How Playing Games, Talking to Adults, & Flirting with Freedom Can Ready Your Kiddo for Kindergarten

It’s SUMMER! Yay, Yippee, Hurray. We are all taking vacations, finding ways to cool off from the summer heat, and getting our kids outside for fun family experiences. But then August hits, and suddenly our thoughts start to drift from the lazy days of summer to … back to school.

ACK! Is your heart racing? Do you have mild feelings of panic?

For those of us with kindergartners, the thought of sending our little one off to school for the first time can feel overwhelming. It’s a big deal to send our children out into the world, and it’s easy to suddenly start questioning all the things.

Will she be ready? Will he keep up with his peers? Should we spend the last few weeks of summer doing academic boot camp?

Ok, no. Breathe.

The world around us has conditioned us to think that our kiddos need a solid academic foundation BEFORE they start school. But we are here to tell you that your kindergartner is likely ready to be successful. And it’s not because they have memorized the alphabet.

At Sussex, Kindergarten is about instilling a love of learning.

We lay a foundation for students to be successful in school for the long haul. For us, kindergarten readiness centers around social and emotional capacities. Spoiler Alert: Kindergarten at Sussex looks a lot like play. But through play-based learning, kindergartners find joy in creating, discovering, and connecting in a community where kindness is modeled and uplifted daily. In short, they learn how to LOVE learning.

Here are just a few kindergarten readiness skills that will help your kiddo thrive at Sussex School:

My student can keep themselves and others safe, independently

We like to see kindergartners equipped with the ability to navigate big feelings, big emotions, and a foundation for impulse control. Sussex students have a fair amount of freedom. They are moving their bodies, learning out in the community, and—like their older counterparts—are taking field trips and experiencing the outdoors (yup, they even ski or snowshoe in the winter!). With that great freedom comes great responsibility. We like to see students have the capacity to keep themselves and others safe, no matter if they are in a controlled environment or outside of it.

Kindergarten Readiness Tip:

Not sure how your student will do? This summer, perhaps you give your future kindergartner more opportunities to flirt with freedom. How do they handle it? Now is a great time to praise good behavior and have conversations about what it looks like to be a responsible kindergartner.

My student speaks in full sentences, uses words to express needs and wants

Being able to communicate wants and needs is paramount to a kindergartner's success. We like to see kindergartners ask for help, talk to and listen to adults.

Kindergarten Readiness Tip:

Perhaps Covid has limited the number of people with whom your child has gotten the chance to interact? This summer, maybe encourage them to engage with other adults such as relatives or friends or find some “big kids” with whom they can interact.

My student understands the concept of sharing

At Sussex, learning equipment and classroom objects are communal. They don’t belong to any one student. No child is going to be perfect at sharing all of the time. At home, we likely ALL have items that feel like we have exclusive ownership over. But, sharing is a big part of the classroom environment.

Kindergarten Readiness Tip:

Here are some questions worth exploring:

  • Does my child know how to share?

  • Do they know how to take turns?

  • Does my student recognize when someone is waiting for a turn?

  • Do they know how to ask for a turn?

My student follows rules and two-step directions

Life is all about multi-step tasks, and school is no different: “Make a selection for the activity you would like to do during choice time.” Taking direction from another person is huge. We want to see our kids take direction and then follow through to complete a job.

We actively seek out students' participation in their own learning. Yet, there are still basic rules and guidelines students follow at school, such as taking turns speaking, wearing masks, and following hand-washing protocols.

Kindergarten Readiness Tips:

This summer, you can give your kids multi-step directions at home so they can build their working memory:

  • “Put on your swimsuit, grab your goggles, and meet me by the front door.”

  • “Pick up your blocks and put your books back on the shelf.”

  • “Wash your hands and join us at the table.”

Perhaps your kindergartner hasn’t yet had the opportunity to practice rules that they will find at school. Think about preparing them this summer by:

  • Practice putting on their own mask and wearing it for an indoor activity.

  • Properly washing their hands for at least 20 seconds.

My student can sit and listen to a 10–15 minute story

Building an attention span can be a hard skill to learn, but it’s an important one to foster before heading into the classroom.

Kindergarten Readiness Tip:

You can spend some time this summer helping them bolster their ability to sit and listen:

  • Take a short walk or hike with your student that challenges them.

  • Participate in a game that lasts 10–15 minutes.

  • Read picture books and ask them to wait for your cue to ask questions. Can they make it to the end of the book?

  • Have them listen to an audio program that’s between 10 and 15 minutes long.

My student plays games and is able to accept losing

Throughout the Sussex experience, we encourage students to participate in activities and lessons, even if that means the results are sometimes not what we had hoped for or expected. We encourage students to lean into challenges and to embrace the feelings that might follow as learning opportunities. In short, not everyone will always win—but we believe that growth happens in both the winning and the losing.

Kindergarten Readiness Tip:

So, how do we practice this with our kindergartners? Play games as a family! Have conversations around what it feels like to lose and also what was gained in the process.


This is just a sampling of skills we look for in kindergartners. Want more? Download our full kindergarten readiness checklist here.


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