Kindergarten Readiness, Part 2

06/23/2015 08:59 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

This is the second of my two-part post on kindergarten readiness. Read Kindergarten Readiness, Part 1, which focused on physical, behavioral, and social abilities.

In this post, I will share many of the early academic indicators of kindergarten readiness. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it will provide families with an understanding of what will be expected of their child and offer tips to help them prepare their child for a successful transition to kindergarten.

Photo by woodleywonderworks.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Listens to and understands stories

What Families Can Do:
• Begin to read board books to your child as an infant.
• Read the complete story first, for enjoyment, without interruptions.
• During additional readings, ask questions about the story, and encourage your child to ask questions.
• Let your child turn pages, showing that he knows it is a story.
• Gradually introduce longer books that require more patience and focus.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can retell stories that have been read to him/her, or tell original stories

What Families Can Do:
• Have your child reread a familiar book and try to retell it.
• Read nursery rhymes and have your child retell them.
• Provide puppets or flannel board cutouts that your child can use in retelling the stories.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can find matching objects

What Families Can Do:
• Have your child practice matching objects:
     - Socks from the laundry
     - Pencils or pens
     - Earrings
     - Food cans in a pantry

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can sort objects by their attributes: color, shape, size, function (e.g., things that roll, things you can write with)

What Families Can Do:
• Once your child can match objects, practice sorting them into categories:
     - Color: Find all the blue shirts, silver coins, etc.
     - Size: Put big bath towels in one stack and small face towels in another.
     - Shape: Find all the round objects in the room.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can identify words that rhyme

What Families Can Do:
• Talk about how some words rhyme: the last part sounds the same.
• Have your child find the rhyming words in nursery rhymes: Jill/hill, Humpty/Dumpty, dock/clock.
• Play rhyming word games: "I know a word that rhymes with is a small little animal it is a...mouse!"

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can identify patterns

What Families Can Do:
• Point out patterns as you go about your day: in clothing, in plants along a street, in books you read.
• Play pattern-guessing games by arranging objects in a pattern (e.g., two red, one blue; two red, one blue) and ask your child to name the pattern.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can name colors

What Families Can Do:
• Discuss the names of the colors; show how some colors can be made by combining other colors (e.g., red and white makes pink).
• Read books about colors, such as The Color Kittens, by Margaret Wise Brown, and A Color of His Own, by Leo Lionni.
• Use watercolors to paint, and ask your child to mix colors and name them.
• Ask your child to name the colors around her: in her room, on her clothes, in the crayon box.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can identify some letters and numbers

What Families Can Do:
• Help your child start to distinguish letters in simple words that he often sees written; begin with the letters in his name.
• Point out numbers on money, the TV remote, clocks, signs, etc.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Begins to understand that letters stand for the sounds heard in words

What Families Can Do:
• Talk about sounds for some of the letters in your child's name, in books, and in other words that your child often sees during the day.
• Write your child's name and other simple words on paper or dry erase board to show how words are formed.
• Use magnetic letters on a refrigerator to make real and nonsense words, and sound them out with your child.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Recognizes some signs

What Families Can Do:
• Ask your child to "read" words in their daily routine: "stop" on the stop sign, "walk" at a crosswalk, "gas" at a gas station, and names of favorite stores or restaurants.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Begins to recognize some sight words

What Families Can Do:
• As you read books with your child, ask him to point out words that he sees often, such as the, a, an, and, I, me, is, was, are, go, and stop.
• Write sight words on index cards and play sight-word games with your child.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Begins to "write" by scribbling, drawing, or imitating letters, numbers, forms, or shapes

What Families Can Do:
• Give your child paper and writing tools in a shoebox that she can use to begin to write, draw, or create shapes.
• Give your child a paintbrush and a bowl of water to "draw" on the sidewalk or driveway. (Talk about "evaporation" as the creations disappear.)

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Understands how numbers are used

What Families Can Do:
• Show your child how numbers are used in everyday life:
     - to count items
     - to keep track of money, distance, weight, and length
     - to measure amounts used in cooking

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Can count to 20

What Families Can Do:
• Look for opportunities to count items out loud for and with your child (e.g., setting the table, sorting clothes, measuring ingredients, organizing toys).
• Encourage and help your child to count objects he sees throughout the day: stairs, cups of water, streetlights.

Kindergarten-Readiness Indicator: Understands how some words are opposites: up/down, big/little, tall/short, quiet/loud, light/heavy

What Families Can Do:
• Point out examples of opposites that you see.
• Play an opposite-guessing game: "The opposite of day is...night!

Remember, while kindergarten readiness skills are important and will contribute to a strong foundation for future academic success, the activities that lead up to kindergarten readiness should be enjoyable for your child. Make them fun family times and part of your daily routine so that your child begins to view learning as a positive and natural experience.

To learn more, read this informative Kindergarten Readiness newsletter, featuring an interview with educational consultant (and colleague of mine) Patricia Lozano.

Rebecca A. Palacios, Ph.D., is a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Age of Learning, Inc., the company that operates