Kindergarten Skills and Behavior Expectations

Childhood is peppered with milestones, and few are more momentous than the first day of school. Preparing your child for the milestone can be exhilarating, exhausting, and overwhelming. You may wonder if your child has the right skills to succeed in kindergarten. Will kindergarten challenge and engage your child? What can you do to help prepare your child to learn?

One of the most important things parents can do is read with their child. Quiet time, without television or interruptions, is essential. Twenty minutes of reading to your child every day will go a long way in fostering a life-long love of books and learning. While teaching your child to form perfect letters isn’t necessary, you can teach him/her how to hold a pencil or crayon. Sometimes children develop the habit of holding a pencil in the fist, which makes learning to write very difficult. You can also help your child develop the fine-motor skills necessary for writing by providing him/her ample opportunity to experiment with crayons, markers, pencils, and scissors.

One of the biggest problems teachers are seeing today in their kindergarten students is “attention span.” Children born in the video age press the rewind button when they miss something important, and parents can unwittingly nurture this habit by repeating directions over and over again. Try giving your preschooler simple directions to follow such as go to your room, get your shoes, and brush your teeth. Can your child follow two or three step directions, or is he/she distracted after the first step?

Poor listening skills are a behavioral issue that can potentially sidetrack an otherwise bright kindergartener. A lack of respect for adults and authority can also create problems.  In the past, children never interrupted a conversation between two adults. Now it is a daily occurrence at school. Child psychologists advise parents not to let their children interrupt them when they are talking. But, at the same time, they advise parents to take time to listen to their children, look them in the eye and let them know what they are saying is worth listening to.

Not sure if your child is ready to tackle the world of kindergarten? There is no magic formula to determine readiness. This readiness checklist will give you an idea of areas where your child is doing well and where they may need some extra attention. If your child has not mastered all of these skills, it is not a time to panic. All children mature differently. Celebrate what your child can do. Expose him/her to skills they have not mastered.

Kindergarten Skills And Behavior Checklist

Personal and Social Behaviors

  • Can follow simple directions

  • Listens to a story without interrupting

  • Pays attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks

  • Adjusts well to changes in routines and environments

  • Can separate from parents without being upset

  • Works and plays cooperatively with others

  • Treats others with respect in words and actions

  • Respects the property of others

  • Talk in complete sentences (age appropriate, no baby talk)

  • Express emotions and needs through appropriate words and actions

  • Responsible for toileting skills and fastens own clothing


  • Knows his or her first and last name (not nicknames)

  • Can write their first name using D’Nealian letters (upper and lower case)

  • Holds and uses books, pencils, scissors, and crayons correctly

  • Identifies 6 basic shapes and 8 basic colors

  • Recognizes letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case)

  • Recognizes numbers 0 through 10

  • Counts to 20 or higher