all the way to 20.


As a side note, you can’t make enough piles of 10 and count by 10s up to 100!

4. Rhyming is essential.

You can’t appreciate rhyming until you try to teach a child who doesn’t know how to rhyme. There was a lot more to nursery rhymes then I ever realized. The repetition and lull of a nursery rhyme is one of the best ways to help you child develop a love of reading and language.
Singing songs is another great way to build your child’s sense of ending sounds as many songs are written in rhyme.
Nancy Cassidy Book of Kids Songs
Some of my favorite children songs include: The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, The Monkey and the Engineer, The Fishing Blues and Mamma’s Soup Surprise.
My favorite rhyming books include:
Wild About Books Rhyming Story
Giraffes Can't Dance Rhyming Story
Any Dr. Suess
Sylvia Long Hush Little Baby
My favorite book to sing is Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long… it just happens to fit my voice really well…
The more your child can fill in the blank or rhyming word at the end of a line the better. Many students love to chime in at the end of a rhyme or a repeating phrase!

5. Cutting, pasting, and coloring are skills they will need but not have enough time to practice.

When I worked at Head Start students had unlimited access to craft supplies everyday. They could glue endless pompoms, glitter, and buttons etc to colored paper making designs, pictures or cards for loved ones to their hearts content. They had access to paint, glue sticks, water colors, and more! They could staple, tape, and cut and repeat over and over.
We would start out with the younger ones helping them hold paper and navigate the scissors with care, but by the time they left they were confident with how to create masterpieces or booklets, or complete any tasks we assigned. When students arrive in kindergarten the amount of time they get to complete these tasks is limited each week.
When my grandkids were little each had their own “art box” to play with when they came to visit. Each shoe box covered in wrapping paper contained colored paper, pictures to cut out, stickers, a glue stick and some crayons and/or markers. I usually had glitter around the house or other odd objects they might request.

Junk Mail Clean Up

The more free time you can give your children to play with junk mail cutting, gluing pictures and creating mini-masterpieces the more confident they will be in elementary school to solve problems and develop critical thinking skills.

6. Building with blocks is a basic learning skill.

Students need to develop confidence in their ability to fix their mistakes. Building a tower seeing it tumble and doing it again is a great way to develop basic engineering skills. Students gain a strong sense of geometry as they figure out how different pieces fit together. They learn about both the positive spaces and the negative spaces and how fitting pieces correctly will help a structure become strong and solid.

First graders can create complex designs with Legos. Second graders would amaze me with what they could build with clothespins and the different structures and designs they would make with pattern blocks or connecting cubes. Balance is an essential skill we try to teach but if they don’t have practice building things in 3 d they will struggle to know what the right answer is on a Smarter Balance assessment down the road in 3rd grade.

7. Pre-Reading is essential.

Your child can already read every picture book you hand them. They do not have to read it word for word but by simply explaining to you what is going on in each picture they are developing essential pre-reading skills.
  • Predicting
  • Picture Walks
  • Cause and Effect
  • Creative story telling
are all skills students will gain by making up their own stories to go with the pictures. There are a handful of great books where there are no words and students are required to narrate the story themselves but any book will work.
Just sit back and listen and encourage your child to make up a story for each page. As they grow and listen to you read it’s fine if they tell the story back to you by memory.

8. Board Games Rock!

I feel like I can’t emphasize this enough. There’s all sorts of great skills students will learn when playing board games. Besides basic social skills like how to take turns, play fair, and be a good sport, there is a ton of counting in most games! Students will roll dice, add and subtract and get to recognize doubles in a fun environment! Cards teaches them many of the same skills as ice!

Cooperative Learning Games

Of course I’m not the best when it comes to competition and so I’d be remiss not to mention one of my favorite games called Granny’s House it’s a cooperative learning game where the goal is for everyone to make it Granny’s house with a gift. There is only one piece and its an all or one team building game where each person rolls the die but you all move together. There are obstacles along the way and players work together to solve each problem and make it to the end!

9. Read to your child.

Enjoy reading together. Read as much as you can. The more vocabulary you develop the better. You can read the cereal box, a recipe, the coupon section of the paper, street signs and store windows, food labels at the grocery store,

There’s Plenty of Time

If your child can’t do these things before they enter kindergarten don’t worry. I’m sure their teacher will help them learn many of these skills but I believe that their confidence will soar if they have these basics under their belts before they walk in the door! Wishing you a wonderful school year and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything! Every child is a parent’s world and helping every student feel successful is what makes me happiest!

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