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Back To School: Ultimate Guide for Pre-k and Kindergarten

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

The ultimate guide of skills that will make back to school easier for your little one from OTs and PTs

These are by no means necessary skills to start off the school year but they are the type of skills that your child will be working on all year, and depending on their class size they may be waiting a while to receive the one on one help they need. These are great skills to have on your radar to build at home.


Self Help Skills

Toileting: You finally got the toilet training down! All set you think! But, it is important that they can do all parts of this routine independently.

Can they bring their pants up and down themselves?

Can they fully wipe themselves clean?

Do they know to clean up if they miss?

Can they wash their hands?

Mealtimes: Great they got the spoon and fork and maybe the cutting with a knife down. But there are so many other parts of being independent, which can be especially important depending on how short of a snack or lunch break your chil

d has. Sometimes these breaks are as short as 10-15 minutes! How long will your child be waiting for help if every child needs helps, leaving them with almost no time to actually eat.

Can they manage the zipper of their lunch box independently?

Can they open food containers?

Can they open their cracker food packaging?

Fine Motor Skills

Writing: Unfortunately writing skills needed for school don't match development, but getting your child used to the idea that they write their first name on every paper and know their last name is great middle ground. Having them know what their first and last name looks like in both upper and lower case letters. Some places will tell you that they need to hold a pencil correctly and we are here to tell you that it is okay for this skill to take up to year 6 or 7 and research is showing that a pencil grip doesn't have as big of an impact on legibility as it was thought. What to look for instead is fatigue- does your child's grip impact how long they can tolerate coloring, writing, or painting.

Arts and Crafts: Thankfully there is still a lot of this, which is such a great way for kids to learn. There still may be things that you haven't exposed them to yet.

Can they tolerate getting messy with glue and paint?

Can they use liquid glue and a glue stick?

Can they cut with scissors?

Regulation and Executive Functioning

Regulation: The world is telling us our children need to be able to self-regulate, but in reality regulation doesn't develop until age 7 or 8. What they do need is to be able to use coping skills when supported by an adult and being able to find an adult when they are becoming upset.

Executive Functioning: At this age executive functioning looks like following a two or three step direction with accuracy. It could be to get several items, include moving around the space, and completing something in the right order.

Gross Motor Skills

Playground/ Gym Class Skills: Thankfully there is still lots of playground time in preschool and kindergarten where they should be able to keep up with their peers running, jumping, kicking, and climbing. Other skills they should be able to particiapte in include standing on one foot, catching and throwing a ball, hopping, walk on tiptoes, and and skipping.

Environmental Navigation: Many school buildings have stairs to get in and around the building to different rooms or activities. Kindergarteners and most preschools should be able to go up and down a few stairs by themselves so they don't have to wait for a teacher to hold their hand. There may only be three teachers for 15-25 kids, they can't hold everyone's hand at once! They should also be able to move around busy environments without tripping or bumping into people or objects. Think about if your child would be able to navigate through a busy cafeteria while holding a tray or lunch box safely.

Worried or Concerned that your child is behind?

Next Steps Therapies offers developmental screeners and a free initial consult. Reach out today and talk to a pediatric occupational or physical therapist to see if your child is on track, what to look out for, strategies to try, and how to work with your child's school to keep them on track and provide the support they may need. Reach out through our website or email Follow us on Facebook at Next Steps Therapies or on Instagram at nextsteps.therapies


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