Kindergarten is a big deal — and not just for kids. It’s a major milestone, and with it comes substantial changes to your family’s day-to-day life.
This is the first official classroom experience for many children, and even for those who went to preschool, it’s still an adjustment. It’s completely normal (and understandable!) to feel nervous as a parent. To help ease your concerns, we’ll go over what to expect and offer tips for making this pivotal school year as smooth as possible.
Here’s what to know when your kid is starting kindergarten.
What your child will learn in kindergarten
Children start learning the foundations of language in kindergarten. This includes drawing letters, tracing words, understanding sentence structure, what words should or shouldn’t be capitalized, and basic punctuation. These are the building blocks for independent reading and writing, which they’ll learn in first grade.
Kids also work on counting to higher numbers, identifying written numerals, and recognizing patterns. Beyond language and math, kindergarteners will have some age-appropriate lessons in science, geography, health, and safety.
They’ll also do lots of art projects and get daily physical activity, whether with recess, P.E. class, or both. And your child’s teacher will work with the class on social skills, like making friends, sharing, taking turns, and being kind.
Developmental milestones for 5- and 6-year-olds
What your child learns in school this year will align with the developmental milestones for 5- and 6-year-olds. This includes:
- Understanding questions
- Speaking clearly
- Telling simple stories
- Understanding the concept of time
- Recognizing patterns
- Hand and finger coordination (aka fine motor skills)
Fine motor skills for kindergarteners include things like being able to draw straight lines or circles on paper and carefully stacking toy blocks.
Schedules, challenges, and changes
Here’s what you can expect from your child’s day-to-day kindergarten experience and how to prepare.
Knowing the classroom rules
Parents usually get a breakdown of the classroom rules before the first day of school or during the first week. This will give you an idea of what your child is allowed to do and what’s expected of them. And if they happen to get in trouble, you can help them understand the teacher’s expectations.
Whether the class takes bathroom breaks together or kids are allowed to go alone, kindergarteners are typically expected to potty independently. This means wiping, flushing, and washing their hands without help from an adult.
What to pack for lunch
Of course, you want to pack healthy foods for your child’s lunch — but that’s not the only important thing. Be mindful of their ability to open, unwrap, peel, and eat each item without assistance.
They should also be able to eat their lunch in the allotted time. Every school is different, but kindergarteners often have 20 minutes to finish their lunches before heading to recess.
Kindergarteners are notorious for their germ-spreading abilities. It’s nearly impossible to prevent all sickness with this age group, but you can try to keep it at a minimum.
Teach your kiddo how to sneeze and cough into their elbow (or what many early-learning teachers call a “cough pocket”). And of course, remind them about the importance of handwashing after pottying, before meals, and after sneezing whenever possible.
Energy and emotions
Kindergarten is most kids’ first time attending a full school day. With this in mind, you can expect your child to be exhausted at the end of the day — at least during the first few weeks.
Having to pay attention and follow rules for up to seven hours a day can be taxing on 5- and 6-year-olds — not to mention getting up early each morning and potentially riding the bus to school.
Your child might also be unusually grumpy or have meltdowns as they adjust to the new schedule. With no more than a quick lunch and a snack during the day, they could also be hungrier than usual when they get home.
Try to be patient, listen to your child, and work with them as you both navigate this exciting year.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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- “The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years).” Stanford Children’s Health. Stanford Medicine. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=the-growing-child-school-age-6-to-12-years-90-P02278.
- “Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age).” National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). September 23, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/middle2.html.
- “Puberty.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. December 5, 2023 .https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22192-puberty.