Tips for Starting School: What Do You Learn in Kindergarten
For a parent, there is nothing quite as nerve-wracking as your first child going to kindergarten. It's a transition full of conflicting emotions and weighty questions. You wonder, What will they learn? What do they need to succeed? And most importantly, will everything be okay?
We understand that the weeks leading up to the first day of school isn't an easy time for every family. But somehow, parents and students manage to survive — and even thrive — all the same.
In the spirit of helping you start the school year on an optimistic note, we're here to answer your questions about what kindergarten will look like for your child. In this guide, we'll send you off with some useful tips to get your kid's academic journey off to an exciting start.
What We Learn in Kindergarten
Five- and 6-year-olds are full of curiosity. Their first year of school draws from their natural eagerness to learn and connect with the world around them in new ways. The lessons within the typical kindergarten curriculum set the foundations for future learning. They also provide a structured environment for growing in everyday life skills like following routines, improving concentration and building friendships.
Here are some of the academic subjects children learn during their kindergarten experience:
- Sounds and Letters: Foundational practices include letter-sound association, sight words, phonetics, rhyming and word families.
- Reading and Writing: Learning letter sounds will lead to reading on their own and beginning to write short words and, eventually, simple sentences.
- Counting and Numbers: Using concrete concepts, students will learn to sort, create patterns and begin to cover basic addition and subtraction.
- Science and Nature: As they grow to understand the world around them, students will learn the basics of human health, animals, the weather, the five senses and other relatable topics.
- Time and the Calendar: As abstract concepts, these areas sometimes take time for kindergarteners to understand, although they improve with daily practice.
- Identity and Social Studies: Students will start with "me" and the concept of immediate family, gradually working their way to larger circles of society, like their neighborhood, their city and, ultimately, other cultures.
Each of these topics is explored throughout the days and weeks of the school year in different ways. Not only will your student have a solid groundwork for future academic pursuits, but the regular schedule will also grow them into well-rounded individuals one day at a time.
Example of a Typical Daily Kindergarten Schedule
One of the most significant changes in your child's routine when entering kindergarten is their introduction to a classroom schedule. It can be an exciting and welcome shift, but it may also take some time for your child to get used to a new daily structure.
Elementary school programs and teachers vary in their approaches to the class day. Some systems may emphasize more rigorous academics while others seek to maximize learning through play. Instructors have to follow state or institutional requirements, which may change the amount of flexibility between lessons. Full-days and half-days also tend to differ in their routines.
While there isn't a clear "standard" for the typical daily schedule, many school days are like a stack of differently colored building blocks. Teachers often alternate between lesson blocks and recess blocks to fill the day. It can look something like this:
- Arrival: Some teachers may have a self-directed activity for students to keep busy while waiting for class to start.
- Announcements: Students may also contribute by going over the calendar day, the day of the week, the weather and other routine check-ins.
- Subject One: For many teachers, the first lesson of the day involves reading, writing or sharing. It may start with word work, using worksheets, word walls or other activities, like journaling to work on advancing skills.
- Snack and recess: After the first subject, students take a break with a healthy snack and some playtime before coming back for round two.
- Subject Two: Chances are, after their pick-me-up, the students are extra energized for a subject that is more intensive, such as numbers or writing.
- Lunch and recess: Students take a longer break for lunch and more play.
- Quiet time: If the students have a full day of class, at this point, they are ready to rest. Some programs may have a scheduled nap while others provide this time for quiet corners, silent reading or independent work.
- Subject Three: In this segment, the teacher may focus on science, social studies or the arts. They may have workstations set up to further other skills and interactions between students.
- Playtime: The end of the day varies greatly between programs. Some classes will take excursions to the library or the gym. Some will go outside. Some may have an in-class game or music to play to end the day on a high note.
- Clean up and dismissal: Everyone helps clean up at the end of the day and prepares to go home.
No two kindergarten programs are identical, but they all seek to give students a well-rounded learning experience. For the material to truly sink in, students need to practice what they've learned outside of the classroom as well.
How to Continue Your Child's Learning at Home
By the end of the school day, your child will have reviewed and expanded a diverse set of skills, including both academic growth and social achievements. It's important for parents to allow students to practice what they learned at home and continue to grow and have fun as a family. Here are a few ways to encourage your child to show off what they have mastered in school while also continuing to learn at home:
- Reading: Read aloud together whenever possible. Find books that are catchy and rhyme that cover some of your child's particular interests. Tackling easier books can help build confidence in reading early on. You can also encourage your child to read street signs or other labels when you're out and about together.
- Writing: Keep coloring materials on hand and encourage your child to practice writing their name or labeling their work. For example, if they color a cow, you can help them spell and write the word "cow" beneath the picture. This also builds their letter-sound and letter-drawing associations.
- Math: Find little opportunities to count or put numbers in order. This can be outside of the home, like when you're waiting in line together and calculate how many places you still need to move, or it can be in more familiar situations, such as counting the toys or books in their bedroom.
- Colors and Shapes: Similarly, you can ask your child to sort their stuffed animals by height or color, see how many circles you can find around the house and discuss the color wheel through finger painting or doing crafts together.
- Time: Talk often about what time it is and what time certain activities are, like bedtime or leaving for school. You can ask about the days of the week or discuss your favorite season.
These tips can give extra momentum to the skills your child has been introduced to in class. It shows them how to apply classroom ideas in real, day-to-day life. But helping your child learn at home isn't the only way to make sure the whole family is prepared to thrive in school. Take a look at some of our other tips for first-time kindergarten parents.
For First-Timers: 7 Tips for Starting Kindergarten
Instilling a love of learning and self-discovery is what childhood development is all about. As a parent, you play a meaningful role in helping grow your child into a self-starter and goal-setter. Here are some other ways to encourage your kindergartener — and perhaps help ease your own nerves about this new stage in your child's life.
- Minimize their anxiety by your example: Start by accepting that there will be a range of emotions, but trust that everything will be okay in the end. Find ways to show excitement for the year ahead around your child, conveying confidence in their abilities and your peace of mind about them going to school.
- Orient yourself and your child around the school: Take a family outing to visit the building or playground before the school year starts, and make sure you attend meet-the-teacher night and other orientation events hosted by the school.
- Start building responsible habits ahead of time: Discuss ways to modify chores leading up to the school year, especially regarding your child's personal belongings. Talk about treating people with respect and kindness, and you may even need to address bullying ahead of time, as uncomfortable as it may seem.
- Go crazy with the label-maker: Put names and contact information on everything your child owns, just in case. Additionally, provide documents so that your child's teacher can know of special needs or preferences.
- Take control and get through that first day: Allow the initial separation to be as quick and positive as you can. Make a goodbye plan together and remind one another about it as you approach the classroom. But in the end, after drop-off, allow yourself to take deep breaths and talk — or cry — with your support system if those separation feelings hit hard.
- Cherish memorable moments, big and small: Celebrate successes throughout the year, and don't forget to document by taking plenty of pictures. Pay close attention to any firsts, and make the most of them as they come.
- Ask specific questions about your kid's daily experiences: Simply asking, "How was your day?" may not give you a very satisfying response if your child is tired after long hours at school. Instead, opt for specific questions that they can answer without much thought to get that dialogue going smoothly, like asking who they sat with or what games they played at recess.
School Supply List for Kindergarteners
For the first-time kindergarten parent, school shopping can feel overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be that way. Your school probably provides a list of all your child will need, but here are some other pointers to make sure you cover all your bases.
1. Art Supplies
For successful hands-on learning, your child may wind up getting their little hands dirty. Here are some supplies they'll need to make those messes much more enjoyable.
- An exciting array of colors: Crayons, markers, colored pencils, you name it. Have all of your child's favorite hues thrown in there to create award-winning drawings for your fridge, and make sure that a fitting skin tone is included for creating self-portraits they can feel proud of.
- Dry erase markers: For whiteboard exercises, you may need to provide the right markers. Go over the difference between the dry erase markers and other types of markers to hopefully prevent permanent damages to school equipment.
- Safety scissors: Mastering safe use of sharp objects is part of growing up. Send a small pair with your child, and make sure if you have a lefty to provide accordingly.
- A smock, apron or oversized shirt: As we said, things get messy. If you want your child to have designated clothing-protection gear, make sure they have it with the rest of their art tools.
- Glue: For pasting masterpieces, you may need to provide an assortment of tape, glue sticks and liquid paste.
2. Writing Gear
Learning to write is a journey, but the right equipment can help give the exercises some fun and flair.
- A notebook: Teachers may require a spiral notepad, a composition book or a three-ring binder with loose sheets for writing assignments.
- Pencils: You will need plenty of utensil options to make the writing process more creative. Choose jumbo sized pencils paired with soft, colorful grips to help those fine motor skills develop with ease.
- Erasers and sharpeners: Along with pencils, your child will need a reliable way to correct mistakes and sharpen tools on the go.
- Paper holder: Your school may specify a particular kind of folder for your child to take documents or assignments back and forth between school and home.
3. Other Must-Haves
Here are a few helpful ideas to keep your child's stuff contained and well-organized in the classroom and to prepare in case a need arises.
- A backpack: By kindergarten, your child will be carrying enough supplies to warrant a nice, big-kid backpack. It shouldn't be too big to carry, but all of their things should fit comfortably, leaving some spare room.
- A lunchbox: Insulate and protect your kid's food with a reusable lunch container. For fresh items, be sure to throw in an ice pack.
- A reusable water bottle: Rather than sending your kid with sugary juice packs or depending on school water fountains, send your child with a full, spillproof bottle of water that they can rely on throughout the day.
- A fresh set of clothes: Don't let an accident catch your student off guard. Chances are, you can keep a change of clothes at school in case a mess occurs, which can help shield your child from unwanted embarrassment.
- Hand sanitizer and tissues: During the fall, sickness will likely rear its head in your child's classroom. Providing some supplies can help them combat the germs.
- A nap mat: Your kid may need a soft cushion for naptime or quiet time, depending on their full-day schedule.
- A planner: Consider getting your child off to a fantastic academic take-off with their very own personal planner.
Harness Success With a Creatively Designed Personal Planner
It's never too early to start building healthy habits and teaching your kid about responsibility. During the first few years of elementary school, children can begin to record their to-do lists and track their progress. At Success By Design, our school planners have unique sections to inspire students to learn, create and succeed. Parents and teachers alike can share these planners with their kindergarteners, motivating them to strive for greatness.
Kindergarten is an exciting time for students and families alike. We want you to make the most of it.
For other tips for helping your child be the best student they can be, and for more information on our character-building planners, feel free to get in touch with us. Success doesn't happen by accident, so let us help you plan for it from the start.