In a previous post, I discussed important academic skills your child should have before entering kindergarten. Today’s post is similar, but the skills are not academic. This post is all about life skills. Life skills are extremely important and are necessary for independence as kids grow up. Life skills (also known as adaptive skills), are every day skills that one needs to independently take care of oneself and function in every day life. Clearly, they are very important.
I do want to note that these skills are not a prerequisite to entering kindergarten and your child will not be turned away if he is not proficient with all of these skills. Your child’s teacher will provide support to develop or further develop each of these skills. Additionally, we need to remember the diverse student population that exists in the classroom and that there will be students with special needs who may not be able to perform some of these skills. Students with special needs will of course receive support within the school to complete these daily tasks and to develop independence with these tasks when applicable.
Let’s take a look at some of these life skills…
1. Using The Bathroom
Your child should be potty trained before entering kindergarten. This actually encompasses much more than one would think. Your child should be able to: proactively determine an appropriate time to use the bathroom (before it’s an emergency or too late), remove necessary clothing, use the bathroom and wipe, put clothing back on, flush the toilet, and wash her hands. Each of those steps is very important! It’s important for hygiene and it’s important for time management. The school day moves quickly and bathroom trips should be as quick as possible and should require as little help as possible since the teacher will be working with other students. You can practice each of these steps with your child at home, each and every time he uses the bathroom.
2. Know Full Name
Your child should know his full name. First, middle, and last. This may sound obvious, but he should know his actual full name and not just his nickname. You’d be surprised at how many kinders don’t actually know their full given name. Of course your daughter can use her nickname in the classroom, but it is important for her safety as her given name is how every document in school will refer to her. Extra points if she can spell it, too! 🙂
3. Phone Number and Address
Again, this is a safety skill. When your child is at a location without you (school) and will also possibly be taking a bus back and forth to school, it is important that he knows his phone number and address in case of emergency or mix-ups. It’s also important for outside of school, too!
I can tell you first-hand that classrooms and kids are messy. I’m sure you know this, though. It’s very important for kids to be able to clean up minor messes they make. For example, if a child spills his water on his table, he needs to be able to independently clean it up. If he drops his snack on the floor, he needs to be able to clean it up. Imagine what the classroom would be like with 25 kids who couldn’t clean up after themselves! The room would be a mess and the entire school day would be used for helping kids clean up. This can easily be practiced at home by encouraging your child to clean up minor messes and showing her how to accomplish this.
5. Opening Food Containers/Packages
This one drives teachers crazy. It can be extremely time consuming! Before entering kindergarten, your child should be able to independently open any food container or package that he brings to school. If your child brings a Tupperware with veggies and dip, she should be trained to open the container all by herself. This means you will need to have your child practice this skill at home with any food you intend to send to school with him. You can also teach your child to use kid scissors to open snacks as that always worked very well for my kids in the classroom.
Your child should be able to dress and undress himself. There are the more obvious things like jackets and sweaters. Practice that zippering and snapping! Shoes are also important. Shoe laces are constantly becoming untied and teachers can spend all day tying them! Work on lace-tying and send your child to school with velcro until it is accomplished (this will keep her safer throughout the day). Also, be sure that your child can take off and put on whatever clothing you send him to school in. I’ve had kids use the bathroom and come out needing help buttoning pants or fastening a belt. This is also important if a child has a bathroom accident and needs to completely change clothes.
7. Ask For Help
Advocating for oneself is incredibly important and useful. There are many kids in the classroom and the school and if your child needs something, we want him to be able to make that known. I can’t tell you how many kids have wet their pants and said nothing about it, or had fallen and scrapped a knee and said nothing, or couldn’t remember how to get to the bus and said nothing. I completely understand that it can be scary to be in a new environment with a new adult. However, it is incredibly important for parents to teach their children to advocate for themselves. Telling our children that they are important and their needs matter is a large part of our job. Teachers want their students to feel comfortable coming to them with problems and are there to help. Your child will be safer and happier if he can express his needs or concerns to the adults in his school.
These seven life skills will make your child’s transition to kindergarten so much easier. Keep practicing these skills until your child is proficient and then he will be able to spend all of his school time focusing on learning those ABCs.
Any other life skills you think are a must for kindergarten? Let me in the comments!