Kindergarten Readiness and Executive Functioning Skills

Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

Many parents of preschoolers have questions about preparing for kindergarten. There are kindergarten checklists and loads of resources online designed to address kindergarten readiness. One area that parents might miss when getting ready for kindergarten is the concept of executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills develop from very early in childhood! These skills can easily be developed
through fun, age-appropriate play. Sound familiar? Combining learning and play in kindergarten is essential to build skills with an age appropriate awareness and at developmental levels. This is the exact way that children should be preparing for kindergarten!

Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

Kindergarten Readiness

There is immense amount of pressure for children to be ready for the academic demands of
school, even from kindergarten. From the moment they walk in the door, most kindergartners
are pushed to be “little sponges” of the academic content to meet standards. However, most of us
recognize that this may not be the most appropriate approach to take. Finding engaging executive functioning activities can be tricky. The ideas here should be a great start to add to your kindergarten lesson plans or use in kindergarten preparations.


However, there are more child-friendly things that parents can do to help their children get ready
for kindergarten. Provide children with opportunities to be independent! Teach them the steps to
wash their hands (initiation, working memory, shifting, monitoring), how to blow their nose
(initiation, working memory, and monitoring), and letter recognition (working memory). Teach
them how to follow directions (impulse control, working memory, and shifting).

PREPARING FOR KINDERGARTEN WITH EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS

Working on some kindergarten prep through play can involved executive functioning skills at the same time. Start here to understand exactly what executive functioning skills entail, but when it comes to kindergarten aged children, here are some of the executive functioning skills that can be addressed through play as well as tasks that will help them prepare for kindergarten:

Kindergarten lesson plans can include these reading and writing activities that build executive functioning skills

Reading, Writing, and Executive Functioning

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There are many ways to integrate reading and writing preparation into play. Have your child
match uppercase and lowercase letters in games or at the store. This encourages working
memory (what letter they need to look for). Games like Zingo are great for teaching sight words
in a fun way while also requiring a child to use their impulse control, shifting, and working
memory.

More reading and writing for kindergarten:

Alphabet Discovery Bottle

Magnetic Letter Handwriting Game

Name Soup Writing Your Name 

Fizzy Dough Letters 

Handwriting Cookie Cutters

Kindergarten lesson plans can include these math activities to develop executive functioning skills to prepare for kindergarten

Math, Science, and Executive Functioning

Early math and science skills can be fun and easy to integrate into play! If the weather is
conducive, try hopscotch, saying the numbers out loud as you jump! For mental flexibility,
change the rules of how they go through the series: hop on one foot, jump on two feet, switch
feet, and so on. For older children or those who know their evens and odds, have them only jump
on the odds or only on evens.


For science, create simple science experiments, like vinegar and baking soda volcanos! This
requires initiation, monitoring, impulse control, shifting, and planning/organizing.

More kindergarten math activities to build executive function:

Caterpillar Math Craft 

Math with Checkers 

Cardboard Tangrams 

Play Dough Math 

Counting Nature 

Play and Executive Functioning

Play is critical, but with the push to be ready for academics, play is getting pushed to the side
However, without play, children suffer. They lack the ability to find joy in learning.

Outdoor play provides the opportunity for children to develop their executive functioning while
participating in child-led adventures! Taking a bike ride or a walk around the community, or
even playing basketball in a driveway, requires a child to demonstrate strong impulse control and
monitoring skills for safety. Red light, green light is also a great opportunity to work on impulse
control.

Outdoor play also encourages children to take risks while being aware of their surroundings.
Whether determining if cars are coming, stranger danger, or appropriate clothing to wear outside,
this is an incredible opportunity to encourage executive functioning development!


Can’t play outside? Build a fort! Planning/organizing, initiation, shifting, time management, and
working memory are critical for this.

Kindergarten play ideas to build executive function

Teaching Spatial Concepts 

Bugs and Beans Sensory Play 

Outdoor Small World Play 

Painting Toys in the Water Table 

Sticks and Stones Simple Sensory Play

Use these executive functioning games in kindergarten lesson plans and to prepare for kindergarten

Games and Activities to build executive functioning skills in kindergarten


Some family-friendly games include Outfoxed (initiation, working memory, monitoring,
planning/organizing, and impulse control) and Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.

For less structured activities, think about making something in the kitchen, like baked goods. Making slime with a slime kit is another engaging way to build executive functioning skills.

For a less structured executive functioning activity, try making a bracelet from a bracelet kit that involves patterns or low-level direction-following.

For kindergarten readiness, focus on fun! This is a time of extensive growth, including in the
area of executive functioning.

For more executive functioning activities, grab this Executive Functioning Activity Guide. It’s full of strategies to address common executive functioning areas that impact working memory, attention, impulse control, organization, and more.

executive functioning skills activity guide The OT Toolbox
The OT Toolbox contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L

This post was written by contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Madison, WI area. Emily participated in the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Emerging Leaders Program (2016), earned her level 1 digital badge in autism from the American Occupational Therapy Association (2017), received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chatham University (2018), and was appointed the South-Central District Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association (2019). Emily has presented at both state and national conferences and is passionate about professional development. While trained as a generalist, Emily particularly enjoys working with clients with autism spectrum disorder and challenges related to executive functioning skills.

Outdoor Pre-Reading Activity for New Readers

We’re back to join the All Things Kids bloggers with this month’s series.  We’re talking about Fall and Outdoor fun with the kids.  We are a family that plays outside every.single. day.  Friends at church have said to us, “Wow you guys are tan, you must spend a lot of time outside”… Yep! We do.  (with sunscreen, don’t worry haha) 

So, when we realized that this month’s series post is all about outdoor play this fall, we were beyond excited!  Getting outside with littles is necessary for the kids and for mama.  Otherwise, we have a tornado of toys in the house and children bouncing off the walls and each other.  Well, those things happen regardless, but the fresh air and yard to run in help.  A lot.  

We made an outdoor scavenger hunt for early readers and pre-readers.  This literacy activity would be perfect for any time of year, but there’s something extra crispy and fun about playing outside in the Fall.  We took the letters outside for letter learning and word sounding.  This isn’t our first outdoor literacy activity, We loved our sight word scavenger hunt.  
Outdoor Pre-Reading Activity for new readers from Sugar Aunts

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Use clothes pins for a pre-reading activity. This is great for indoors or outdoors.


Using Clothes Pins in Learning

We started with a bunch of wooden spring clothes pins.  We use these clothes pins in a ton of learning and play activities.  Art, learning, and play are more fun with a fine motor manipulative like this simple household item.

Learning and play with clothes pins in literacy activity. from Sugar Aunts.


Literacy Pre-Reading Activity

Big Sister used a permanent marker to write uppercase letters on the clothes pins.  We wanted to use upper case letters so that Little Guy (age 5) would be able to identify the letters.  He is just starting to identify lower case letters, but I wanted to ensure confidence and success in this part of the activity so he would try something a litter harder for him: sounding out letters in pre-reading skills.  
Literacy Activity for kids Outdoors from Sugar Aunts



We worked together to sort out the letters on the clothes pins.  We did a few different activities with the clothes pins once we had all of the letters.

First, we went on a scavenger hunt around the yard, pinning our clothes pins to objects in nature with the corresponding letter.  It was a fun pre-reading task to sound out things that we saw.  Pinching the pins onto items was a fun fine motor task for both kids.  We pinned R to “roots”.



S is for “sticks”.


We did a few quizzes for Little Guy.  Big Sister and I thought of an item and said I know something that starts with the letter “S”.  He had to think and look to find something that started with “s” as he sounded out sssss.  This is such a great pre-reading activity for pre-readers.

B is for bark.

C is for clover.

M is for moss.

A is for arborvitae.  Time for a science lesson!


How many ABC items can you think of in the great outdoors?  We put together a list of ABC nature items that you can find in our NEW newsletter.  It’s a completely free way to be sure you see all of our posts.  Each Wednesday, you’ll receive an email of our latest blog posts along with other fun stuff.  Sign up for the newsletter to get the full list of ABCs of Nature items.  But don’t worry, we’ll be sharing the list with you at some point in the future.  Watch this space!

Tips to Make Reading Fun

Do you have a reluctant reader in your house?  The features from this week’s Share It Saturday have got some GREAT tips on how to make reading fun for kids of different ages.  A love of reading begins from a very young age and promoting that love throughout childhood is so important…and fun!  We’re loving these reading ideas from the features this week.  Stop by and check them out for lots of great reading ideas:

How to make reading fun for kids:

 

  • Encourage a love of reading from a young age by making story time special with these tips from A Lavender Life.
 

  • Promote pre-reading skills with your young child with games and activities from Growing Book By Book. 


  • One sure way to grow a love for reading is acting out favorite stories.  Why not try puppets for your storytelling, like Lets Play Music?

  • Go with a beloved theme.  Does the child in your house LOVE all things nature?  Try these books from Peace But Not Quiet.  The transportation lover in your house will love these cars, planes, and trains books from School Time Snippets.  Or maybe a topic sure to inspire giggles, like chickens would guarantee some extra reading time.  Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes has a great list of chicken books.
  • If you’re encouraging your new reader to try more words, these sound it out slider cards from The Measured Mom looks like a great way to practice. 

  • We’ve got lots more ideas on ways to make reading fun for your reluctant or new reader.  Check out the full list of  Creative Sight Word Activities here.

If you were featured, feel free to grab our button:

 

 

Check out who the other hosts are featuring today:
 Life & Lessons From a Country Road 

The Share It Saturday Pinterest board has loads of fun ideas for play and learning.
 
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Experiments with Storytelling

 
Today was our first day back into routine after the holidays.  The husband was back at work and my nephew Baby Boy,
 
(who, along with Baby Girl, probably need new “names” since they definitely Think they are big kids…but in reality, really are Toddlers, not Babies…But I’m not ready for that yet.  SO, Babies they will stay!)
 
was back with us as everyone went back to work…we resumed our routines.
 
 
I had this little play area set up today for an invitation to read.
 

 Of course, Big Sister jumped right into the role of teacher/librarian.  She loves being the boss Big Kid who can tell the littler kids all about life at pre-K, dance class, and every other place that only she know about since she is the Big One in the family.  You know, how life is on the Pre-K streets 😉

 
Storytelling at it’s finest!  She was reading to all of her “students” from a book that she wasn’t too familiar with.  Sometimes, if we’ve read a favorite book maaaaaaaany times, 
she can memorize the words and story lines of a whole book. 
 
Doing the rote memory thing is great! It is so empowering…allowing them to gain confidence, learn beginning/middle/end transitions, and lets them test voices, feelings, and  sound effects.
 
A step beyond memorization reading is when they build a story based on the pictures they see in a book.  They can elaborate on experiences and use their imagination to follow the pictures.  At this stage, a child is testing their confidence in concepts of beginning/middle/end, depicting feelings, dialogue, and transitions.  Big Sister throws out a lot of reeeallly excited “And THEN”s as she turns the pages 🙂 
 
It is really fun to see where the story goes when she reads to her students.  There is a lot of switching roles, changing focus (getting distracted by details in a picture), and stories based around the girls in the pictures 🙂
 

Baby Girl is a willing “student”!
 

 
She also loooves doing what the Big Kids do…

 

 
Baby Boy is a little tired from all these stories!  It’s nap time for this guy.
 

So, What are some other ways to “Experiment with Storytelling” and build on SO many concepts?

~ Use a puppet to tell the story, quiz the children on colors, ask ‘what happens next’, pique their curiosity, question emotional states.
~Play the Director Game: The child tells the story as Mom/Dad writes it down. Draw pictures to go along with the story.  Read it together.  Save it forever 🙂
~Tell a story about this morning’s experience.  Recount details/characters/feelings.  Add surprise endings for fun.
~Act out a favorite story using super hero figures, Little People…whatever in on hand and a favorite in your house.
~Tell a story based on one of your child’s drawings.  Scribbles are detailed drawings, too 🙂
~Tantalizing with Storytelling: Set up an invitation to play like ours!  You could also sit on a big comfy blanket with lots of pillows and start reading to yourself.  Use fun voices and sounds…See how long it takes for little kiddos to climb up into your lap 🙂

Do you have any great ideas to encourage reading?  Let us know!  We would love to hear your ideas!

A couple more pictures…
Also on our agenda today was starting to organize.  We went through our craft stuff today and sorted, organized, and labeled.

 
Enjoy today!
 
 
Colleen