Author: Terry Severson, Director, Savings Plans Marketing, First National Bank of Omaha

Though an exciting milestone, your child’s very first day of school can also be nerve-wracking and even emotional. While you might not feel prepared to let them go, you can make sure they are prepared for a smooth transition. Here are some key skills you can help them develop before entering kindergarten:

Behavioral Skills

  • Self-Regulation: Practice giving your child basic directions—such as sitting down at the table or picking up their toys—and encourage them to follow through while sustaining attention on the task at hand. You can also help them learn to take turns by playing board games.
  • Citizenship: Talk to your child about what it means to be a part of a community and explain how they will be an important member of their class when entering school. Use basic jobs around the house—like setting the table—to show how they contribute to the household and their family.

Academic Skills

  • Math: To help your soon-to-be kindergartener develop a basic understanding of math, turn everyday activities into lessons by counting the stairs you walk up, or the number of crackers you give them as a snack. For a fun game, go on a shape hunt and point out the rectangles, circles and triangles you see while at the store or around the house.
  • Language and Reading: Foster a love of books by reading to your child often, and ask them to relay what happened in the beginning, middle and end of a story. You can even read books about starting kindergarten to prepare them for what to expect. In addition, explain to them the difference between upper and lowercase letters and help them learn to write their names.  

Motor Skills

  • Gross Motor Skills: Providing opportunities for free outdoor play is beneficial for children when their gross motor skills are developing, allowing them to run and jump, get to know their bodies, practice balance and gain strength. Playing catch, practicing skipping, and teaching them to jump rope or play hopscotch are all fun ways you can encourage this.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Providing your child with crayons, paper and scissors will help them learn to draw, color and (safely) cut out shapes, while holding these tools correctly. Beyond this, you can give your child clay to play with, or large beads to make a necklace. Not only will they hone their fine motor skills, but their creativity as well!

Emotional and Interpersonal Skills

  • Empathy: You can teach your child to understand others’ emotions by talking to them about their own feelings and validating those feelings. Further, you can point out others’ feelings and explore tangible ways that your child can show empathy towards others.
  • Socialization: Encourage your child to play with peers—and even better, if you know other children who will be in their class, set up playdates leading up to the first day. Additionally, you can practice with your child to ensure they are able to communicate their needs, express their wants respectfully, and ask for help when necessary. If your child is not used to being separated from you, practice leaving them with a trusted adult so that they grow accustomed to being temporarily apart.

For more information on the skills that are important for children to develop before entering kindergarten, reach out to your local school district.

On behalf of all of us at NEST 529, we wish your family a wonderful school year. Your child’s first day of kindergarten is the initial stepping stone towards their bright academic future, and with your support, they’re already off to a great start.