Social Skills Needed for Kindergarten

little girl drawing on chalk board easel
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Starting kindergarten is a huge milestone in a child's life, but it's important to make sure your little one is ready for this important step. The goals and benchmarks can vary from state to state in the U.S., but it's best to be prepared for what the expectations are.

Parents will want to consult with school administrators and ideally their child's prospective kindergarten teacher to determine whether the child has the social skills needed. It's good to know how children are expected to behave both at the beginning and completion of the academic year. This doesn't mean every child has to be a perfect angel the entire time they're in kindergarten, but that he or she should have some basic skills before making the transition.

One important note: Even though parents have a handle on the kindergarten checklist, it's best not to overwhelm a child by including them in this conversation. They're likely to be nervous already and don't need more to worry about.

Guidelines for Parents to Consider

Here are a few guidelines for parents to consider:

In terms of social interaction, a child who is kindergarten-ready should be able to play and work well with others and know how to cooperate and share (both with physical objects and with ideas). While some children are slow to warm to others, particularly if they don't have siblings, it's best if they are at least willing to participate in group activities such as singing, rhyming, and talking.

For the most part, a child who is in kindergarten will be expected to listen to the teacher and to other children, be able to pay attention and follow directions, and have some level of self-control, particularly in a group setting.

Developing Formal Work Skills

One of the tougher skills for kindergartners to learn is developing formal work habits since the classroom is a new environment. By the end of the school year, children should be able to complete a task and follow instructions from the teacher, take care of their materials, such as pencils and crayons, and work independently on some tasks.

In most states, kindergartners won't be expected to know how to read ​but should have basic recognition of letters and numbers, be able to write and spell their names, and be able to count to ten forwards and backward by the time they're done with the school year.

Even for children who have been in preschool or daycare, kindergarten will be a bit of a change in their routine, so some anxiety is to be expected, but by coordinating with school administrators, and encouraging your child to embrace the experience, most children will find kindergarten to be a rewarding experience.

3 Sources
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  2. Waterman AH, Atkinson AL, Aslam SS, Holmes J, Jaroslawska A, Allen RJ. Do actions speak louder than words? Examining children's ability to follow instructionsMem Cognit. 2017;45(6):877-890. doi:10.3758/s13421-017-0702-7

  3. Bassok D, Latham S, Rorem A. Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? AERA Open. 2016;2(1):1-31. doi:10.1177/2332858415616358

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.