Kindergarten Checklist – Why I’m ditching it.

kindergarten checklist


I get asked all the time if I have a ready for kindergarten checklist. I don’t. A few days ago I decided I was going to write one but I couldn’t do it. It didn’t feel right.

I get it. Making sure your child is ready for kindergarten is stressful. Making sure they will thrive in our increasingly high stakes schools, not get bullied, and make it to the bathroom on time every time is enough to worry about but what about the academics? Does she need to know how to add and subtract? Does he need to know all the shapes before going into kindergarten? Little Jane down the street is reading. Should my child be reading too? Where did I put that checklist?

Put away the checklist, at least for a few minutes and hear me out.

There will be days when your child won’t thrive. Maybe weeks.

There will be days when a friend isn’t kind and days when your child isn’t.

There will be days when they struggle with the academics and length of school day.

There may even be days when you get a call from the nurse because your child needs new pants.

But there will also be many days filled with exploration, days filled with independence, and new experiences. Days filled with learning.

We don’t have to make our children’s lives free of all challenges. We don’t have to fix all their problems and erase their struggles. In fact it’s better if we don’t. Children need to learn how to navigate challenges and are we forgetting that young children are amazing competent people? Like each of us they bring their own talents and weaknesses with them wherever they go.

Starting kindergarten may be a challenge or a cakewalk for your child. Most likely it will be somewhere in the middle. You can check every item off a ready for kindergarten checklist and still have a sad, bored, or overwhelmed kid on your hands come September. You could also have a child who only hit some of those items but is ready to learn and end up thriving ,surpassing the child who may be reading but can’t behave in a group larger than 3. Children don’t fit into checklists, especially 4 and 5 year olds.

Checklists have their place and are great to make sure there are no major developmental delays, use them along with your well child visits to the pediatrician,  to assess your child generally. If there is an issue by all means seek out help, if your gut is telling you your child needs help even if they hit all the items on the check list listen to it and advocate for your child. If you have no idea what a child ready for kindergarten looks like by all means contact your district and I am sure they will have some sort of hand out or checklist for you to read. Read it, but remember that children develop at their own pace and no amount of forcing will hurry some steps up.

My daughter is off to kindergarten in the fall and I feel the pressure too. She is enrolled in preschool as part of my plan to prepare her for kindergarten, I have advocated for her specific needs and she has received services for speech therapy. I feel pressure to sit down and drill my daughter with sight words and handwriting practice. I feel pressure to have her reading even though I know full well children aren’t expected to be. Education is a high stakes environment right now but it’s your choice to bring those high stakes into your home or not. I choose not to.

I choose to follow my daughter’s interest with the activities I do with her.

I choose to read to her every day even that book over and over and over again because it’s the one she picked.

I choose to encourage her do it herself. Even when I could do it faster, more accurately, and with way less mess.

I choose to expose her to new experiences that spark her imagination and curiosity.

I choose to listen when she speaks so she knows she is listened to and will speak up.

I choose to help her problem solve and not fix every challenge right away.

I choose to buy her shoes without laces, at least for now.

Simple Ways To Get Your Child Ready For School

5 ways to get your kids ready for school I am a staunch believer that kids NEED time off. They need time to dig in the dirt for no reason other than digging in the dirt but I get asked year after year to put together a list of things parents can do to get their kids ready for preschool and kindergarten. These five things are the things I would tell my own friends they should do to get their kids ready to go to or go back to school. So I am sharing it with you. Getting kids ready doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive but we do need to take time to prepare our kids.  This is just the tip of the iceberg if you want a much more in depth look at what kids really need check out my dear friend Deborah J. Stewart’s new book Ready For Kindergarten.

This post contains affiliate links.

1. Read!

back to school

Reading doesn’t only help teach your child to read it also works on many of the other things on this list. Listening and taking turns are two obvious lessons children can learn while reading with a parent but what I love most is that reading a book can often open up a dialogue. This is so important. Opening up a dialogue like this lets kids express worries and other challenges they are facing. Try books about school to get your child to open up about how they are feeling and their needs regarding going to or back to school. Further down are more book suggestions for tougher issues like anxiety, bullying and standing up for yourself. For older children reading over the summer is imperative but if you have let it slide jump back on the reading train now so your child is ready to go back to the class with the same ability they left with.

Starting Preschool For The First Time


General School Books

For the full reviews of these and more books check out our Book Section.

2. Practice Listening.

5 ways to get your child ready for preschool

If your child isn’t used to a group setting or has been out of it since the school year ended practicing listening is a great idea. It can be very challenging for young kids to wait their turn to speak especially when excited and sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times we reminded them their impulse control is just not there yet. Work on listening in fun playful ways.


3. Practice self reliance.

5 easy ways parents can get their kids ready for school

Open yogurt tubes, zip jackets, tie shoes etc… a good rule of thumb is to only send your kids with things they can manage themselves. Teachers are happy to help but whenever a teacher is helping a child zip a coat, tie shoes etc… that might be time away from teaching. Multiply that by 10, 15, 20 kids and it adds up.

  • Try a get ready for school obstacle course.  Line up your kids in their bathing suits and have them race to get dressed , get their shoes on , lunch put in the back pack and to the finish line. Race against the clock not each other if the skill level is drastically different.
  • Wood Lacing Sneaker for tying practice. This is almost identical to the one I learned on in 1982 and I like how stable it is.
  • I love this  Learn To Dress Monkey for practicing buttons , zippers and snaps.

4. Talk about differences, bullying and standing up for yourself .

5 simple things you can do to make sure your kids are ready for preschool

School can be an anxious place for some kids and talking about that before hand can help. The following books are some of my favorites for these subjects:


School Anxiety:

Being Yourself:

Troubles with Friends:

5. Do some fun more learning activities to get into or back into the swing of things.

back to school

Being ready for school in the early years ( preschool – 1st grade ) is much less about what kids know and much more about having them ready to learn. Making sure that they are emotionally stable to be away from the home for the length of time that they will, giving them confidence and tools to handle issues, and being ready to work in a large group where their needs will not be met as immediately as they are at home.  That said doing some fun learning activities won’t hurt! Here are some of my favorites for each age group. You can also have fun by making Alphabet Crafts – my ebook .


  • Preschool

Magic Letters
Shape Crafts
Alphabet Playdough
Shell Math Game
Peel & Pick Alphabet Apple Tree
Counting Around The House


  • PreK

Silly Ways To Teach Print Awareness
Letter Sorting Tree
Shape Art
Letter Dominoes
Pattern Towers
Move & Groove Letter Game
Font Collages
Hanging Out The Wash Math Game


  • Kindergarten and 1st Grade

Connect The Dots Math
Sight Word Dominoes
Spelling With Beads
Paint & Read
Sight Word Game
Secret Code Math

This post contains affiliate links.