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Did you know anyone can teach school readiness skills? If you are unsure what to do, I have you covered.

Most of all, these tips are fun for your kids and easy to incorporate into your day.

I  taught my kids school readiness skills before they went to school; it wasn’t hard. Okay, I am an English teacher, but it still wasn’t hard.

I will give you 50 fun tips to help you teach your preschooler without him even knowing he’s learning. Some of these tricks can be done at snack time, while others can be done in the car, during reading, bath time, bedtime, or dead time during your day.

School readiness skills can be done quickly with little planning. If you homeschool, these teaching tips will help you for years.

So, let’s get started!

What Are School Readiness Skills?

So, what is the definition of school readiness skills, and why is it important?

You may have never heard the term school readiness skills for kindergarten before. Don’t let it intimidate you or cause you great fear. Simply put, they are a set of skills your child needs to have when entering kindergarten.

And, no, it’s not hard to do.

There are five domains teachers use when doing a school readiness assessment. And while your child may not be perfect in all areas, the more your child is prepared for school, the better the experience. And the further ahead he will be.

What Are the 5 Domains of School Readiness?

The US government uses five domains of school readiness skills to assess your child when she enters kindergarten.

  1. Language and literacy development
  2. Cognition and general knowledge (including early mathematics and early scientific development)
  3. Approaches toward learning
  4. Physical well-being and motor development
  5. Social and emotional development

If you have done any research, you know there is some overlap in school readiness skills. That’s why it’s important to work with your child in multiple ways. Character training (biblical morals and values) is a biggie, and it’s not listed!

I would emphasize obedience as the number one school readiness goal to have before school starts. If your child is unwilling to sit, listen, and obey, it will be hard for her to learn.

RELATED: How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids: 7 Easy Tips to Be a Calm Parent

What Are the Most Important School Readiness Skills?

Check out these school readiness skills your child needs to know by the time she enters kindergarten. More importantly, this is a good way to catch her up before school starts if she has fallen behind. These school readiness goals are easy and great bonding activities to do with mom and dad.

Math

These are things your child needs to know before he walks into kindergarten. Check out these school readiness skills for preschool that you can do so your child will be prepared.

1. Rote counting– practice counting in the car, at the table, waiting in line at the store, or at any other dead time where there is nothing to do. Just start counting and have your child do it with you. You can sing it to a tune. One of the most important school readiness skills is counting to 20.

2. Recognize numbers-get books that focus on numbers and counting. Read the page and have your child trace the number with his finger. Ensure your child starts at the top of the number and goes down. Some foods such as mac and cheese, cookies, soups, and crackers offer numbers and letters to reinforce this concept.

3. Count objects-Get large beads, food (goldfish crackers, cheerios, fruit snacks, etc.), or any other object in multiples. Count them together. It is a great snack-time activity. This will help your child be school-ready.

4. Comparative words-work on what is more or less, left and right, up and down, bigger and smaller, and fast and slow. This can also be done at snack time while your kids are eating goldfish, Cheerios, crackers, or cookies. They will never know you are practicing school readiness skills.

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Bonus: Higher Level Math-School Readiness Skills

5. Counting all- your child will be school-ready if she can look at fingers (or any small group of objects)  and automatically see five fingers without counting each finger to get to five.

6. Addition and subtraction-put objects in groups. Add or subtract from each group. Yep, snack time is good for this too.

7. Fractions-use graham crackers. Snap it in half and then in fourths to show the fractions. Or any other object you can divide. This is such a fun way to introduce school readiness skills.

8. Measurement– let your child cook with you. Talk about the measurements as your child scoops, pours, and stirs. All of these actions help with motor skills too.

9. Calendar skills-get a child-friendly calendar and hang it on the wall low enough for your child to see every day. You can have him help you change the day, month, and year.

Go over the numbers for a few seconds each day. This is an easy way for your child to develop school readiness skills with little effort. You can also talk about the holidays as they come up, which will throw in some history.

Have a Christmas calendar during the holidays and count down the days until Christmas. (My kids fought over doing this!)

Colors and Shapes-School Readiness Skills 

1. Colors-start with primary colors first. Have lots of books and toys that emphasize colors and shapes.

Read them together and point them out. Ask your child to point to the color. Have him eventually say it back to you. Your child needs to recognize ten colors. This is a critical school readiness skill.

2. Shapes-start with the basic shapes such as square, triangle, rectangle, circle, and star. Point them out and play a guessing game. Introduce road signs, stars in the sky, the sun, and the moon so it is easily recognized in class.

Have a fun reward (extra playtime, later bedtime, a friend over) when your child can draw them all and name them.

 Writing-School Readiness Skills

1. Writing tools– use broken crayons, small chalk, paintbrush,  or anything that would force a pinch. The goal is to hold a pencil correctly. (Keep your broken crayons!).

Avoid markers as they are too big. The smaller the better. (I bet you didn’t know these were school readiness skills!)

2. Trace letters with a finger– always have the child start at the top when writing and go down. Start with capital letters. The child is learning to connect lines by writing the uppercase letters first.

Lowercase letters are rounded and more challenging to write. Wait on that. You can use the letters in books or write your own letters to trace.

Your child needs to recognize most upper and lowercase letters when entering kindergarten.

3. Chalkboard-get a chalkboard so your child can write and draw on it. It doesn’t have to be a big board; you want a size that your child can maneuver easily.

Put a letter on the board and have your child trace it with chalk. Then, see if he can write it alone.

4 Trace names over copier paper– Your child needs to be able to write his or her name before kindergarten.

Get two pieces of paper from your printer. Write the child’s name in large capital letters using a black marker. Place a blank sheet with the name on top of the paper.

The name will show through the paper. Have your child trace the letters with a crayon or pencil. As the child conquers it, make the name smaller. These tips are great school readiness skills to have before school starts.

5. Bathtub markers- Buy washable bathtub markers and let your kids draw pictures on the tile wall or the side of the tub. Practice numbers and letters. Have your child write his name.

Letters-School Readiness Skills

1. Books=-Get books that focus on the alphabet and short words. I loved Richard Scarry’s and Dr. Seuss’s books. Have a set of board or plastic books in the car for easy access. Riding in the car is a great time to practice school readiness skills.

2. Sing the alphabet song/download songs-you can break into song/listen to songs when you are together in the car, kitchen cooking, or any other dead time when nothing is happening. I had songs playing in my child’s bedroom during playtime.

Find songs that include the books of the Bible, the alphabet, counting, scripture, etc. If you keep playing these songs, your child will eventually be able to sing them. This is an important skill to have by kindergarten.

3. Flash Cards-letters are just like animals. Each one has a name and a sound. Work on the name and the sound when you are showing the card.

Example: The letter “D” is “dee-duh.” The letter “B” is “bee-buh.” You can hole-punch the cards and attach them with a ring. They are much easier to flip and won’t get lost.

4. Magnet letters-buy magnet letters and put them on the refrigerator/oven/dishwasher. (Whatever appliance is magnetic.) Your child can play with them while you are cooking dinner.

Spell your child’s name and keep it on the fridge. Talk about it and sound the letters out casually while working in the kitchen.

5. Food with letters-Trader Joe’s has cookies with letters. Talk about the sound and name while eating them. You can spell your child’s name and other short words. This will help you teach school readiness skills in a very fun way!

6. Sandpaper letters-These are letters that are slightly raised with a sandpaper texture. Your child can feel how the letter is made by tracing the raised sandpaper with her fingers.

Only introduce 2-3 at a time. It can be a bit overwhelming when learning them.

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Literacy-School Readiness Skills

1. Read books and nursery rhymes– read to your child daily! This is so important. Make storytime an event. Have your kids sit in your lap and hold them. This will create safety and good feelings while reading.

Use different voices for the characters, smile, laugh, and have fun with them. Read books with nursery rhymes. Rhyming is an important skill.

2. Repeat the story back- read a story and have your child tell the story back to you. You are looking for the main details to see if your child comprehends what you read to him.

3. Go to the library-make it a point to go when they have story time. Check out books on different subject matters while you are there. Let your child help pick them out so they are excited about what they are reading.

4. Find books that teach Christian morals- if your child is struggling with lying, find books that teach a moral story about lying, sharing, picky eaters, kindness, etc. This will help shore up character issues in a non-confrontational way.

5. Filter content-it will take some extra time, but skim through books before you buy or check them out from the library. Authors are very sneaky about slipping in things that are not biblical. Sadly, many have an agenda.

6. Making inferences- before you start reading a book to your child, look at the cover and the back of the book. From the pictures, have your child tell you what he thinks the book is about or even create his own story from the pictures inside the book. Wordless books are good for this too.

7. Pretend- encourage role-playing, make-believe, and dramatic play. Help your child to imagine, dream, and think outside the box.

RELATED: 40 Fun Reading Activities For Pre-School and Elementary-Age Kids

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 Motor Skills-School Readiness Skills

1. Buy “old school” toys-wooden toys and blocks are great for teaching color, shapes, and creativity. Your child has to use his hands to grasp and manipulate the objects. Practice stacking blocks ten high. Electronic toys don’t teach this!

2. Play-doh- roll it like a worm, pinch, make a ball, cut with cookie cutters, pancake, and form shapes. These motions help your child build strength. They must have enough muscle to hold and control a pencil.

3. Paint- let your child paint with watercolors, tempera paint, etc. Holding a brush helps develop strength.

4. Kinetic Sand-kinetic sand is sand that sticks together. It is mess-free, non-toxic, and easy to use. Your child can build things in the house without making a huge mess.

5. Glue-I used glue sticks with my second child. Big mistake. When she went to kindergarten, she didn’t know how to use a glue bottle or glue neatly. She was actually behind in this area. Oops.

6. Scissors-buy child-friendly scissors and some construction paper. Cut and glue the paper together to make an animal. Check Pinterest for craft ideas. This will help you teach school readiness skills.

7. Lacing, buttons, and zippers-find toys or dolls that have lacing, buttons, and zippers. These skills are essential to help your child be school-ready. It builds muscle strength and coordination. This is a huge school readiness skill you don’t want to forget.

8. Sensory Bin-put beads, sand, beans, whatever you want into a bin. Your child can scoop, dig, and play with all the different textures. Teach sorting, dividing, adding, subtracting, grouping, and stringing beads.

9. Manipulate small objects- use tweezers, fuse small beads, and play with little things like Polly Pocket.

10. Follows instructions- your child needs to be able to follow up to two directions in a row such as “pick up your plate and put it in the sink.”

11. Do STEM Activities-STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This is a fancy way to say educators are now trying to integrate these subjects to create situations that demand real-world problem-solving through discovery and exploratory learning.

Do more hands-on activities so your child will be school-ready. Go outside, observe, collect, and interact with nature.

12. Puzzles- get puzzles with at least four pieces. This will help your child manipulate shapes and understand sizes. Old-school wooden puzzles are awesome.

13. Play outside daily– encourage running, skipping, hopping, jumping, catching and throwing a ball, riding a bike, and climbing. Mostly, this comes naturally unless a child is stuck to technology.

RELATED: Facts About Parenting: 3 Secrets Moms Don’t Talk About

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What Types of Skills Are the Key to School Readiness?

Check out these school readiness activities to help you teach your child. They are the keys to unlocking learning.

1.  Teach through play-you are just playing. It is no big deal. There are no lesson plans or tests. Be purposeful with the time you spend together. Smile and have fun. If you laugh and smile, your child will never know you are “teaching” anything. It is just a part of your conversation.

2. Allow time for answers-if you ask a question, let your child think through the answer. It takes a long time for things to connect in a little brain when there is new material. It may feel uncomfortable when there is a long wait time. Just smile and encourage her to think about it.

3. Talk to yourself-instead of asking your child a question; you can talk to yourself and say, “Hmmm. I wonder what color this is? Hmm. What is it?”

I made it funny and asked the dog or a stuffed animal every once in a while. This works especially well when your child is in a stubborn mood and doesn’t want to answer anything you ask.

4. Talk at eye level-get on the floor, have your child sit in your lap, or stoop down when talking to your child. Sit together in the toddler chairs if you have them. Smile and talk normally.

You don’t want to talk baby talk or repeat his baby talk. Make sure your child learns how to say and do things the right way the first time. Otherwise, you or the teacher will have to break the habit and reteach. Not fun!

5. Travel and go places-visit the zoo, go to the park, explore nature, or travel if you can. Expose your child to the world. Experiences help your child connect ideas and thoughts and make new meanings of what she is learning.

6. Work on your child’s character-this is one of the most crucial times to sow God’s word into your child’s heart. Read Bible stories and talk about simple things like trust, obedience, love, kindness, joy, etc. I highly suggest working specifically on the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-26). These school readiness skills are often overlooked but very important!

7. Ditch the Ipad-the Ipad is not a good school readiness skill.  (It’s too much stimulation.) Use it very sparingly. Your child needs to be outside playing, building, drawing, climbing, coloring, painting, digging, etc. It sounds old-fashioned, but it is not.

Kids who sit inside and watch TV or play on their iPads or computers all day are behind in their ability to be school-ready. They also have a bigger chance of being overweight, having anxiety, or having discipline problems because they haven’t been taught to listen to adults or respond to instructions without fuss. (If your child throws a fit or constantly asks for it, it has become an addiction.)

Many times, technology causes nightmares or night terrors. Remove it and see if it goes away.

Use school readiness skills to develop your child’s brain the old-fashioned way. They will have plenty of tech time as they get older. I promise.

8. Role-play situations-your kids will eventually encounter challenging situations that include sitting quietly in their seats (this is a skill!), listening to a story, responding to questions, making eye contact, respecting others, sharing, and following instructions.

RELATED: 9 Positive Character Traits For Kids to Succeed at School

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School Readiness Skills

The Benefits of School Readiness Skills

There are many benefits to doing school readiness activities with your kids. You will spend quality time with them doing fun things that are also meaningful.

The 50 ideas I’ve suggested are easy ways to help you integrate life skills into play. It should not be forced, dull, or even a power struggle to get them to participate if you keep introducing it as part of your day.

Keep smiling and having fun, and your kids will too!

I hope these suggestions and tips will help your child develop school readiness skills before he goes to school. You don’t have to do all of them, but the more you do, the better for your child. I know because I did most of these, and it worked on my kids.

What school readiness skills do you do with your child? Comment below. 

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Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.

16 Comments

  1. Awesome read!! Would you recommend any products that help with more high level math? Like 3rd to 5th grade math?

    • Maggy, I wish I could suggest to you a particular product to help you. I can tell you one thing I did to help my son in math. I checked out a math book over the summer from the school and talked to the next year’s teacher about what they would be learning. I hired a math tutor to work with my son all through the summer. This way I knew he would be prepared for the next grade.
      If you are homeschooling, I would talk to other homeschool parents. You might do that anyways if you can’t check out a book. They will be able to tell you what the good math programs are right now. Hope this helps.
      Another suggestion is to email your child’s teacher from this past school year and ask for suggestions. The teacher will know specifically how to get access to the products you need.

  2. These are great tips! I have always thought that if you can teach through play, you are on the right track.

  3. These are good things for your child to know before they go to school for the first time. They definitely need to know these things to be confident when they get there.

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