71 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten

Have you ever wondered what exactly your child needs to know before kindergarten?  Here is a list based upon a Preschool Inventory given to children at the very end of our local Pre-Kindergarten program.  I was looking through my old student-teaching notebook and came across this list (granted, it is six years old).  It was used as both a guiding document as well as an assessment at the end of the year.  I did not come up with this list.  


Please keep in mind as you look over this list that  kids learn best with hands-on experiences, not memorization or drill practice!  These early years with our children should be about fostering a love to play, explore, and learn!  Also, it is important to note that our children are all different and gifted in unique ways.  Obviously, if your child has special needs, exceptionalities, or is delayed in a particular area, this won’t necessarily be relevant to your child.  This is simply a guide…not something to stress about!  


Finally, all areas of development are of equal importance to young children!  Gross motor and social development tasks are just as important as cognitive and pre-reading tasks at this age.   Also, it is important to note that there is no prerequisite (besides age) for children to go to public schools here in the United States.   Although it would be ideal for each child to come into kindergarten already mastering this list, this is obviously not the reality for many children.   Schools are prepared to meet the needs of individual students, regardless of their current ability.  


Have fun learning together through games and various experiences while still encouraging your child’s natural creativity!  


Personal and Social Development  

Approach to learning

  • Shows eagerness and curiosity as a learner
  • Persists in task and seeks help when encountering a problem
  • Is generally pleasant and cooperative




  • Follows rules and routines
  • Manages transitions (going from one activity to the next)
  • Demonstrates normal activity level



Interactions with Others

  • Interacts easily with one or more children
  • Interacts easily with familiar adults
  • Participates in group activities
  • Plays well with others
  • Takes turns and shares
  • Cleans up after play



Conflict Resolution

  • Seeks adult help when needed to resolve conflicts
  • Uses words to resolve conflicts




Language and Literacy


  • Listens with understanding to directions and conversations
  • Follows one-step directions
  • Follows two-step directions




  • Speaks clearly enough to be understood without contextual clues
  • Relates experiences with some understanding of sequences of events



Literature and Reading

  • Listens with interest to stories read aloud
  • Shows interest in reading-related activities
  • Retells information from a story
  • Sequences three pictures to tell a logical story




  • Uses pictures to communicate ideas
  • Uses scribbles, shapes, and letter-like symbols to write words or ideas



Alphabet Knowledge

  • Recites/sings alphabet
  • Matches upper-case letters
  • Matches lower-case letters
  • Identifies upper-case letters
  • Identifies lower-case letters



Mathematical Thinking

Patterns and Relationships

  • Sorts by color, shape, and size
  • Orders or seriates several objects on the basis of one attribute
  • Recognizes simple patterns and duplicates them



Number concept and operations

  • Rote counts to 20
  • Counts objects with meaning to 10
  • Matches numerals
  • Identifies by naming, numerals 0-10



Geometry and spatial relations

  • Identifies 4 shapes- circle, square, rectangle, triangle
  • Demonstrates concepts of positional/directional concepts (up/down, over/under, in/out, behind/in front of, beside/between, top/bottom, inside/outside, above/below, high/low, right/left, off/on, first/last, far/near, go/stop).




  • Shows understanding of and uses comparative words (big/little, large/small, short/long, tall/short, slow/fast, few/many, empty/full, less/more.



Physical Development

Gross-Motor Skills

  • Pedals and steers a tricycle
  • Jumps in place, landing on two feet
  • Jumps consecutively- 7 jumps
  • Balances on one foot for 5 seconds
  • Hops on one foot 2-3 hops
  • Hops on one foot- 6 ft.
  • Throws a ball with direction- 5 ft.
  • Catches a thrown ball with arms and body
  • Climbs a playground ladder
  • Skips smoothly for 20 feet



Fine-Motor Skills

  • Stacks 10, one-inch blocks
  • Strings 4 1/2″ beads in two minutes
  • Completes a seven piece interlocking puzzle
  • Makes a pancake, snake, and ball from playdough
  • Grasps pencil correctly
  • Copies:  vertical line, horizontal line, circle, cross, square, V, triangle
  • Copies first name
  • Prints first name without a model
  • Grasps scissors correctly
  • Cuts within 1/4″ of a 6″ straight line on construction paper
  • Cuts out a 3″ square on construction paper
  • Cuts out a 3″ triangle on construction paper
  • Cuts out a 3″ circle on construction paper
  • Uses a glue stick appropriately
  • Uses appropriate amount of glue for tasks



The Arts

Creative Arts

  • Identifies 10 colors:  red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, black, white, brown, pink
  • Uses a variety of art materials for tactile experience and exploration




  • Participates in group music experiences
  • Participates in creative movement/dance



Creative Dramatics

  • Makes believe with objects
  • Takes on pretend roles and situations




Parents, if you’re looking for some suggestions on things you can do to prepare your child for Kindergarten, check out 33 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten.  You can download and print a list with simple, easy activities that will help to ensure your child is ready!  



Do you agree with this list?  Is there anything that needs to be added (or taken away) based on your experience???



Interested in learning more?  You might be interested in reading all about the seven domains of early childhood development and 10 tips for teaching your child to read!  



71 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten




  1. Karli says

    My 3 1/2 year old can’t do a lot of stuff on this list and that’s OK. I have tried to read to him everyday of his life. He doesn’t like it. He screamed as a baby, as a toddler he took the books that I tried to read him while he played out of my hands and put them on the ground, now he will listen to the books. I work with him daily on learning to count and learning his letters and he is struggling. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom or he’s a bad kid. He is just focusing on other things in his life. He rides bikes and climbs and runs around. His gross motor is great and he will get the rest of it when he gets it.

    Other moms out there who are feeling insecure because your child isn’t WAY ahead, they don’t need to be and the fact that they’re not doesn’t mean you’re not trying.

    • sukh says

      hey Karli
      I was just going to cry after reading this article, but then I read your comment. Thanks a lotttttttt.

      • Ja says

        This is what they call “First grade in Kindergarten”. Your child doesn’t “need to know” anything academic (letters or numbers) before going to Kindergarten, and there are a lot of them who never use scissors or liquid glue before Kindergarten.

        This actually looks like the checklist they used to use for graduating from Kindergarten.

        • Grandma L says

          Though a child that has to test into kindergarten because of the age cut offs has to score in the 96% on the tests. They must know all that and be able to cut shapes out. Makes no sense to me.

        • Sandy says

          If you think that is the list for the end of kindergarten, you are way off base.
          It is a pretty good list, however, many are what I work on with my students at the beginning of kindergarten.

          The most important ones, in my opinion, are those that include self control, listening skills, and social skills with adults and peers. In addition to the above, students who have been read to and talked to a lot come in ready to learn. Students who have never been taught any basics (simple counting, letters in their name, writing their name, colors & basic shapes) will come in behind the eight ball and have to spend time catching up. These are not skills that you teach the month before they start kindergarten, they should just be taught as opportunities arise–It should not be a stressful thing. Teachers love to get students that are excited about learning. We don’t expect them all to know everything.

        • says

          I agree with you that it looks like a list AFTER graduating from Kindergarten and SHOULD BE!Unfortunately, it is what our local kindergartens are looking for in Upstate, New York. I teach in a private, Christian Preschool open to all ( I stress Christian only because we are called to teach by our hearts). It is such a fine line to prepare the children for what the schools say they need to be able to do while allowing them to be CHILDREN. We do it with a child-friendly, hands- on- approach and fun way to learning. Our children love the program and always ask to stay longer. I do however have to be their advocate when a certain skill needs to have a bit more time to develop. Skills that they want to see at the screenings often are not yet developmentally correct for these children to have had mastered yet! We are speaking up and educating parents as well to be our children’s voices and not to continue to PUSH them and turn them off to the rest of their educational journey. Each child is unique and should be allowed to grow at their own pace. They are the best teachers if we watch and listen they show us how they best learn and grow and often on their own end up mastering more but IF NOT they need the time to bloom.

        • Amanda Punchard says

          This is a good list I teach Pre-K and that is most of what we learn in my class to have them ready for kindergarten.

        • Dawn says

          Where we live (Wisconsin) children are expected to know the things on this list entering Kindergarten. By the end of Kindergarten they are expected to be able to read 3 letter words. I’m not saying that is right or wrong—-just saying that is what the expectations are now.

          When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, the things I learned in First Grade are now the things kids are learning in Kindergarten . It’s just how it is now. That’s why you will find more and more parents waiting until their children are 6 to start Kindergarten. Especially with boys, many of them are not ready at age 5 for the academic rigor that is Kindergarten today.

    • Kathleen says

      I agree, no one should feel insecure for things like this. People looked at me funny because my son wasn’t potty trained by the time he was walking (who said it was a race, anyways?? I’m talking like, 1 year old). He just wasn’t interested at the time. I think he was about three when he decided he was interested, and he took care of business. Same thing with working on his letters. He had his numbers down, and could write them with no help at all whatsoever, but at the time he just wasn’t as interested in his letters. It took some time (and a bit of persistence and creative work on my part, I must say lol) to get him interested in his letters to get him to finally practice them. If a kid isn’t interested, they’re just not interested. Granted we should work to find ways to MAKE them interested, sometimes it just has to be done on their time, not how some stranger on the internet SAYS it should be done. Not to mention differences in development. There are so many variables; I hate it when my friends have come to me saying they feel bad that their child isn’t at a certain point by a certain time. All kids are different.

      As for the list, I think it’s a great list to use as a base. Every child is different, some things may apply and some may not. But it gives you something to look at and ideas on areas that may need focusing on. Sounds good to me.

    • Marshall Bullock says

      You are right on target mom!! As a preschool teacher for 24 years, most parents worry themselves and their kids into great stress striving to have them “ahead”. What’s wrong with being average. Unless you have reason you think your child has some type of learning difficulty and needs professional intervention, they’ll get what they need by kindergarten. At 3 1/2 its’ learning through play!

  2. says

    As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, I couldn’t do the majority of the things on this list, and I turned out alright. I think the problem relies upon the way the general society feels people should react versus the necessary way people react all on their own. It’s a matter of functional versus emotional ability, and anything out of the ordinary is something people question and want to fix.

  3. Dana says

    Is there a way I could download this list into a PDF or Word document? I love this list and would to have it for quick access!

  4. Esther says

    I just heard the requirements for preschool went up in Ca. I heard that a child needs to know certain words too. Do you know anything about this?

    • says

      I haven’t heard this, but I don’t live in California. I will say this: there is no “pre-requisite” for children starting kindergarten at a public school. They will make the modifications necessary so that your child’s needs are met. Thanks for commenting!

        • Ja says

          Kindergarten screenings are still done in most places. However, the answer’s the same for almost every kid: if your child is six years old or will be turning six soon, then they will tell you that you should (or must, depending upon the place) enroll him or her. If your child is barely five, then they will suggest that you wait, because older kids are easier for them. Even if your kid is actually a genius, they will suggest waiting.

          The only difference that the Kindergarten screening seems to make is about special education: if your child’s development is significantly slower than typical, then they’ll see whether special services are needed.

            • Grandma L says

              That’s the difference in locations I guess because here they test but make the expected grade so high they have not had anyone test into kindergarten. So the statement is probably true in her area.

            • says

              We need to all remember that each state has different requirements and what we call cut off dates. Our kindergartens ask that children be 5 years old by Dec. 1st. However, 5miles down the road there are schools who extend that to the 15th of Dec. which I have seen children who really could use the extra year in a preschool be pushed to kindergarten even when socially they are young for what will be expected. Often this happens with our boys, they learn differently than the girls and when they just turned 5 “in time” to be allowed to register they struggle. This is not fair to them, they are developmentally on target just young. Sorry this is so long but I am so passionate about providing the best we can for our children and have seen when pushing them in kindergarten results into problems in 2nd and 3rd grades.

              • Dawn says

                Great point Patty. In our school system, kids have to be age 5 by Sept. 1 to enter Kindergarten but many boys especially are not ready for Kindergarten at age 5, especially with all that they are expected to know. So many parents keep their kids out until they are 6. For boys especially that can be a very good thing.

  5. says

    Jenae as it is always, this write-up is also an amazing piece! Appreciate your deep thoughts, helpful for both parents and children; running an awareness program amongst society is really much appreciable. Going to kindergarten is how much painful for us, we know it exactly. Soothing factors are always welcomed. Tips given by you are seemingly more approachable and can make the guardians, children and the teachers feel better, making their job easier – On top of all, getting a child to kindergarten initially a process that should be handled with a great care, much insights and patience, because it is our little buddies who would ever want us to handle them like this; isn’t good enough?

  6. MM says

    No one cares if your two year old is ready for Kindergarten. Good on ya that they are but this list is for older children that are actually going to school soon. Why is mothering a competition? Why do we have to cut one another down? Why don’t we realize that we are all in this together and help each other out instead of belittling each other? Every child is different, every parent is different, every relationship is different, some parents work, some don’t, some are single parents, some are straight, some are gay, some are dealing with poverty, or addiction or physical or mental illness. No one has a right to make anyone feel belittled and inadequate. You have only walked in your own shoes. EVERYONE you meet is fighting their own fight. You have no idea.
    While my daughter (almost 5) is beautiful and smart and talented and will do just fine in Kinder next year, my family has been up against a lot during her short little life and it’s been way harder than I could ever have imagined. So yeah, life sometimes gets in the way of what we are “supposed” to be doing. Luckily kiddos are resilient and all they need is time and love to thrive! Keep on keepin on mamas! You are doing just fine!

  7. Candice R says

    My son is only 14 months and he does a few of these things already (knows ABCs, identifies uppercase letters (A, B, C), knows three out of the 10 colours, knows “1” and “2”, can follow simple one-step directions, holds a pencil and can write a “C”, draws , scribbles, and plays pretend, cleans up without direction, and shares well on most days! Makes me feel pretty confident that he will be ready for kindergarten!

    • Alexis says

      Very interesting, most kids can only say a few words at this age. I am very surprised that your child can say there whole ABCs and more he might be gifted

    • Rachel says

      Candice, your son is probably gifted. My 17 month old knows how to do most of this (except for cutting, glueing, etc). I had no idea until a friend of mine who teaches gifted students told me she thinks my daughter is gifted. I’m glad someone told me because there are a lot of things to learn about gifted children (they sleep less, are very critical of themselves and others, etc). That is why I’m telling you! Maybe you can read up on it.

  8. says

    I have 3 boys – one in preschool and two in Pre-K and I think that daycare (which we call school) is well worth the investment. It teaches a lot of things on this list. Not to say that moms and dads could not teach all of these things to their children, but I believe it prepares them for kindergarten and the routine of learning early.

    Great list! There are a few things on here I want to work on with my little ones, so I appreciate the ideas. http://www.awesomewriter.com

  9. Tasha says

    I found your 71 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten very helpful. I am a stay-at-home mom and have chosen not to send my child to Preschool due to costs. I like to think I am a patient person, and I have enjoyed teaching and going over everything with my children. My daughter will be entering Kindergarten this year and I was looking for a guideline to go over with her. This was perfect! I am very proud of how well she has done. After going over this long list, I feel very comfortable sending her to Kindergarten round-up and then Kindergarten. Thank you for posting this information.

  10. Candace crew says

    It says in the head of this article that every child is different and learns w either gifted or slower in skills that its just a guideline! Also not to stress as parents!? Lol
    We need to read more haha

  11. says

    I have 3points to make: 1. The people who commented on how each child is different, all learn differently and at different levels, and some have undiagnosed problems like ADHD, passengers, dyslexia,High level autism, emotional immaturity, I feel too we need to teach in schools empathy, understanding, team work, self confidence,amongst students too. Bullying starts early, and is so destructive to a child’s emotional, mental, intellectual well-being. 2, not every child is ready for kindergarten at 5 (even 6), esp. some boys), some are at 3 1/2. Readiness tests I think should be brought back to use. ( pre-kindegarten use to be effective in some districts for those children who don’t pass readiness tests. Emotional, and mental, and intellectual, readiness together. 3. Teach our children at home and teachers in school can instruct children to report bullying to teachers or parents(if is themselves), and teach children to stick up and protect those that are being bullied by reporting as soon as seen. Rules be enforced to those who bully and show and teach them to respect others rights and love each other and that they won’t be accepted by peers if behavior continues.

  12. amyindiana says

    So first off those who think its a teachers job to teach your child letters..how to write their names are just flat out stupid. Maybe its my preschool teaching background or the fact my 4year old had most of this list mastered by age 1 1/2 and is on YouTube but I’m a working mother and if you start when they are young surely the whole 10minutes a day thing will work but if you wait it might be hard I was raised taught to start at newborn because its giving the children a want and desire to have learning time ..wanting to learn instead of only playing and easier to introduce letters numbers at birth and continued teaching daily with it so “they grow up knowing it” instead of “having to learn it” at age 2 or whoever parents generally start…my sister is 9years old doing reading at 5th grade level and my mom worked with her since birth she passed 100% istep for reading and math! Now, my 7year old is lacking and hates to sit and learn but I was really chill with her learning from birth..my son I changed and did his since birth and the difference is tremendous.. My 9month old can communicate most needs and wants thru cards or signing or words. To those who are starting to teach at age 4-5 just try to incorporate it all the time and for those with babies START NOW!! (= and a teachers job is yo teach but not raise a child..quit being lazy parents get off your butts and show some care and concern you are shaping your child’s future now!!

    • Christina says

      I’ve always subscribed to the notion that kids need to enjoy just being kids. There is no way I’d start ‘teaching’ a newborn. There are so many constructive ways to incorporate meaningful learning into daily activities without stressing yourself (and your child) out. To imply that parents are lazy and stupid because they don’t do things the way you do is incredibly ignorant and unfair.

      • carolynn says

        I can’t speak for the above poster, but i don’t think anyone means to teach a newborn the way you would teach a 4 yo. As a newborn, to me, it just means exposure and talking to your baby. I choose books for my baby that “teach” or expose him to counting, colors, shapes. I describe the things he’s looking at. “Look at the black cat.” etc. I count things out when he’s looking at them. I think most parents do that intuitively and it’s not really conscious teaching.

  13. Jamie Nosalek says

    Mother of five kiddos here and I have to say take the pressure off yourselves moms. While this list can be used as a guide to give an idea of some things you could do at home, it is not the end of the world if your child hasn’t mastered every skill on the list. Really, I have found the most important thing you can instill in your child is confidence and security so when they go into a school environment they are comfortable. Most of you moms who have taken the time to read this list are already loving on your child enough to instill this confidence. All of my kids have known their letters and numbers before they started school and they learned them again when they started school. It’s not the struggle that kids go through to learn their ABC’s that make the job of a teacher difficult, it’s the lack of experience with structured activities or following rules. Just find some activities that your child loves and practice ending the activities when you say, instead of when the child is ready to. Any activity works and this will make the transition into Kindergarten smooth. Relax and enjoy your kids.

  14. Kai says

    Well it would be helpful to all teachers, if children entered kindergarten at least having some concepts developed, like counting to 10, letter recognition, ,matching, sorting, drawing. Some schools with excellent reputations have children copywriting sentences and short paragraphs even before Kindergarten. Matching, color, number and letter recognition are important concepts and it does help if the child learns these concepts, especially if your child has developmental delays as it makes the transition to kindergarten learning much easier on the child. In places like New York, children are getting left back in Kindergarten sometimes for behavior problems, sometimes because the child cannot keep up academically with their peers. Some of the top schools in New York have programs that prepare children as early as pre-k for advanced learning and even college prep programs exist for children at pre-k and K- level. Personally, I am an advocate of programs like these as I was amazed at a few schools I toured a few years back where I viewed pre-k playing instruments such as piano, drums, guitar, flute, keyboard, percussion etc. The children were having fun and really seemed to enjoy it. Their science projects were awesome with realistic space planets, shuttle, astronauts, shooting stars, meteorites, moon phases etc. Their play areas was set up for authentic learning and unmatched from any of the schools I’d visited in the past. What impressed me the most was that I observed these little pre-k children copying almost page long paragraphs and the coup de grace was that 3 of their students were schedule to announce guest speakers at one of the college functions. Needless to say, these children from what I understand have been accepted into some of the top charter schools in New York. I’m of the opinion why limit your child. If your child capably smart, why not achieve brilliance! Statistics when I was younger revealed the U.S. was number #1 leading every other country in Education, sadly we have fallen far down on the list. Today, I believe there are 7 other countries that have now surpassed the U.S. in education. From what many of us have observed, it doesn’t appear that people are getting smarter, but rather dumber. There are more mistakes and errors being made and it may only get worse. Kindergarten teachers are complaining that more children are entering kindergarten with no skills at all. I fail to see why any parent who has their child home for 4 or 5 years could not find time in all of those years to teach their child a few of the fundamental basics such as colors, letters, numbers, potty training, sharing, Behavior Control, even sharing. It’s your child’s future. If you create the foundation, there is no limit to heights where the teacher can take your child from there.

  15. Mariaelana Armstrong says

    I’ve been a pre-k teacher for over 30 years. I would also include literary skills to your list; are they interested in books, can they turn pages correctly, do they pretend to read a book by themselves, do they have good recall and retell the story. Also I would include the ability to rhyme words verbally. Do they know beginning sounds and can they identify words that end the same. You are pretty accurate with the list you put together. Yes, today’s children need to know much before going to kindergarten. All of this can come through play and attention to them by parents, adult friends nad of course pre-k programs. It has become a very competitive world out there, but children should always learn by having fun!!

  16. Joanne L says

    I agree with your list! My daycare children can do about 99% of this list (skipping for that length seems a little difficult for them) upon reaching the age of 5. They also have the social aptitude when they interact with others in group play – they know how to enter into another groups play, as well as how to get their stuff back when someone else takes it. Some of my daycare children are even reading level 1 books when they start Kindergarten…

  17. Stella Turner says

    It doesn’t seem to mention Toileting. I think it is important that children who are ready for Kindergarten can use the Toilet and wash hands afterwards. Kindergarten here is 3-4 years of age.

  18. Angela says

    My son turned 4 in May, knows the whole alphabet, upper-case and lower-case, can spell his name off the top of his head and write it on his own. He can also write the alphabet, and spell simple words he can sound out such as DOG, MOM, CAT, FROG. He can count to 20 and write numbers 1-10…. we just started him with 10-20. He knows his colors, yellow, blue, green, red, orange, purple, gray, white, brown, black. He knows his shapes, crescent, square, circle, oval, rectangle, triangle, pentagon, octagon, star, heart. He has a wide vocabulary, always has been very loquacious. He starts preschool in the fall and is very excited to finally start school and make some friends. If this is the list to go into kindergarten, then my son should be good to go :)

  19. Kayla says

    This is definitely not an end of Kindergarten list, if you think it is you should check your states department of education website and look at the vast amount of content standards. They are expected to learn a lot more in Kindergarten than you think. This is a good list to work on, but not all students will know all of this information going into Kindergarten. If you check your states website you will also find what the exact requirements are for your state for Kindergarten readiness. I work with my son a lot, but we make play out of everything he learns. He is four, still has another school year before Kindergarten, and can do everything on this list. Every child is different, and learns at a different pace, so don’t stress.

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