Wondering what your child needs to learn for self help skills for kindergarten? Here are the 13 critical skills I taught my little one before sending her to grade school.
The days are long, but the years go by so fast when you have kids in the 0 to 6 range. And before you know it, they need a lunch box and school supplies, and they’re asking you to be a “room mom”. But before you send your little one off to grade school, there are a few skills you need to help them develop! Sometimes these skills are overlooked because mom is always there to handle these sometimes frustrating tasks. But when it’s time for kindergarten, your kids will need to be able to do these things independently.
Cleaning Up After Yourself
Does your child leave a disaster in their wake? That won’t fly in kindergarten! Help your kids learn to clean up after themselves. This includes putting toys away when they are done playing, wiping down the table after they eat, and hanging up their outerwear nicely on a hook.
Opening and Closing Your Backpack
Backpacks can be challenging, especially if they have extra flaps and pockets. Go over all the storage compartments together, and agree where various essentials should be kept. For example, if they will be carrying a Chromebook (or similar) to school every day, make sure they know to use the padded pocket. If you want them to safely store mittens in their bag, have a dedicated spot. If they know exactly where to find extra pencils, they’ll experience less anxiety and cause fewer disruptions in class!
Opening and Closing Lunch Containers
Lunchtime is a big challenge for kindergarteners. It’s likely the first time they’re expected to eat independently. Make sure they know exactly how to open all lunch containers, and more importantly, that they have practice doing so. You might need to invest in easy to open tupperware or slider ziplock baggies for their little fingers!
I like to plan little outings with my kids to practice these skills. Pack a lunch, have them pack their backpack and carry their own belongings to our picnic spot. Then they are responsible for their entire lunch (including clean up)!
Opening Drinks and Juice Boxes
Those little straws can be tricky even for grown ups. And opening aluminum cans takes a lot of practice for little fingers. So get your kid accustomed to opening their own drinks before you send them off to kindergarten.
Washing Hands Properly
This skill is an absolute must. Teachers do their best, but it’s difficult to police the handwashing station in a kindergarten class. Teach your little one proper handwashing skills (hint: have them sing their favorite kid’s song while scrubbing with soap), and insist they wash after every bathroom break and before meals.
Using Zippers and Buttons
When teachers have to help zip every zipper and fasten every button in a classroom, it takes longer to get ready to go outside than they actually spend playing outside. Give your kids plenty of practice with zippers and buttons to give them the independence they need to manage their clothing in kindergarten.
How to Tie Shoes
It’s actually difficult to find kids shoes with shoe strings! I had to search multiple stores to find a pair for my kindergartener to practice tying her shoes. But it’s a valuable skill and also a significant milestone for your child’s independence.
Know Right vs. Left
Help your kids learn right and left before they head off to school. This will give them an advantage when they need to follow directions from the teacher, and help them build a little confidence along the way. My favorite trick is to hold your hands out flat. Your left hand will look like an L (for Left) thanks to the position of your index finger and thumb!
Putting On and Taking Off Winter Gear
Have kids practice putting on snow pants, hats and gloves. Fingered gloves (as opposed to mittens) can be especially difficult for young kids to put on by themselves. Consider sending mittens until your child has mastered gloves!
This is perhaps the most important of self help skills for kindergarten. Your kid must have a solid bathroom routine before your kids head off to school. They need to remember to get their pants all the way down, wipe properly, flush every time, and properly wash their hands. This will help your kids prevent accidents (no splatter on their pants), avoid any embarrassing situations, and can even keep them from getting sick.
Coughing and Blowing Your Nose Habits
Snot is a common occurrence in a kindergarten classroom. Help your kids stay healthy and learn proper coughing and sneezing etiquette. This is especially important during cold and flu season!
Writing Your Name
Kindergarteners, in general, should be able to write their first name. This will help them assimilate with their peers. They’ll also develop confidence.
Using Scissors and Glue
This one isn’t critical, but it’s definitely helpful if your kids have some practice with kid scissors and glue before heading off to school. Your kids will complete crafts and projects more easily if they are already familiar with these common kindergarten tools. And they’ll also come home less messy if they have had some practice!
Has your child struggled with self help skills for kindergarten? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!