8 Skills to Practice with Your “Almost” Kindergartener

Every year millions of parents around the country gear up to send their little ones off to kindergarten. Before you know it preschool graduation is over and everyone is talking about what school their child is attending the following year. It’s an exciting time for both the parents and the child, but there are always a few friends that end up staying in preschool one more year, either because they just miss the kindergarten cutoff or because their parents decided they weren’t quite ready for the rigors of “big kid” school.

Either way, kids who are in this limbo of actually ready, but aren’t quite old enough/almost ready for kindergarten sometimes get bored with the concepts taught in preschool. And any teacher will tell you that a bored child is not always a joy to have in the classroom! Children who are turning five at the beginning of the school year are often developmentally ready for higher learning concepts that may not be taught in the preschool classroom since many of their peers are not at that level. So, what is a parent to do in the meantime to keep their child engaged and continually learning while they get ready for the next school year? Below are 8 key developmental areas designed for preschoolers to work on kindergarten readiness skills that will help keep your child excited to learn!

Pre-Reading Skills


Pre-reading skills for late preschoolers and early kindergarteners can range from properly holding a book to beginning blending words and reading sight words. There are many activities you can find on Pinterest that offer great learning tools for these concepts including printables and game ideas, and here are a few of our favorites. 

1. Letter Sounds 

  • Rainbow Letter Sounds Hop Game – This is a simple game that can be prepped in minutes but the fun will last! Simply cut out circles of varying rainbow colors from construction paper and write the letters of the alphabet on them. Place them around the room (or outside) in an arch and play some music. Stop the music at different intervals and whichever letter your child is standing on when the music stops is the letter sound they shout out! No music? No problem! Just use a bean bag to throw onto the letters, or use a dice and hop the number of spots that you roll to the next letter.
  • Beginning Sounds Clip it Cards – This is a wonderful, free printable that can be found on Pinterest. Simply print and cut out the cards (laminate for durability!), and allow your child to use clothespins to match the letter sounds with the picture. Bonus: the clothespins act for fine motor skills work!

2. Sight Words

List of Sight Words – Most school districts have lists of sight words for each grade, and you can contact your child’s future school for a copy. However, most schools use the Dolch word list. Click below for the list you want to see:

The following activities work best if you have the sight words you are currently practicing pre-written on notecards.

  • Sight Word Finger Paint – Place a small amount of fingerprint inside a large ziplock bag and tape the bag to a window or a table. Have your child practice writing out the sight words as they read them. 
  • Mystery Sight Words – Using a white crayon, write the sight words you are practicing on white paper. Let your child use water colors to paint over the paper to reveal the sight word!
  • Sand Sight Words – Much like the sight word finger paint, but this time you are using play sand in a small tray to practice reading and writing the sight words. 

3. Word Families and Blending

  • Word Family Egg Match – If you have some plastic Easter eggs leftover from the holiday, this is a great game that helps kids connect the use of word families. Simply write, using a permanent marker, a word family (-op, -up, -at, etc.) on one half of the egg. On the other half write a few consonants. Your child can turn the consonant end of the egg to make different words! For example, if you are doing the word family “-op” your child can turn the egg to make words like hop, pop, cop, top, etc. 
  • Blending Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) Words – CVC words are one of the first types of words a kindergartener learns to read outside of sight words and word family words. Blending sounds can be confusing when simply staring at the word, but using tactile touch can help your child visually see how the sounds go together as they read from left to right. These blending cards from Classroom Freebies are a great tool to help with that. Just simply print (and laminate for durability) and help your child practice reading. 

Writing Skills


During preschool your child has probably begun some writing skills, which are usually limited to writing their name and practicing individual letters. While all this is great, your “almost kindergartner” may be ready to move on to something more complex. Below are some great activities that not only continue to perfect those preschool skills of name writing and letter writing, but also help your child move on to inventive spelling.

4. Name and Letter Writing

The following activities can be used both to practice writing their names and individual letters. In kindergarten your child will be expected to write their name in both upper and lower case letters, so it is important to practice the lower case set of the alphabet as well!

  • Playdough Writing – This activity is great for both name practice and letter practice. Squish some playdough flat on the table, and give your child an unsharpened or dull pencil. Let them practice either writing their name or individual letters in the playdough. Did you know you can make your own playdough? Click here for a homemade recipe. 
  • Fingerpaint and Sand – Much like the sight word activities described above, you can let your child practice writing their name using fingerpaint in a ziplock baggie or using play sand in a tray. 

5. Inventive Spelling

The best way to practice your child beginning to write sentences rather than individual words is simply practice! Give your child some time a couple days per week to write in their “journal.” Give them a topic and let them write in their journal. At first, let your child simply draw a picture and you write the sentence so they can see what a written sentence looks like. After a few weeks, let your child begin to write their own sentences. Their sentences won’t look like yours – it may be one word and the spelling will be wrong. But that’s ok! That is exactly how they are learning how sounds make up words, which then make up sentences. 

  • Make Your Own Journal – Making your own journal is simple! You can either purchase a kindergarten style journal, or use journal style paper simply stapled together to make a book. Add colorful construction paper to make it fun, and let your child decorate it to make it theirs. 
  • Journal Topics

Math


Preschool math concepts are limited to shape recognition, number recognition, rote counting, and simple patterns. However, if your child is just missing the kindergarten cutoff they may be ready for more than this. Below are some activities that will push your child in the direction of kindergarten readiness: number writing, simple addition and subtraction, and complex patterns. 

6. Numbers 

  • Writing – All of the activities described above for both sight word reading and name/letter writing can be used for number writing – fingerpaint, sand, mystery numbers, and playdough writing are all fun activities for this!
  • Recognition – Number recognition is something that is worked on in preschool as well, but it is a good idea to continue working on this skill, especially past the number ten. Visual repetition is often key to number recognition, as well as recognizing the number sets (i.e., showing them that the twenties all start with 2, the thirties all start with 3, etc.). 
  • Number Muncher – This is a fun game that can also be used with sight words. Simply write some numbers on notecards and decorate a baby wipes box or large tissue box as a monster (googly eyes, string for hair, construction paper shapes glued to the sides, etc.). When your child correctly reads a number, have them put the notecard into the mouth of the Number Muncher!

7. Addition and Subtraction

  • Lego Tower – This game is great for both addition and subtraction. Taking two different color sets of Legos, give your child different number sentences to practice adding and subtracting. They can count the total number of Legos to find the answer to their equation!
  • Playdough Smash – Kids love being tactile when they are learning because it makes it fun! Roll some playdough into a bunch of small balls. Write some number sentences on notecards. To practice addition, use two different color playdoughs and have your child add together the total number of balls to complete the equation. For subtraction, have your child place the first amount of balls in the number sentence in front of them and then SMASH down the second number in the sentence – the number of rolled balls left is their answer!

8. Patterns

Your preschooler has probably worked on simple patterns such as ABAB, but as a kindergartener they will be moving into more complex patterns such as ABC, ABB, and AAB. There are many different tools you can use to practice patterns and many of them can be found right in your home:

  • Blocks – Use different colored blocks to make patterns. You can start the pattern and let your child finish!
  • Colored paper – You can either cut out different colored squares, or purchase different shapes (the Dollar Store often has these in the teacher section) to create fun patterns. Simply glue on paper to make it into an art project!
  • Seasonal – Pinterest is a great resource for finding fun, seasonal activities. Below are some fun seasonal pattern activities for the school year:

Talk to your child’s preschool teacher to be sure that you are expanding on concepts they are learning in school. You may want to also make sure that they are working with your child to give them extended activities in the classroom if they are losing interest in what some of the younger children are doing.

Whether you feel your child is ready for kindergarten and they just miss the cutoff or you are deciding to hold your child back for an extra year in preschool, it is still important to be sure that they are growing their knowledge of concept skills as they get older. Children have an inherent love of learning, and as parents it is important to foster that love as they continue through their school career. 

Looking for some fine motor activities to do with your preschooler? How to Encourage Developing Fine Motor Skills is great to help your preschooler get ready for kindergarten!

Photo credits: Lauren Lomsdale

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Lauren Lomsdale

Lauren is a full-time mom of three girls, who also happens to run her own in-home preschool. She loves to write, run, yoga-it-out, and keep fit. She’s kind of crunchy in her homeschooling, cloth diapering, and natural products sort of way, but she also loves Starbucks and trashy tv. For more about her internal judgments of herself and hilarious quips about motherhood, follow her on IG and Twitter @thescoopmama, fb.com/thescoopmama, as well as her website theSCOOPmama.

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