Here's What Kids Actually Learn in Kindergarten

In kindergarten, your student will practice basic concepts of math, reading, writing, shapes, and time. Learn more about the typical kindergarten curriculum, and find out how to help your child reach important learning milestones at home.

It's your child's first official year of school! If you're wondering what kindergarten curriculum looks like these days, it still focuses largely on mastering letters, sounds, and words. You'll watch with delight as your child takes their first steps toward reading, expands their vocabulary, and writes the letters of the alphabet.

Your child will also learn key fundamentals of math. By the end of the year, they should count to 30, recognize common shapes, and complete basic single-digit addition.

It's important to realize that educational standards vary across states, districts, and schools—and no two children learn at exactly the same rate. You can help them succeed in kindergarten by building self-confidence, which will instill a love of learning that lasts throughout life.

Here are the important kindergarten learning milestones children will achieve this year, with tips for helping your student stay on track with the kindergarten curriculum at home.

1. Letters and Sounds in Kindergarten

First up? Letters and sounds, the fundamentals of learning how to read, write, and speak correctly. Kindergarten will approach these in a fun and approachable way, incorporating lots of different learning styles to meet the needs of all learners. (Think visual, auditory, and lots of hands-on work!)

What they will learn

By the end of kindergarten, your child will recognize, name, and write all 26 letters of the alphabet (both uppercase and lowercase). They'll know the correct sound that each letter makes, and they'll be able to read about 30 high-frequency words—also called "sight words"—such as and, the, and in.

How you can help at home

"Reading to your children at home not only makes them enjoy reading, but it also helps them in school," says Susan Quinn, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher at Saint Brendan School in the Bronx, New York. Reading together nurtures companionship and fun and builds concentration, focus, and vocabulary. Look for books about your child's particular interests and get suggestions from the librarian, but make sure the books aren't too hard to understand.

"It's always better to start them on easier books, because then they feel successful, and that spurs them on, so they'll read more," Quinn says. She adds that Dr. Seuss books, with their rhymes and simple words, are perfect for this age. (Some Dr. Seuss books can be problematic, so the key is simply choosing books with lots of repetition.) Kids learn through repetition, so read the same favorite books over and over, ask questions, and encourage your child to say simple words aloud. Throughout the day, encourage them to read the words they see on street signs, billboards, and computer screens, or have them search for high-frequency words in a magazine.

2. Writing in Kindergarten

What they will learn

In class, kindergarten students will be taught to write simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words, such as hat, red, and dog. They'll also write short, simple sentences such as "The cat ran home."

How you can help at home

Keep a special box filled with writing materials (crayons, pencils, markers, paper, and notepads) so your child can practice writing simple sentences about their day. Ask about what they've written, and have them read it aloud. Offer encouragement by displaying their writings on the refrigerator.

3. Numbers and Counting in Kindergarten

What they will learn

Kindergartners will learn to recognize, write, order, and count objects up to the number 30. They'll also add and subtract small numbers (add with a sum of 10 or less and subtract from 10 or less). This focus on addition and subtraction will continue through second grade.

How you can help at home

Help your kindergartner look for the numbers one through 30 in magazines and newspapers. They can cut them out, glue them on paper, and put them in numerical order. When you're riding in the car or waiting in line, play a game of "What comes next?" Give your child a number and ask them to identify the following number, which might help them reach kindergarten goals.

At bedtime, ask them to count how many stuffed animals they have, and ask, "How many books about dogs do you have? How fast can you count them?" Take two of these books away and ask, "How many are left?"

4. Shapes and Objects in Kindergarten

What they will learn

Kids will learn how to name and describe common shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle). By the end of the year, they'll be able to identify, sort, and classify objects by color, size, and shape.

How you can help at home

Talk about the properties of common shapes: How would you describe a rectangle? How is it different from a triangle? Additionally, you can introduce a "Draw a Shape" game, and take turns with your child drawing rectangles, circles, and squares.

Finally, encourage your student to organize toys by types—they can gather same-size blocks into a pile or sort Legos by color. You can also take out an old box of buttons and have your child sort them by size and number of holes.

5. Time and Seasons in Kindergarten

What they will learn

What should kindergarteners know about time and seasons? At this age, kids grasp the basic concepts. They can identify the time of everyday events to the nearest hour—for example, they leave for school at 7:00 a.m. and eat dinner at 6:00 p.m. Note, however, that it will still be hard for them to fully grasp the concept of time because they're concrete thinkers and time is abstract.

How you can help at home

To reiterate the concept of time, constantly read the clock during routine activities. Use and explain words like morning, noon, night, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Make a timeline together showing a typical day, with drawings of regular events and the time of day written beneath each one.

In addition to learning about time, 5- and 6-year-olds can name the four seasons, so chart changes in the weather together on a calendar throughout the year. Find pictures illustrating the seasons (colorful leaves, snow, blooming flowers) and discuss what your child sees in them. Talk about what clothing you can wear during each season.

Last but not least, don't forget that at this age, play is still an important part of kindergarten curriculum, so a good program should include lots of opportunities for growth through play and fun activities. And your new kindergartener will probably need a lot of downtime and playtime at home too, so you can support them by providing plenty of time for rest and early bedtimes as they adjust to life at school.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles