Welcome to one of your child’s biggest adventures ever: starting school.

Prekindergarten and kindergarten provide a safe, happy place for your child to grow, learn and discover. It’s a place where your child can feel confident and secure while he or she constantly explores. Your child will probably have many questions about school. So will you.

What Will My Child Learn?

These are the years when your child learns the foundational skills he or she will need to succeed. When you meet with your child’s kindergarten teacher, he or she may talk about the seven “Domains of Learning.” What the teacher means is the areas, or “domains,” in which your child learns. Each of these seven areas has its own important skills. The teacher will pay attention to how your child performs in class in each of these areas.  Every child is different. Not all children learn things at the same ages. The kindergarten teacher will evaluate your child in the first few weeks of school, and talk with you in your scheduled parent/teacher conference about your child’s skills and abilities in the Domains of Learning. Here are some things to think about now as you prepare your child for school:

The Seven Domains are:
  • Social and Emotional Development: Does your child get along with others? Follow rules? Start an activity, work on it, and finish it?
  • Physical Development: Does your child run, jump, climb, play ball? Button a shirt? Zip a jacket? Use scissors? Trace? Draw? Use good health and safety skills?
  • Language and Literacy: Does your child alk and listen to adults and to other children? Speak clearly? Understand stories? Love books? Know some letters and numbers?
  • Mathematical Thinking: Does your child sort things by color and shape? Can he or she count?
  • Scientific Thinking: Does your child explore? Look, listen, touch, smell and taste to get information? Talk about how things are alike or different?
  • Social Studies: Does your child talk about himself or herself, the family and the community? Talk about how people are similar and different?
  • The Arts: Does your child dance? Draw? Paint? Sing? Make music? Play make-believe?

Your child's teacher will talk with you about your child's strengths and weaknesses, and work with you to support your child's learning in each of these areas.

Your Prekindergartener

Four-year-olds tend to be busy and active. They like to test limits on their behavior. Children at this age need help in understanding the difference between right and wrong, and in cooperating and making friends with others. Some things your child should know and be able do before coming to prekindergarten include:

  • Choosing and following routines, such as hearing a story before bedtime
  • Beginning to recognize his or her first name in print
  • Knowing how to ask an adult for help
  • Recognizing a favorite book by its cover
  • Being curious about letters, words, numbers, and counting
  • Repeating parts of rhymes or some words from songs
  • Following basic two- or three-step directions, such as, “Please get your coat, put it on, and stand by the door.”
  • Listening to a story when read aloud
  • Handling books carefully
  • Knowing and following basic rules, such as putting away toys

Your Kindergartener

Five-year-olds tend to be calmer and more independent than four year-olds. But they still need guidance and routines. They may recognize a few letters and words, and pretend to read and write. They love to listen to stories, especially those with a lot of action and repetition. Skills your child will need in order to do well in kindergarten include:

  • Getting along with and respecting others, making friends, and having confidence
  • Being physically strong and coordinated
  • Communicating with adults and other children
  • Noticing the connection between written letters and the sounds they make (for example, how the letter “m” makes the “mmmm” sound)
  • Showing an interest in stories and reading
  • Seeing the connection between a number and the quantity it represents
  • Recognizing color patterns and types of shapes (such as a square)
  • Being able to place items in a certain order (such as largest to smallest)
  • Being aware of the roles of people in his or her family and community, as well as animal and plant life
  • Feeling comfortable expressing himself or herself through painting, drawing, clay, etc.

What Will School Be Like?

Your child’s classroom may look a lot different than the kindergarten that you remember. Instead of desks in a row, there may be special learning centers around the room for activities in art, reading, math and other areas. Activities often differ from teacher to teacher and school to school, but they are always built around the Domains of Learning, with prekindergarten focusing more on language and literacy. Every day, your child will develop his or her own skills while making friends and interacting with others. Your child’s teacher is a trained professional who knows how young children learn, and who also understands that no two children are alike. Think of the teacher as your partner in helping your child to learn. In school the teacher will build on what you are teaching your child at home, and at home you will build on what your child learns at school. Start the habit of staying in touch with the teacher about your child’s progress and challenges. Communication between you and your child’s teacher will be perhaps the most important part of your child’s education!

What Does “No Child Left Behind” Mean for My Child?

The No Child Left Behind Act is a federal law, passed in 2001, designed to improve student achievement. No Child Left Behind requires public schools to make sure that all students reach certain levels of learning at each grade level. No Child Left Behind also has requirements for what students must know before they graduate. To make certain that students meet these federal requirements, schools give statewide tests at selected grade levels in reading/language and math. It is important that your child get a strong start in school right from the beginning, so that he or she can meet these requirements. If your child’s school does not meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind or make adequately yearly progress, your child may be eligible to enroll in another school or could receive free tutoring. Charter schools, magnet schools, and transfers are some of the ways to choose a public school for your child. For more information on school choice, visit: www.ed.gov/parents/schools/choice.

How Will My Child Get To School?

To make the most of school and help your child to learn, he or she should attend school every day and be on time. Starting school may mean that your child will ride a school bus. Or you may need to walk with or drop your child off at school each day.

Riding the School Bus

Check with your local school to find out if your child is eligible for school bus transportation. If your child will be riding the school bus, shortly before school starts you will receive details from the school system about the bus route, time, and stop location. You are responsible for getting your child to and from the bus stop. You will need to have your child at the bus stop at least 10 minutes before the bus is due, because the exact pickup time may vary depending on traffic and weather. An adult should meet your pre-kindergartener or kindergartener at the bus stop at the end of the day. Be sure your child knows who to look for when getting off the bus. You will also receive information on school bus safety. While your child’s teacher will review this information with your child, be sure to discuss riding the bus safely with your child and be sure he or she understand the rules.

Walking and Drop-Offs

A responsible adult or older sibling should walk your prekindergartener or kindergartener to and from school every day. As you walk to school, show him or her the best route, keeping in mind traffic, streets to cross, and other safety concerns. Impress on your child the need to go directly to school and directly home after school. Talk with your child about being safe on the street and not talking to or obeying strangers. If you drive your child to school, be sure to drop your child off on time, prior to the start of school.

What About School Closings?

Sometimes bad weather or other emergencies make it necessary to close schools, to delay the opening of schools, or to send students home early. School personnel will work with the weather authorities, local officials, and the police to look at the weather and road conditions and decide if school should be canceled or open late. School closings and delays are for the safety of students. Television and radio stations will carry messages about school closures and delays, beginning early in the morning. When schools are closed for the day or close early, community and after-school activities are canceled. Please help us to keep things running smoothly by not calling your child’s school to ask about closures. In case of other emergencies, it is important that the school have an emergency phone number where you can be contacted, and the name and phone number of another adult (with his or her permission) who can care for your child if you cannot be reached. Please make sure that the school has this information, and let the school know if the phone numbers change.

How Do I Find Before- and After-School Care?

Choosing child care is a personal decision. Try to look for child care programs that offer activities created especially for prekindergarteners and kindergarteners, that invite parents to be involved, and that will work closely with your child’s school. 


It’s Time For School was developed by Ready At Five in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) with a Judith P. Hoyer Grant for Private Providers of Early Care and Education Services. Ready At Five gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and organizations for their review and suggestions: Anne Bailowitz, Baltimore City Health Department; Ed Beck, MSDE; Michael Cockey, MSDE; Rolf Grafwallner, MSDE; Debbie Harris, Calvert County Public Schools; Liz Haslup, Talbot County Public Schools; Brenda Kelly, Baltimore City Public Schools; Mary LaCasse, DHMH; Donna Mazyck, MSDE; Shari Oster-Sherr, Frederick County Public Schools; and Barbara Squires, Baltimore City, Success By 6 at Baltimore City Health Department. This publication is based on a 1989 MSDE publication, Your Child Goes to School. Special thanks to Bruce Jacobs, Louise Corwin, and Amanda McMahon for their writing and editorial expertise.