11 Critical Skills PreK’ers and Kinders Need to Know Before Going to School

You’re in a room full of 20 children who are getting ready to go outside for recess.  20 kids, 20 coats, 20 hats, 20 pairs of shoes that must be put on, zipped up, or tied.  Then, imagine half of those kids can’t zip their coats or tie their own shoes.  How long does it take for one adult to tie 20 shoes and zip 10 coats?  TOO LONG!

This is why, parents, it’s important that you prepare your littles for PreK and Kindergarten.  There are several things that you need to be sure they can do on their own because in a room full of kiddos, one teacher can’t stop and do these things for every child in the room.  Here’s a list of skills that kids should be able to do on their own.

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Skills to Teach

How to tie their own shoes

I was 2 when I learned how to tie knots in shoe strings.  Apparently I loved tying knots so much I tied shoe strings around door knobs and then knotted them all the way down the strings until there wasn’t any string left to knot!  I don’t remember how old I was when I learned to tie my shoes, but if your little can’t tie their own shoes yet, teach them!  We had one child who learned easily using the bunny ears method (make sure you’re doing it right!), but the boys were lazy and chose slip on tennis shoes rather than learn how to tie their own shoes.  Whichever way your kids lean, make sure they can keep their own shoes on by themselves!

How to zip their coats

20 unzipped coats means an extra 10 minutes getting out the door to recess if the teacher is doing all the zipping!  Be sure to teach your littles how to set that zipper into the zip jacket correctly so they can get a smooth pull every time and avoid breaking their zippers. 

How to unbutton and button their jeans

Jeans are hard.  Honestly, we avoid jeans cause the boys love joggers more, but sometimes jeans are necessary (school picture day anyone?).  Some jeans use buttons, and some jeans have snaps, but whichever closure your kids’ jeans have, make sure they can get their pants up and down and buttoned by themselves.  Most PreK classrooms have an aide who can help with bathroom trips, but those Kinder teachers are on their own!  Make their lives a little bit easier by practicing this task with your children.

How to open their lunch boxes

Does your child know how to unzip a lunch box?  Do they know how to undo the latches that some lunch boxes have?  Can your child open AND close that lunch box you’re sending with him to school?  This can be an easy thing to learn, but make sure your kiddo shows you he or she can do it solo.

These zipper kiddo lunch boxes from Amazon are awesome, but have you seen the Bento Box lunch boxes?  They’re taken from Japanese culture and they have these really cool compartments you fill with different foods and the compartments keep everything separated.  This is great because then you can avoid teaching the next task, how to open and close Ziploc bags!

How to open and close Ziploc bags

My kids’ lunches are sent in Ziploc bags most days, although we do have some small bento boxes that we use sometimes too.  For Ziploc bags, we like the double lock kind with two seals, and we’ve taught our kids how to pull open the tabs at the top.  Some kids might do better with the slider kind though.  Whichever kind of bags you choose to use, make sure your kiddo can open them and get out that yummy sandwich on their own!

How to open juice boxes

If you send a juice box to school with your kiddo, make sure they can get that straw into the box or pouch themselves.  This is usually a really tricky things for a little kid to do, and honestly, my 6 year old still won’t do it on his own.  If your child can’t open their own straw and stick it in the box without making an epic mess, just don’t send juice boxes to school.

How to open chip or gummy bags

Chip bags can be a difficult task to master, so when we send chips or gummies with the littles we usually put them into a Ziploc bag since that’s a little easier for them.  However, our 6 year old mastered opening bags by pulling on both sides, and now we won’t need Ziploc baggies for chips or gummies.  You can teach your kiddo how to find the tear in the gummy bags instead, but those bags need to be opened without being flung across the classroom.   

How to wear a mask properly

Since we’re going to school in a pandemic (Yay!), all the kiddos have to learn how to wear a mask properly.  To be effective, the mask must cover both the mouth and nose.  Talk to your kids about the importance of keeping the mask on, how it’s not a toy, and be sure to PRACTICE WEARING THE MASK! 

We decided to incentivize mask wearing practice by letting the kids pick out their own masks (here are some cute ones).  I’m hoping that if they love their mask then they’ll keep it on, and so far, practicing has been going pretty well.

How to wash their hands

Handwashing is the very best deterrent to staying safe at school in a pandemic.  Teach your child to sing a song while they wash their hands (we use the ABC song) and to get soap on the backs of their hands as well as on their palms and fingers.  Proper handwashing kills bacteria and viruses, and we all need a little extra protection from germs this year!

How to use hand sanitizer properly

Just like handwashing, be sure your kids know to move hand sanitizer around their ENTIRE hands – palms, fingers AND the backs of their hands. 

How to walk in a line

If kids are going into PreK, or going into Kindergarten without having been in PreK, teach your kiddo how to walk in a line.  Kids walk in a line to music, to art, to the playground, to the cafeteria, to the library, to the bus, pretty much everywhere!  Talk about how to walk directly behind the person in front of them, how to be quiet, and how to keep their hands to themselves.  You can practice by playing Follow The Leader and walking all over the house!

So there you have it!  The 11 critical skills PreK’ers and Kinders need to know before they go to school.  Are there other things you can think of to add to the list?  Teachers, I’d love to hear what you’d add to this list too!  Leave me a comment and I’ll update my list with your suggestions.

All the best,


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