What should kids know before kindergarten?

Children learn from the moment they are born, soaking up information like tiny sponges. In fact, childhood development studies show 85 percent of brain development happens before age 5. As a parent, you have the very important role of being your child’s first teacher. Ensuring your children learn specific skills will contribute to your child’s future success in school and beyond.

This year, Nevada joined 45 other states in formally adopting a new set of educational standards called the Common Core State Standards. However, since 2004, the Nevada Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have made available the Nevada Pre-Kindergarten Standards. Accompanying these standards are guidebooks for parents containing activity ideas and information so parents can assist their children in being ready for school when the time comes. The standards were developed by a collaborative group and are available on both agencies’ websites.

The Nevada Pre-Kindergarten Standards were carefully designed considering the typical development of preschool children ages 3 to 5. Keep in mind, all children develop at their own pace and not meeting these standards does not mean a child will be unsuccessful or ineligible for kindergarten. The standards are simply a tool for parents and teachers to use to guide children’s learning. The first set of Infant Toddler Learning Guidelines was also recently published and should be available soon. Contact information to request materials can be found at each website.

What follows is a list of skills included in the new Common Core State Standards for children entering kindergarten. Keep in mind, typically developing children are expected to have these skills by age 5 or 6, upon entry into kindergarten. The Nevada Pre-Kindergarten guidebooks assist parents and teachers in guiding young children’s learning at age-appropriate levels. Children under the age of 5 may be able to do the following as well, but using the activities in the Pre-K guidebooks will help parents prepare their children so they know the following prior to entering kindergarten.

Math skills

Sort objects — Ask your children to classify toys into categories.

Count to 10 — Encourage your child to count and share their ideas about numbers

Recognize difference in sizes — Help your child to understand concepts like more, less, bigger, smaller, first, and last

Science skills

Ability to use all five senses — For example, distinguishing between hot and cold water and knowing the difference between how a flower smells and how a shoe smells

Identify the difference in textures — Ask them to describe items that are soft, sticky or prickly

Ten basic colors and four basic shapes — Take your child on a shape hunt around the house. Ask them to name the color and shape

Identify names of familiar animals — Use a magazine, book, educational toy or zoo trip to teach animal names

Reading skills

Identify letters and numbers — Avoid using ABC flashcards or specifically “teaching” letters one at a time as this may interfere with your child’s natural excitement about learning letters and words. However, writing a child’s name and helping them know the letters that spell it can be exciting for them and help them begin to understand that spoken language links to written words.

Identify days of the week — Every morning, greet a child with “Happy Monday” or the current day of the week.

Associate sounds with letters — Talk to your children about what they read and point out letters and sounds of letters.

Recognize rhyming sounds — Sing songs, play games, do finger plays, and read rhyming poems and stories.

Communicate verbally with complete sentences — Sing songs, play games, do finger plays, and read rhyming poems and stories.

Physical development

Ability to hold a crayon, pencil or other writing tool — Provide children with blank paper and crayons or markers to promote dexterity.

Ability to walk, run, climb, jump, walk up and down stairs, and throw and catch a ball — Allow your child to have time for play and exploration every day.Follow basic movements such as over, under, in and out — Use positional and directional words like “above” and “below,” or “left” and “right.”

Basic eye-hand coordination — Play with your child using toys that can be used in more than one way such as legos, wooden blocks, dollhouse etc.

Personal awareness

Know their own name and age — Ask them every few days to tell you their name and how old they are.

Know how to put on jackets and shoes and operate buttons and zippers — Make a game of getting dressed in the morning and putting on pajamas for bed.

Use the bathroom alone, wash hands and open and close doors — Make sure they have a step stool to reach the sink and provide fun, colorful soaps to encourage hand-washing.

Social Skills

Use “please” and “thank you” — Model the words and behaviors of politeness and common courtesy.

Recognize authority figures, follow direction, respond when asked questions, sit still when asked — Model trust, honesty, and respect in dealings with children and adults.

Use eating utensils — Have family dinners regularly and model using spoons, forks and knives.

Play well with other children — Provide opportunities for children to play in groups or with a partner.

Margot Chappel is director of Nevada’s Head Start Collaboration and Early Childhood Systems Office.

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