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Kindergarten: What your child should know

Keep tabs on your kindergartner's development with this handy checklist.

By GreatSchools Staff

No two kids are alike, especially when it comes to hitting developmental benchmarks. But it helps to have a rough idea of which academic and social skills your child should acquire at his or her grade level. Learn more about the kindergarten classroom in these subject areas: readingwriting, language arts, math, science, technology, social studies, art, music, and physical education. Or check your state's academic standards to find out what students are required to learn.

By the end of the year, you can expect your child to:

  • Follow class rules
  • Separate from a parent or caregiver with ease
  • Take turns
  • Cut along a line with scissors
  • Establish left- or right-hand dominance
  • Understand time concepts like yesterday, today, and tomorrow
  • Stand quietly in a line
  • Follow directions agreeably and easily
  • Pay attention for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Hold a crayon and pencil correctly
  • Share materials such as crayons and blocks
  • Know the eight basic colors: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, black, white, and pink
  • Recognize and write the letters of the alphabet in upper- and lowercase forms
  • Know the relationship between letters and the sounds they make
  • Recognize sight words such as the and read simple sentences
  • Spell his first and last name
  • Write consonant-vowel-consonant words such as bat and fan
  • Retell a story that has been read aloud
  • Show an opinion through drawing, writing, or speaking (e.g. “My favorite book is…”)
  • Identify and be able to write numbers from 0 to 20
  • Count by ones and tens to 100
  • Do addition problems with sums up to 10
  • Do subtraction problems with numbers 0 to 10
  • Know basic shapes such as square, triangle, rectangle, and circle
  • Know her address and phone number


Comments from readers

"By the end of the year? 2/3 of these skills should have been developed in preschool. No wonder our children are behind everyone else in the world. has a typical course of study that is more in line with what students need to know. "
"Okay so what changed from when I was in school. I don't remember learning to read or to subtract in kindergarten. I know I didn't go to the best school but I did all right for myself and I did great in high school and college. What has changed since then? (I am 27.) Honestly all these changes and I've worked with a lot or young people that don't have basic critical thinking skills or couldn't subtract when the cash register broke. Well at least this gives me an idea regarding what, at a minimum, my kids should know. "
"All your information has been so helpful for a grandmother who lives in Arizona and has a KDG starting school @ Stough Elem. Thank you "
"For those of you posting about your child unhappy in school, have you considered homeschooling? I used to teach kindergarten in a public school and hated the all-day format. Seven hours of formal schooling a day is too much for 5-year olds in my opinion. It certainly is true that kindergarten has become the first grade most of us remember from our own childhoods. Kids learn at different rates, particularly at that age, so in a public school, there are kids who can read at a third grade level mixed with those who don't know any of their letters. Wherever your child is developmentally, it will be fine. If it's at all possible, I believe it's best for parents to help their children learn at home through play, hands-on experiences, and a flexible schedule based on their particular ability level. There's no need to push academic achievement at this age, just help them develop a love of learning!"
"I live in Louisiana where some preschools try and say that being introduced to this stuff isn't needed. I was raised in the Washington DC area where you HAD to know these things before entering school. I'm so frustrated, and I am about to pull my child from her current daycare/preschool because of their views. Louisiana (southern) schools are far from satisfactory in my opinion. Half the 3rd graders can barely read. I completely agree that these simple skills should be addressed before entering school."
"hi I have a child in prek in private school now he starts to hate the school and he is sooo happy when he has off I ask the teacher several times to attend with him as volunteer or even attende without doing nothing I just want to know how he is doing with others and in the school but they refused so what can I do ? I dont want him to hate the school from now"
"I felt so much better to see that I am not the only parent struggling with the child who starts Kindergarten already capable of these things. My son is quickly losing interest in school because he his bored, bored, bored. "
"what happens to the child that knows just about the whole year schedule at the frist day of school? is he or she to continue to review the material over until the other children catch on? if so that's unfair to the child that's already advanced. there should be something, they should move those kids on to more information."
"Oh my goodness!! In Texas, these are preschool skills and should be known BEFORE entering kindergarten! It has been said in Texas that kindergarten is the new first grade. I guess it is correct!"
"When did PINK become a basic color? Why is it not PURPLE?"
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many additional standards for science, social studies, art, and PE. Most Kindergarten teachers are well aware of the different levels of student achievement and adjust the lessons. Some kids need to learn the letters, while others are already reading. Small reading groups, and math groups help your child learn at their level. Small class sizes are vital for students to get the attention they deserve!"
"Let’s not forget the Benchmark Test… My son kindergarten classrooms is stocked with books sorted by reading level; the teacher keep a portfolio of his first attempt at writing; and teachers assign homework in counting, addition and subtraction. Kindergarten is no longer about doing kid stuff. While the blocks, crayons and puzzles remain part of school: emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic is seen countywide, from Bellflower to Nevada, and nationwide, from Texas to New York City. And the younger ones often have trouble sitting still and staying on task. Some need help zipping their pants after a trip to the bathroom. Others can't make it through the day without falling asleep. He goes to school four days/seven hours; naps are no longer part of kindergarten"
"what happened to social skills? isn't anyone disturbed that kindergarten has turned into such an academic endeavor? what happened to learning through play?"
"Please read the California State Standards to find out what a Kindergarten should know at the beginning of the year. Check to see what they should know to be ready for 1st grade. numbers 1-30 25 words all upper and lower case letters (out of order) beginning, middle, and ending sounds of three letter words Reading levels to 4 Writing sentences/short stories Rhymes Follow 2-3 step directions and all of the things you listed on your list colors "
"I think this is a wonderful article and guide for new parents and grandparents too! Thank you."
"It seems that many parents who have commented are saying that their children already know most of what is listed. Maybe there should be two tracks for kindergarten. One for those children who have attended pre-k and have been exposed to all this 'preparatory information' and one for those children who have not attended pre-k, or who seem to need more socialization skills. Kindergarten looks like 1st or 2nd grade these days. What happened to children playing to learn!!"
"Parents, you should realize that sooo much more goes on in the classroom. They are also learning about social studies, science, art and much more. This is not what they work on for the whole school year. This is just what they HAVE to know before going on. They will learn and be exposed to so much more."
"These are all things most children know BEFORE beginning Kindergarten! No wonder my 5 year old is bored and upset and unhappy!"
"I find it obsurd that's all my daughter should know by the end of K. She knew this stuff PRIOR TO PRE-K!"
"This seems like what Kindergarteners should know going into Kindergarten! It's going to be a long year for my K if this is the expectations. I wonder what the expectations are in other industrialized nations?"
"the basic colors should be taught based on primary and secondary colors, red, blue, yellow-primary, purple, green, orange- secondary, with white, brown and black as nuetrals, adding black shades a color, adding white tints a color making it lighter. Pink is not a basic color it is a tint of red. I am a color expert. Kids should be taught about color properly. They should be taught about the prism, etc. Kids love to learn about color and pick it up easily it is science. "