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Kindergarten Readiness: Preparing Students for Foundational Learning

The first day of kindergarten is important. It’s a day full of new backpacks and supplies, plenty of pictures, and even a few tears from both parents and students alike. Parents and caregivers have been preparing their children for their first formal academic experience for months, and teachers have been imagining what their new kindergarten class will bring to their classroom.

While some students enter this milestone already able to write their names and identify letters of the alphabet, others may have just mastered sitting nicely in a chair or getting along with others. Educators will begin benchmarking student learning once the school year is underway, and in some instances, students will be assessed before they even leave preschool. This raises common questions: how can parents ensure that their child is primed for learning, and how can educators support their new students once the school year has started?

While there isn’t one specific element of early learning that will determine if students are ready to begin kindergarten or not, there are important areas to focus on. Take a look at these four key skill areas that both caregivers and educators can work on together with their young learners to ensure that new kindergarten students are set up for success.

Motor Development

When kindergarteners head into the classroom, they should feel comfortable with their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are imperative to do things like grip a pencil to write or use scissors. A great way to work on fine motor skills is to encourage students to practice writing their name (using multiple writing options keeps things interesting!), tying their shoes, or even playing with modeling clay to strengthen the muscles in their hands. These skills are important not only so that students can write or use supplies throughout their academic experience but also so that they can independently use the restroom, dress themselves, etc.

Social and Emotional Development

To ensure that students are prepared for the social and developmental requirements of kindergarten, consider the following criteria:

  • Do students get along well with others? Are they able to share, take turns, and solve conflict with their words?
  • Do students demonstrate empathy? Are they able to recognize their own feelings and self-regulate?
  • Are students able to separate from their parent or caregiver easily or without an overwhelming sense of anxiety?

Language and Literacy

Just as language and literacy are core subjects that receive a heavy focus in education, they are also critical areas of readiness for incoming kindergarteners. In terms of readiness, focusing on early book-handling skills (turning pages, reading from top to bottom, in sequence, etc.) is a good place to start. Language and literacy also include vital language and literacy development criteria that are needed to communicate with others through complete sentences, follow directions, ask questions, or express ideas that are easily understood by others.


Beyond language and literacy, you can expect mathematics to be a key focus in kindergarten. While different schools have different goals when it comes to kindergarten math, many have similar expectations for what students should be focusing on throughout their first formal academic experience. Consider this list of math skills needed for kindergarten readiness:

  • Count to 10 aloud and recognize numbers in their environment
  • Identify basic shapes like triangles, circles, squares, and stars
  • Sort and classify by color, shape, and size

Looking for a way to address foundational math skills development for your child or students? Edmentum’s K–12 diagnostic-driven, individualized instruction program, Exact Path, supports the youngest of learners through highly interactive K–2 math modules to help students better comprehend early numeracy concepts that are foundational to their learning journey.

Taking a look at this general list can help ensure that you’re thinking about the skills necessary for budding kindergarteners—whether you’re a parent or educator. If you are an educator, a little extra attention on readiness skills at the start of the school year (read our nine tips for more advice on how to make the first day of school successful) can go a long way when it comes to the success of the remainder of the year. If you are a parent or caretaker, previewing a few of these areas with your children can help give them a head start on their first formal academic experience and ensure that they are ready physically, socially, and cognitively.

Questions about foundational learning

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