READY, SET, KINDERGARTEN! By Dawn Lorenz, World Cup Kindergarten, Chappaqua, NY

Kindergartners at World Cup exploring the rain forest
Kindergartners at World Cup exploring the rain forest

For better or worse -- kindergarten isn’t what it used to be.  Are we rushing children beyond their developmental abilities?  Are all of the tests valid or necessary?  No matter how we feel about it, agree or disagree, it’s what we are facing right now.  There are ways you can help make your child’s transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible. Even though children learn and develop at different rates, they are all born with an amazing capacity to learn.  Kindergarten readiness doesn’t have to take over your summer; just 15-20 minutes a day of playing, exploring, and learning can make quite a difference. 

There’s no one perfect formula for knowing if a child is ready for kindergarten. You may be surprised to hear that; especially with all of the recent national focus on standards and academic skills, most kindergarten teachers are hoping for a range of abilities that are mostly social and emotional in nature.  A student entering kindergarten “ready to learn” sets the perfect foundation for the academic endeavors that are to come.  Independence, the ability to listen and follow directions, the capacity to play well with others (sharing, turn taking, compromising), good manners and respect for authority, the ability to focus and concentrate, developed fine-motor skills, a diverse vocabulary, and a curiosity for learning are good indicators for kindergarten readiness.  A strong, positive self-esteem and a “can-do” attitude will also go a long way in making your child a successful learner.  It’s important to remember that no child will be equally competent in all areas, rather they’ll have areas of proficiency and areas that will require more support.

We can’t disregard the academic skill set totally, however.  Most kindergarten teachers expect students, especially those who have attended one or more years of pre-school, to come in being able to label the letters of the alphabet, name shapes and colors, recognize numbers 1-10, count to 20, and recognize, write, and spell their name.  Without a foundation of skills such as these, young students are at risk of falling behind with the more rigorous curriculums being presented.

Here are some things you can do at home or on vacation to work towards academic readiness this summer:

Read every day: at the pool, at the beach, on the hammock, under a tree, in the bathtub…!

! Discuss stories and ask comprehension questions. Who? What?  Where? When? Why?...

! Point out common sight words. The, a , an, as, at, on, of, or, …

! Bring attention to conventions of print: capital letters, spaces between words, upper vs. lower case letters, punctuation,…

! Point out letters in words, signs, books, …

! Encourage curiosity.  Be ready to “GOOGLE” together questions that arise.


Play with rhyming words.  Great activity for the car! 

Play turn-taking games like Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Trouble,… Encourage sportsmanship.

Limit screen time to an hour – TV, I-PAD,  … Limit your screen time too so you’re available and engaged.

Play with math:

! Sort objects like legos by color, shape, or size.

! Count cookies, goldfish, pretzel sticks,… by ones and groups of 10.

! Group items and have your child count and label the group with a # quantity.

Work with playdough to strengthen fine motor skills – rolling, squeezing, and cutting with kid-safe scissors.  Roll playdough “snakes” and make letters and numbers—even your name!

Practice name and alphabet writing in a tray filled with sand, rice, shaving cream, pudding,…

Build letters with pompoms, legos, buttons, blocks, beads…

Encourage independence – tying shoes, zipping a jacket, buttoning, cleaning up …

Get a Kindergarten Readiness activity book for the car, plane rides, rainy days, down-time...

Explore websites like Abcmouse, Starfall, ABCya, Funbrain, Cookie …

Talk about the tough stuff—being yourself, bullying, friendship, anxiety about school.  Check with your local library for books on these topics and more.

Most importantly, take time to enjoy your child and make wonderful memories together.  Once school begins they’ll be lots more things to do to support their learning – but that’s a thought for the fall!  Happy learning!!

Dawn Lorenz is a NYS certified N-6 teacher at World Cup Nursery School and Kindergarten in Chappaqua, NY.  She has taught kindergartners for over 20 years and feels so lucky to be able to spend each day teaching and learning with her students.  


Kindergarten is spent creating building blocks for learning.   She and her students learn something new each and every day.  Some days they bring it home in their hands.  Some days they bring it home in their heads.  And, some days they bring it home in their hearts!   Her goal is to help students to LOVE school and learning.


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