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What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten, According to a Former Teacher


What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten, According to a Former Teacher

It can be stressful to send your child off to kindergarten. The longer days, bigger school, and increasing academic pressure can leave many parents feeling worried about what their incoming kindergartner will learn.

We talked to Emily DiFabio, a former teacher with a bachelor’s in childhood education and a master’s in literacy education for children from birth to 6th grade. She outlined the main things your child will learn, when it might differ, and how to best prepare your future kindergartner.

Meet the expert
Emily DeFabio
Emily DeFabio is a former teacher with a Masters Degree in literacy education for children from birth-6th grade.

What They’ll Learn in Kindergarten

By the end of their kindergarten year, your child will learn a lot—from basic math and reading to new social skills. Here’s what you can expect:

Academic Skills

Number-based skills like identification, formation, decomposing, and composing numbers under 10, as well as basic 2D and 3D shapes, according to DiFabio. They’ll also learn basic early literacy skills such as letter identification and formation, phonemic awareness, and reading behaviors like reading left to right or understanding the differences between words, letters, and sentences.

While it may vary by state, basic science and social studies concepts are usually covered as well. This could include basic plant and animal life cycles or learning about community helpers.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills like holding a pencil, cutting with scissors, and coloring inside the lines are also part of the curriculum.

Social Skills

Social skills are also a key component, as noted by DiFabio. Your child will learn essential skills such as playing with others and making friends. While it may seem that kindergarten has become more academic, DiFabio explained that this change may be due to caregivers’ misplaced expectations.

“As far as my time teaching, standards have not really changed,” she mentioned. “I think that parents, grandparents, and guardians expect it to be a lot of play and naps. And that is just not the case.”

“The amount of times myself or colleagues have told parents that they are in school learning just as much [as they’re spending playing] and we have just as much academic material to cover usually really surprises them,” she added.

When It Might Vary

While what your child will learn may vary slightly based on your state, kindergarten learning standards are largely consistent across the board, said DiFabio.

“In public schools in the United States, yes, generally speaking the K standards are similar,” she said. “While it will vary from state-to-state the basic concepts learned will be more or less the same.”

The biggest differences occur between public, private, and charter schools, she explained. “If parents are looking between charter, private, or Montessori schools, they need to take into consideration that these schools do not always have to meet the same standards as public schools,” she said.

Additionally, she noted charter schools’ requirements vary greatly from state-to-state.

How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

There are a few things parents or caretakers can do to help their new kindergartner be successful.

First, make sure your child can go to the bathroom independently. Teachers will not help a child use the bathroom, DiFabio warned. Being able to undress and dress themselves (including jackets and shoes) is another important skill. Accidents can happen, even in kindergarten, she noted.

Keep in mind your child’s skill level when choosing items such as shoes. If your child cannot tie their own shoes, don’t send them to school in shoes that tie.

Having a consistent bedtime and morning routine will also set your child up for success in kindergarten. Also, ensure your child memorizes important information such as their legal first and last names, as well as those of their parents’.

And what about lunch? Most parents feel pressure to pack a nutritious lunch for their child. But there’s more to it than that.

“Be sure they can open up everything that is in their lunch box by themselves,” DiFabio explained. “There is maybe one adult per class at the most in the cafeteria supervising and they cannot open up everything. [Plus,] school lunches are typically between 20-30 minutes.”

If you find yourself getting emotional about this huge change in your child’s life, try to breathe deeply and relax.

“Allow for an adjustment period for both yourself and your child,” she said.

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