Kindergartners: The What, Why, and How

Kindergartners: The What, Why, and How

Kindergartners are typically active, learn basic cognitive concepts, understand and use thousands of words, and distinguish right from wrong. / Photo by: stylephotographs via 123rf


Kindergarten is the initial experience for many children of a proper classroom setting. It is a structured, play-based program for young children where developmentally appropriate learning opportunities are learned without pushing them beyond what they can handle.

Typically, kindergartners have short focus and expected to be in motion most of their time while in class. They flourish in an interactive learning milieu where experiential learning is engaging and fun. Their empowering experience helps them to thrive socially and intellectually.

Today’s kindergarten classes, research shows, are getting more academic in content. Research findings reveal that math and reading abilities are higher and social-emotional metrics like focus, self-control, and behavior are better. Kindergartners are really moving on in their learning!

Developmental Milestones of Typical Kindergartners

Kindergartners are typically active, learn basic cognitive concepts, understand and use thousands of words, and distinguish right from wrong. Their physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional skills are fairly developed, and learning naturally is a breeze, as academics are within the context of the play. The following are the standard milestones for kindergartners.

Physical Milestones

• Walk on tiptoes and heel-to-toe, jump rope, stand and hop on each foot

• Can catch softball, dribble a basketball, and dance

• Use one dominant hand and holds an object with two fingers and thumb

• Can use scissors in cutting basic shapes

• Easily use cutlery (fork, spoon, and knife)

• Can wipe and wash after using the bathroom

Cognitive Milestones

• Identify and name colors, basic shapes, alphabet, and letter sounds

• Can rattle off name, address, and phone number

• Know how to turn pages and how words are read (left to right, top to bottom)

• Recite numbers from 1 to 20

• Focus on activity that lasts 15 minutes but can complete a short activity

• Can devise how to play, what to draw or what to build

Language Milestones

• Use words like “because” to reason with people

• Correctly use plurals, pronouns, and tenses

• Can tell riddles, jokes, and stories

• Can use comparisons and talk about past and future events

• Follow simple but varied directions

• Can read three letter words like cat

Social and Emotional Milestones

• Behave like peers and wish for their approval

• Like better same-gender friendships; resent other people spending time with “their” friends

• Follow the rules most of the time

• Enjoy the attention and want the approval of others

• Throw a tantrum or get angry if not listened to

• Understand sharing and getting along with other kids

How to Engage Kindergartners

Play is the key medium that children use to explore and discover the world around them, learn crucial skills, and grow emotionally balanced. Integrating play in math, science, and other literacy skills in a fun, meaningful context can make children love learning and school. Here are some strategies to employ in engaging kindergartners to effectively learn:

1. Partnering a lesson with a physical component can help children connect with the material and to one another. For example, they can immerse in the lesson by dramatizing the major content points of the story they read. Movements and actions re-energize children and make learning more fun.

2. Use music to highlight learning points, as music can strengthen content and raise the spirits for interaction. For example, teach letters and sounds through a song. The melody and rhythm of the song make it easy for children to remember and help them adopt new concepts without strain.

3. Interactive learning compels children to work together with one another in the learning environment. For example, pairing children or creating small groups to create a story or a poster using various items in the classroom encourages teamwork and creativity. It also fosters a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem

4. Providing opportunities for self-directed learning will provide children the confidence to learn more. A supportive learning environment assists children to be more daring to take on subject matters that seem overpowering to them. They would remain interested and attentive if their efforts are appreciated and reinforced. Self-directed learning makes children keener and eager to get involved in the learning experience when done at their own pace.


Pairing children or creating small groups to create a story or a poster using various items in the classroom encourages teamwork and creativity. / Photo by: Gennadiy Poznyakov via 123rf


5. Other Tips

- Keep activity sticks as a safety net when lessons finished twice as fast than expected. Likewise, a washable stuffed toy as a classroom pet is low maintenance and high fun strategy to keep children engaged. They can take turns caring for the pet and can even take it home to care for it during the weekend.

- Take children on a mini-adventure tour of the school grounds on the first day of school to orient them where everything is. This adventure familiarizes them where the bathroom, library, canteen, clinic, and other important places they need to go to while learning in school.

- Do read aloud for the first week of school using these amazing books:

• The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn where handprint keepsake can be done for parents to remember their babies’ first day of school.

• Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum is about all the "what if's" that children and parents worry about.

• No David! by David Shannon is about the rules of school and classroom.

• Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a sweet story about acceptance and the importance of being proud of who you are.

• How Will I Get to School This Year? by Jerry Pallotta discusses how to get to and from school. Children can make a graph or a chart as an accompanying activity to the story.

• Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate shows how to get ready for school.

• The Wheels on the Bus by Raffi is a fun, interactive book that children can participate in the reading. This builds confidence and participation among children.