Kindergarten Readiness Checklist: Key Concepts for Your Child to Know

Determining if your child is ready for kindergarten is a stress-free process with this simple breakdown of skills.

Published June 9, 2023
Mother and father playing with toddler using didactic wooden toys

As parents, we want our little ones to walk into their first day of kindergarten with confidence, and knowing that they're prepared can be reassuring (for us and them!). A kindergarten readiness checklist can be super handy to help assess whether your child is ready for their first official day of school.

Most kindergarten requirements are based on skills and knowledge you've likely already taught your child, so take a look at the list to see if there are any areas for improvement as you help prepare your little one for this exciting school year.

Basic Kindergarten Readiness Requirements

Though some of the specific readiness requirements for kindergarten might vary based on your state, school district, or choice of school structure, there are some general guidelines that determine your child is prepared for kindergarten.

Most of the skills kids need for kindergarten fall under language, reading, math, social skills, motor skills, and emotional development. Look through the different categories to see any areas your child might need some encouragement in before that first day of school (and help them celebrate the milestones they've already achieved).


Most of the language skills your child possesses at kindergarten age (though the range is 4-7, most children are ready at the age of 5) are simple and focused on verbal language rather than reading or writing. These are some language basics your child needs to know when starting kindergarten.

  • Ability to verbalize most of their needs and wants

  • Able to speak in full sentences

  • Recognize some small words that rhyme: cat and hat, dog and frog, etc.

  • Understand words that refer to time: today, yesterday, day, night, etc.

  • Say the alphabet aloud


No one will expect your kindergarten child to know how to read, but there are some early skills that will help in their journey to reading. Check off these reading comprehension skills for your child to set them up for a successful kindergarten year.

  • Recognize letters of the alphabet

  • Recognize letters in their uppercase and lowercase forms

  • Recognize their name in written form (some schools may also require a last name recognition)

  • Recognize every letter in their first name

  • Know how to handle a book: find the first page of a book and understand the direction pages to turn pages


Don't worry; the math skills required of a kindergarten-age child are mostly about recognition. Your child will learn the more complex skills, like addition and subtraction, as they grow academically. For kindergarten readiness, look for these simple math skills.

  • Recognize numbers 0-10 when given a visual

  • Able to count to 10 aloud

  • Able to count the objects in a small grouping (2-10 objects)

  • Understand object relationships: big/small, first/last, inside/outside, etc.

  • Name and recognize basic shapes: circle, triangle, square, etc.

  • Recognize and name colors

Social Skills

Academic experiences aren't just about the knowledge gained. There's a social aspect to the experience as well, and this still applies to kindergarten-aged children. Notice these social skill requirements for kindergarten and consider how you might encourage your child in these areas.

  • Able to say their first name, last name, and age

  • Understanding of what it means to share and how to practice it

  • Have experience playing with other children in their age range

  • Basic understanding of manners and politeness

  • Ability to follow directions with 1-3 steps

  • Basic understanding of their body: identifying basic body parts like eyes and nose, as well as an age appropriate understanding of privacy and body parts that shouldn't be touched by others

  • Understanding of age-appropriate kindness: no hitting, using kind words, helping others

  • Able to vocalize when they are uncomfortable to an appropriate adult: feeling unsafe, fearful, sick, or injured

  • Understand how to clean up messes and put away items

Motor Skills

Even for the most advanced kindergarten-aged child, gross and fine motor skills will continue to develop with age and experience. These are the basic gross and fine motor skills your child will need for a successful kindergarten experience.

  • Motor skills to hold a pencil or scissors in their hand (some schools may require the ability to write their name or use scissors safely at this age)

  • Some ability to use a crayon or pencil with some control: color with a crayon or draw some basic shapes with a pencil

  • Know their dominant hand: teachers will need to know if your child is left or right-handed

  • Climb stairs

  • Run

  • Jump with feet together

  • Some experience using a glue stick and paste

  • Put together a simple puzzle, play with blocks, make simple crafts

  • Put on their jacket and fasten it without help

  • Put on shoes without help

Emotional Development and Independence

Skills and knowledge are only part of the kindergarten puzzle. You will also want to ensure your child is emotionally ready for kindergarten. This also includes the independence to do certain tasks on their own or with little help.

  • Pay attention to a task for 5-10 minutes minimum

  • Emotional stability to be away from parents for extended periods of time

  • Ability to use the restroom and wash their hands without help

  • Able to dress themselves

  • Able to follow verbal directions quickly in an emergency: this requires a basic understanding of "safe adults" like their teacher or a firefighter

  • Able to feed themselves

  • Basic understanding of food allergies they may have and how to communicate that to an adult

  • Able to recognize and communicate basic feelings: sadness, anger, happiness, frustration, worry, etc.

  • Able to recognize, name, and explain relationships between immediate family members

Need to Know

School kindergarten registration dates vary, so it's a good idea to check well in advance. Depending on the school, the registration deadline could be as early as January prior to your child starting kindergarten. Don't panic if you've missed the deadline, though. Schools may allow registration into the summer or late registration even once school's started.

Advanced Kindergarten Skills

These skills extend the basic skills required for a kindergartener and aren't typically seen on a requirement checklist. While these skills may not warrant a skipped grade or guarantee academic excellence, nor are they required for entrance into kindergarten, they will certainly help your child with their kindergarten experience.

  • Understanding of repeating patterns

  • Understanding of more complex shapes

  • Ability to count to 20 and above

  • Understanding of the sounds that every letter makes

  • Able to recognize some sight words: and, am, or, etc.

  • Able to understand basic facts about the solar system, animals, geography, automobiles and weather

  • Ability to write two and three-letter words

  • Shows interest in specific subjects and asks questions

  • More developed social and emotional skills like sitting with hands in their lap while listening to instructions or making long-term eye contact during a conversation

  • Write their first and last name using upper and lower case letters

  • Understand simple addition and subtraction with basic reasoning skills (if you have one apple and mom gives you another apple, you have two apples)

  • Understand some basics of phonics like consonant and vowel sounds or two letter sounds (th, ng, and nt)

Where to Find Your School's Kindergarten Requirements

This list should give you some insight into how ready your child might be for kindergarten. For specifics on what your child's school requires, use the following resources to stay informed.

Children and teachers playing and making music in kindergarten
  • Double check age requirements by state through the National Center for Education Statistics.

  • Check the U.S. Department of Education to find your school district and statutes or requirements that pertain to your area. This will direct you to your state's department of education and help you determine if your state requires a kindergarten readiness exam for entry.

  • Understand your state's laws on homeschool requirements for kindergarteners through the Home School Legal Defense Association.

  • Contact your school well before the registration date ends to ask for their kindergarten requirements and readiness standards.

Check In With Your Child

Though most children are eligible and ready for kindergarten by the age of five, your child may be eligible for early or delayed entry based on their development. Use the kindergarten readiness checklist to check in with your child and assess if it's truly time to take the big step into kindergarten. Remember, you know your child best and everyone learns at different rates, so don't feel pressured to hold your child to an age-focused standard.

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Kindergarten Readiness Checklist: Key Concepts for Your Child to Know