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Ask A Detroit Expert: 5 Tips For Getting Your Child Ready For Kindergarten

A child's first day of kindergarten is an important milestone both for him and for you! There are several things that parents can do to help ensure this transition is a successful one. The five tips below are based on what kindergarten teachers view as the most important characteristics of children who do well in kindergarten classrooms.
Steffanie Bowles, Ph.D.
Scuola Creativa
777 Livernois Ave.
Ferndale, MI 48220

Steffanie Bowles, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Special Education at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Bowles has degrees in reading education, special education, art and psychology. She is Executive Director of Scuola Creativa, a Reggio-Inspired preschool in Ferndale, Michigan.

Language Development

One of the most important things you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten is to help he/she develop her language skills. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to do this is reading to your child regularly. Ask your librarian or bookseller for recommendations, or choose award winning books tailored to your family's interests from lists like Caldecott Medal and Honor Books, Belpré Medal Award recipients, and Geisel Award Sibert Award. Games such as Simon Says and activities like having your child dictate a story or message to a loved one also help develop language skills. Educational videos and apps alone don't do much to help him/her speak or listen better, but talking to your child about the storyline or having her tell you what he/she is doing when she is playing an app can help hone her expressive language – and let your child know you are interested in the things that interest him/her!

Social Skills

When parents think about whether their child is ready for kindergarten, they often don't realize that he/she will be one face in a group of up to twenty-eight children. Many new kindergarteners will have experience being part of a group through preschool or daycare, but some children have had little opportunity to interact with other kids their own age. Taking turns, waiting for the teacher's attention, and navigating friendships – and disagreements – with other children successfully allow children to get the most out of what the classroom has to offer. As you prepare your child for kindergarten, give him/her opportunities to be part of a group experience, if not through preschool or daycare, by enrolling him/her in a camp, Sunday school, dance or sports activities.

Following Directions

Being able to follow directions is a complex skill for young children, requiring that kids understand the language being used by the teacher and her position as the authority figure in the classroom. You can help your child learn this skill by using clear, direct language and following through to be sure he/she does what you've asked. Avoid making directions sound like a choice unless your child actually has one; children often respond to statements such as "would you close the door please?" with a "No!" If your child has a teacher who phrases directions in this way, it will be helpful to explain what he/she means and expects your child to do.

Related: Best Bilingual Extracurricular Activities for Kids in the Detroit Area


While kindergarten teachers understand that this may be your child's first time away from home, there are certain skills that will help your child take care of his/her basic needs while your child is at school. Be sure your child can take off his/her coat and put it back on independently, put his/her shoes on and fasten them, open his/her lunch box and any food containers inside, and can go to the bathroom completely on his/her own, including pulling up and down his/her clothing and underwear and wiping. Also be sure he is comfortable asking for help when he needs it, and practice the words he would like to say. These skills will build his confidence and prepare him for doing academic tasks independently.


Kindergarten teachers hope most of all that the children that enter their classrooms each fall are ready to learn the academic skills that are part of the kindergarten curriculum. Children who can understand what the teacher wants them to do and are willing to follow direction, have experience navigating social relationships, and express their wants and needs are far better prepared for the academic demands of kindergarten than those who can read, write, or do math but can't get along with others.

If your child is interested in letters and numbers, knowing some letters and the sounds they make, counting to ten and beginning to understand how many items these numbers represent, and being able to create drawings that tell a story will give them a strong foundation for the content they will learn in kindergarten.

Many children look forward to kindergarten as their first step to being a big kid and going to "real" school – and many parents are nervous about kindergarten for the same reasons! Take a deep breath, hug your son or daughter and give them a kiss at the door, and let them know you are confident they will have a great experience (even if you're a little nervous on the inside). If you can, plan ahead to take a moment after that first drop to mark the occasion – meet up with other parents, go to a special coffee shop, revisit photo albums or videos of your child through the years. And get ready: in just a few hours they will be back home, full of all sorts of things to tell you about their first day!

Related: Best Library Programs for Kids in Detroit

Liz Parker is a freelance writer and a University of Michigan graduate with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Her work can be found at and

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