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Kindergarten Prep: How to Get Your 5-Year-Old Ready for Kindergarten

Welcome the third and final part of our Kindergarten Prep series. We’ve already laid out how the Ages and Stages Questionaire can help guide preschool parent’s understanding of what their three and four-year-old children should be able to do. Now, we are going to use the 60-month ASQ to guide us through the skills that are developmentally appropriate for a 5-year-old to master.

For the last time, I want to share the four items that will guide our work with developmental assessments.

  1. Even if your child has a developmental delay, he/she can overcome this hurdle and still enjoy massive success in school.
  2. Comparison breeds dissatisfaction and can even negatively affect self-esteem.  I caution parents all the time about comparing their child to other children.  Please do your best to avoid comparison.
  3. Children are not robots.  They are going to excel in some areas and then in others.  Child development is not a straight line with movement at 60 beats per second where every child arrives at the same place at the same time.  This is how you see one healthy child walk at 10 months and another at 14 months.
  4. Highlight your child’s strengths just as much as your highlight areas you want to work on.  

These four items are important because we don’t want to use developmental milestones as an assessment of our child.  We can use the information to help guide us in how we focus our time with our children or what games we choose to play with our children.   

Section 1: Communication

The ASQ asks your preschooler to complete 6 tasks related to communication.

  1. Follow three unrelated directions without gestures or repeating.
  2. Use a four or five word sentence.
  3. Use -ed endings on words when talking about the past. 
  4. Use -er words to compare items.
  5. Answer, “what do you do when you are hungry/tired?”
  6.  Repeat a set of sentences without mistakes.

These 6 tasks are focused on listening comprehension and speaking and they are more complex than those skills asked of 4-year-olds.  The importance of these skills hasn’t changed.  Listening comprehension is important because it applies to your child’s ability to understand spoken language such as commands or directions, as well as understanding words read from a book.  Speaking is the primary means in which your child will communicate, therefore, it is important that your child is a competent speaker and is able to convey his/her ideas clearly.

Here are some ways that you can support your 5-year-old’s communication skills:

  • Reading to your child and having back and forth conversations (can I say it anymore??).
  • Playing listening games (jump up and down, run to the door, and clap three times).
  • Read chapter books to your child.  They can listen and enjoy the story even though they cannot read the words. 
  • Listen to audiobooks together.   

Section 2: Gross Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to gross motor skills:

  1.  Throw you a ball overhand while standing 6 feet from you.
  2. Catch a large ball with both hands while standing at least 5 feet from you.
  3. Without holding on to anything, stand on one foot for at least 5 seconds.
  4. Walk on tiptoes for at least 15 feet.
  5. Hop of one foot for 4-6 feet.
  6. Skip, alternating feet.

“Gross motor abilities also have an influence on other everyday functions. For example, a child’s ability to maintain appropriate table top posture (upper body support) will affect their ability to participate in fine motor skills (e.g. writing, drawing and cutting) and sitting upright to attend to class instruction, which then impacts on their academic learning. Gross motor skills impact on your endurance to cope with a full day of school (sitting upright at a desk, moving between classrooms, carrying your heavy school bag). They also impacts your ability to navigate your environment (e.g. walking around classroom items such as a desk, up a sloped playground hill or to get on and off a moving escalator).  Without fair gross motor skills, a child will struggle with many day to day tasks such as eating, packing away their toys, and getting onto and off the toilet or potty.”

So like with the 3 and 4 year olds, you can support your 5 year old’s development by allowing him/her the time and space to run, jump, and climb.  Take time to play outside, go to parks, take walks and run outside.  If outside time is not really your thing (but I hope it is) you can go swimming at a gym, play basketball indoors, and even practice yoga.  

Section 3: Fine Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to fine motor skills:

  1. Trace a line.
  2. Draw a picture of a person with more than three of the following body parts:  head, body, arms, legs.
  3. Cut a paper in half by cutting on a line.  Be sure the scissors blades are moving up and down.
  4. Copy three shapes; plus sign, square, and triangle.
  5. Write 4 of the 5 letters:  V, H, T, C, A.
  6. Copy his/her first name.

Fine motor development has important implications for children’s writing.  These implications become more important as our children grow and enter school.  Your 5 year-old will enter kindergarten and be asked to write with great regularity.

“Writing is a complex process that requires the development of language, visual information, grapheme knowledge, word knowledge and concepts of print, to name a few. The motor control to produce text through drawing, mark-making and symbolic representations of letters is vital in the communication of the message.

Fine motor development is essential in developing the ability to mark-make and write effectively, so that a message can be communicated”.

2019, Victoria State Government

Each of these tasks requested in the ASQ require a greater level of fine motor control.  How do you support this greater level of control?  You don’t have to do anything different.  The same activities that would support a three-year-old’s or four-year-old’s fine motor development will also support the fine motor development of your five-year-old.  The key is to provide your child with  many opportunities to practice: 

  • Molding and shaping playdough with his/her hands.
  • Manipulating playdough with cookie cutters, rolling pins, and tools.
  • Stringing beads.
  • Drawing and writing.
  • Coloring.
  • Pouring back and forth between containers.
  • Cutting string and paper.
  • Using tweezers to pick up small objects like beans or cheerios.

Section 4: Problem Solving

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to problem solving:

  1. Select the smallest from a set of 3.
  2. Label five different colors when asked, “what color is this?”
  3. Count up to 15 with no mistakes.
  4. Finish a series of sentences with the opposite word.  Ex.  A cow is big and a mouse is _______.
  5. Label numbers 1, 2,3 (out of order).
  6. Label at least four letters in his/her name (out of order).  

These tasks focus on measurement, number and letter identification, counting, colors, and understanding the concept of opposites. As your child increases in age, the skills in this section are more of the academic skills that your child will be asked to display in kindergarten.  These skills are a mix of early math and early literacy skills. 

How can you support early math skills?

  • Cook together.  Following recipes incorporates measuring and counting.
  • Record with a chart:  Count objects and record the numbers with tally marks on a chart.  Talk with your child about interpreting the chart. 
  • Build a structure together.  Plan for the building, whether building with legos or shoes boxes.  Count the materials needed.  Measure the final result. 

How can you support early literacy skills? 

  • Read with your child.
  • Have back and forth conversations with your child.  Listen to their ideas and respond with your own ideas.  
  • When pointing out letters be sure to always include the letter sound.  This practice reinforces the association between the letter name and sound.  

Many of the skills presented here in the Problem Solving section of the 60-month ASQ are the same skills covered in the Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit.  The starter kit highlights five of the most important skills for your preschooler to master, according to kindergarten teachers.  Plus, you receive 25 activities to support early literacy and math. 

Section 5: Personal-Social

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to personal-social development:

  1. Serve him-/herself
  2. Wash (with soap) and dry hands and face independently.
  3. Name at least four of the following:  first name, age, city he/she lives in, last name, boy or girl, telephone #.
  4. Dress and undress him-/herself including medium-sized buttons and zippers.  
  5. Use the toilet independently.
  6. Take turns and share with other children.  

The skills presented in this section focus on three areas:  self-help skills, self concept, and building peer relationships.  

It is important that as your child grows, he/she develops a strong self-concept.  Preschoolers “define themselves in concrete terms. Included in this internal picture of the image that preschoolers have of themselves are such things as their physical attributes, names, ages, genders, social affiliations, possessions, and abilities” (Miller,  The way that your child feels about these characteristics can relate to whether he/she sees him-/herself positively or negatively and is often related to self esteem.  Your child’s self-concept can be affected by the interactions that he/she has with you because you are important to your child and your ideas about him/her are very influential.  “Although forming one’s self-concept is a lifelong process, how the child feels about himself in the early years (positive or negative) can set a pattern for the rest of his life” (Miller,  

It is just as important for young children to be able to complete self-help skills.  When we think about sending our children out to kindergarten classrooms, we want them to be academically prepared, but we also want them to be capable of taking care of themselves–using the bathroom, washing their hands, dressing themselves.  Your child’s ability to complete these skills independently will have an impact on whether or not they feel successful in school.  Being sure that your child has mastered these skills will also relieve some of the pressure they may experience when having to perform the skills on command.  

“Research supports the notion that children benefit in many ways from positive peer interactions. In early childhood programs, friendships foster a sense of connection and security and build self-esteem and self-confidence, helping young children adapt more readily to the preschool setting” (Manaster and Jobe, Young Children, Nov. 2012).  If we are teaching our preschoolers at home, this applies to their first classroom experiences in kindergarten, as well.  We can support peer relationships by providing time and space for our children to interact with other children in such a way that they can have conversations and play collaboratively.  You can be sure to model taking turns when working with your preschooler at home.  Skills learned with you are often translated to play with peers.     

So, how do we support the other concepts with our 5-year-old preschoolers?

You can support self-help skills by allowing your child to do as much as he/she can independently.  Making this commitment often means getting ready to go will take a bit longer, but the pay-off for your preschooler is huge.  So it is worth the wait.  

You can support the development of your child’s self-concept by talking to your child about his/her characteristics.  Talk with your child about how he/she is special and the ways that he/she is similar to and different from you. You can also read books that will reinforce a positive self-concept.  This is a great list to get you started. 

There is such value in using developmental assessments and the greatest benefit is having a guide for how you will spend your time with your preschoolers.  Using a research based developmental assessment like the ASQ can take much of the guesswork out of where you should spend your time supporting your preschoolers learning.  Don’t forget that play is a child’s favorite way to learn.  And each and every one of these concepts can be taught and practiced through play.  Independent play will support some of the skills and you will need to interact with your child to maximize the benefits of play and support other skills.

If you’d like quick and easy activities to support learning through play with your preschooler download The Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit. You’ll get 25 activities you can do in 20 minutes or less. You’ll teach your child important skills and your child will have fun learning.