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Critical skills needed for a successful Kindergarten school year.


1. Standing in line. Your child will need to be able to keep his hands to himself while standing and patiently waiting. Practice this skill easily waiting in line at a store. If your child is wearing pants or a skirt/dress with pockets, encourage him/her to keep hands in the pockets instead of hands-on other children or objects!

2. Raising a hand to talk. Your child should get in the habit of listening when another person is talking and raising their hand to talk. You can practice this skill at home with conversations during meals and when playing in groups with friends (or group activities led by an adult).

3. Writing their first name. Let’s take this a baby step further and work on writing their first name legibly. Your child will be doing many activities that will need their name. Forget the focus on writing the entire alphabet if your child is still unable to write their name. Pro-tip: If your child struggles in this area for whatever reason, get a name stamp so they can still be independent with labeling their work.

4. Opening lunch containers. Have you ever spent any time in a cafeteria during an elementary school lunch, where there are a couple hundred very hungry kids and only half a dozen adults to supervise them? Enough said. Practice at home by packing your child’s lunch and having them open plastic bags, milk containers, compartments with lids, and snack packs all by themself. If they cannot master this at home, then trial different ways to package foods. Don’t forget to teach your child how to throw away their trash!

5. Going to the bathroom and washing hands. Let’s face it, kids can be a Petri dish for all kinds of germs. We want to be sure they can use the bathroom and wash their hands well. Practice this at home and make sure they can complete all the steps to hand washing. Every. Single. Time. Pro-tip: Practice bathroom needs with your child wearing all that cute new clothing you purchased for school. The adorable pants with the cute embroidery designs and cute pockets will not look so cute if your child is unable to unbutton them in time to make it to the potty!

6. Sitting in a Chair. Unfortunately, children have to sit for longer periods of time than we would prefer. A reasonable amount of time to expect your child to sit in kindergarten is about 15-20 minutes. We know this can be tough for some kids! (Side note: There are many reasons why a child might have a hard time sitting in their chair. This could be related to weak muscles, reflexes that might still be present from birth, balance problems, or other causes. We can help determine the cause, so feel free to call our office.) Practice this at home by having your child sit in a chair during meals or while doing an activity such as coloring or other tabletop activities. Use a timer to gradually work up to 20 minutes. (We prefer the visual Time Timer: www.timetimer.com )

7. Zipping/Unzipping a Backpack. Sometimes those zippers can get stuck, so you want to be sure your child can zip and unzip their backpack all by themself. You don’t want your child to have the added stress of everything falling out on the bus or the school hallway! Practice this at home using school supplies that they need to pack and unpack. We suggest adding a fun keychain to the zipper pull to make it much easier to grasp! Allowing your child to pick out their keychain can be motivating enough, or check out Etsy for a custom-made keychain, such as one with your child’s school colors.

8. Following Basic Directions. Kindergarten classrooms can be large, and your child will need to be able to follow simple directions. Some children have a hard time processing language, especially in a loud room with other competing sounds, so this might be a good time to get your child’s hearing checked by an audiologist if you have any concerns. Some teachers give children directions that involve more than 1 step, which can be even more challenging for children because they have to remember each step. Practice this at home by giving your child instructions such as the following:

· “Put your shoes on.”

· “Wash your hands and then sit down for dinner.”

· “Time to get your backpack, put your lunch in it, and then zip it up.”

Notice how we went from a 1-step direction, then to 2 steps, and then to 3 steps. Practice this at home and work with your child at their current level.

9. Using Safety with Scissors. Your child will do a lot of cutting, coloring, and art projects in kindergarten! The first time they use scissors should probably NOT be in a kindergarten classroom, so be sure to work with your child at home first. Part of being able to use scissors is to use them safely. This means teaching your child some guidelines to follow when they are using scissors. (Yes, that old saying from our parents to “Don’t run with scissors” is very true and comes back to haunt us!) Teach your child that we sit at a table to cut with scissors; we don’t walk around to cut. When we’re done cutting, we put the scissors down on the table. Ideally, scissors should be placed in a container (such as a school box), and then the child should carry the box to put it away.

10. Meeting New Friends. Even though your child’s kindergarten classroom might have 25 children in it, the environment can still feel isolating if your child doesn’t know anyone. Teach your child to meet new friends by using role playing at home, and then practicing with a sibling, a neighbor, or better yet…a new friend at the playground! Keep it simple, such as:

· “Hi, my name is Sarah. What’s your name?”

· Or, you can try this: “Hi, my name is Sarah. I like your shirt. What’s your name?”

· Here’s one more: “Hi, my name is Sarah. Do you want to color with me?”


Are there more skills your child should have for kindergarten? Yes. But stick with these first so you don’t overwhelm your child. If you have any questions, feel free to call or email our office for a parent consult or for more information about speech, occupational therapy or physical therapy services if your child is struggling in any of these skills: 763-595-0812 or email info@minnetonkatherapy.com. We’re happy to help! Cheers to a successful kindergarten year!


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