Cognitive Skills Your Child Needs Before Kindergarten

Developmental Milestones for Kindergarteners

Mother and daughter with red apples in a row
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Your child is reaching cognitive milestones at every stage of his or her life. But what exactly is cognitive development and why is it so important? Cognitive development refers to an individual's abilities to gain meaning and knowledge from experiences and information.

But cognition is more than learning new information. It's how we think about and process new information and disseminate it. It also involves how we apply new information to previously acquired knowledge.

As children grow, their thinking skills vastly improve. They are able to think and express themselves on higher levels. Your kindergarten-aged child is thinking about things and expressing themselves in a variety of new ways.

Now that your child's cognitive skills are a little more sophisticated, they're ready to start school. The amount of growth you will see in your child during their first year of school is extraordinary, but before you enroll, there are a few cognitive skills that are particularly important for kindergarten.

Cognitive Skills Important for Kindergarten

Skill #1: Uses five to six-word sentences and speaks clearly enough that most people are able to understand what is being said.
Why it's important: Good communication skills are a key part of kindergarten. Your child must be able to make their needs known, communicate with teachers and fellow students, and be able to answer questions.

Skill #2: Can count to 10.
Why it's important: Counting skills are essential, as kindergarten students will learn how to write numbers, do basic addition and understand the concepts of "more" and "less" as they pertain to groups of items.

Skill #3: Understands the difference between the truth and a story (fact or fiction).

Why it's important: As students begin to hear more stories, tell and write their own stories, and even read some stories, it's important for them to be able to distinguish between something that could have happened and something that actually happened.

Skill #4: Can talk about an event in a sequence order.
Why it's important: Being able to sequence events is a precursor to grasping that a story has a beginning, middle, and end. As students begin to read and write, this kind of knowledge is crucial.

Skill #5: Can follow two or three step directions without confusion.
Why it's important: Kindergarten is replete with multi-step directions, whether it be instructions on how to complete an assignment or how to get ready for recess. Your child needs to be able to complete basic instructions without having to ask for the directions to be repeated step by step.

When Your Child Isn't Reaching Milestones

Children reach developmental milestones at their own pace. Failing to hit benchmarks at a certain age doesn't necessarily indicate a learning disability, nor is it a reflection of "bad" parenting. Still, if you're concerned about your child's cognitive development, don't ignore your instincts. Meet with your child's teacher or doctor to address your concerns.

The trajectory of a child's cognitive development is primarily influenced by genetics, but research has found that cognitive skills can actually be taught. You can help your child improve his or her cognitive skills by talking with them and asking questions about a book they read, a trip they took, what they did in school that day, etc. This will motivate your child to process and share information.