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Building Blocks for Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is an exciting adventure for children and families.

It's a new beginning for learning, making friends, building confidence, and gaining independence.

It's also totally normal for both children and parents to be nervous and excited about starting kindergarten as well.

We are happy to share Building Blocks for Kindergarten, a guide for families. This handbook provides a wealth a resources that can be helpful in the transition to kindergarten. 

Building Blocks for Kindergarten handbook

Get your own copy of the handbook:

Click for English

Click for Spanish

You can also find more information on Building Blocks for Kindergarten at Santa Monica Cradle to Career.

There are several key Building Blocks for success:

  1. Caring & Sharing - Social & Emotional Development
  2. Healthy Habits - Self Care, Physical Well-being, and Motor Skills
  3. Use Your Words - Language Development
  4. A, B, C's & 1, 2, 3's - Early Learning
  5. Limiting Media and Screen Time

Sharing and Caring

As children learn to identify and manage their feelings and emotions, it helps them to deal with changes and challenges that come up. They learn how focus, regulate themselves, and relate to others.

  • Set a good example for your child. He or she will imitate you. If you speak with an "inside voice," your child learns to speak with one too.
  • Help children talk about her or his feelings and to imagine what others are feeling. This helps them to understand and identify their feelings.
  • Give children positive support and feedback to help them know when they are on track.
  • Routines help children know what to expect and how to get ready for transitions.
  • Set limits for your child so they know their boundaries. Your child will feel safer and more self-confident.

For more great tips, read and download Building Blocks for Kindergarten

Healthy Habits - Self Care, Physical Wellbeing, and Motor Skills.

Now is a great time to reinforce healthy eating habits. Children need to have energy and to be alert for school. Focus on healthy choices for breakfast, lunch, and snacks in child-size portions.

Good sleeping habits are important too. A five year old needs between ten and twelve hours of sleep every night.

Children are ready for the kindergarten classroom when they can take care of personal needs, such as going to the bathroom, washing hands, and buttoning, zipping and tying clothes and shoes. It builds a child's confidence when he or she is independent with self-care. Kids like to know "I can do It!"  

Here are a few more tips:             

  • Exercise and outside play is an important part of their development
  • A daily schedule helps with getting to bed on time
  • Provide healthy choices in meals and kid-sized snacks.
  • Have regular dental and health check ups

You can find more great tips to support children's health and wellbeing in the Santa Monica Cradle to Career Building Blocks for Kindergarten

Use Your Words. The third Building Block for Kindergarten is that simple. Help your child develop strong language skills.


Three vital words that nurture language development: 

Read to your child everyday - engaging her in conversation about what the pictures in the book illustrate, what might happen next in the story, and what she thinks about it.
Talk with you child about what he sees when you are taking a walk, shopping, driving in the care. Make time to talk to your children about what they need, want, and feel. Using words in conversation with children is one of the key ways to build readiness for school.
And sing - songs from your childhood, songs you make up, silly songs. the rhythm and rhyme of singing is a great way to build language and vocabulary. This month, Ready for School focuses on Healthy Habits - Self Care, Physical Wellbeing, and Motor Skills.

The research is clear that the number of words that children hear during the first three years of life has a very significant impact on later school success. Now is the time to read, talk, and sing. And listen. Listen carefully when your child is talking. Ask questions and show you care about what he/ she is saying. 

Children are ready for the kindergarten classroom when they can

  • Hear and understand the meaning of words, stories and songs
  • Talk about thoughts, wants and needs
  • Speak clearly enough so that other people understand
  • Use complete sentences and connect ideas together to make longer sentences
  • Say or sing nursery rhymes and familiar songs.  

You can find more tips to support children's language development in the Santa Monica Cradle to Career Building Blocks for Kindergarten 

For those with younger children, check out More Than Baby Talk, a parents' and teachers' guide with 10 great ways to promote the language and communication skills of infants and todders. 

A, B, C and 1, 2, 3!

The fourth Building Block for Kindergarten is Early Learning. Let's have fun! Children learn every single day through their play and daily activities and routines. During their kindergarten year, children take big steps in learning to read, write, add and subtract. You can help your child get ready to become a student by playing games. Help them to see the numbers, letters, shapes and colors in their everyday life.

This summer, try a few of these fun games to learn about letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and rhymes:

  • Look for shapes. The windows are rectangles, tracing a penny makes a circle.
  • Count the items in the shopping cart. Ask your child if you can go to the checkout for less than eight or do we have more than that?
  • Point out letters and numbers in everyday places like cereal boxes, store signs, and books.
  • Help your child learn to sort, match, and compare. Talk about colors, textures, and sizes by matching socks while folding laundry together.
  • Teach your child to count at home and while you are out and about. How many seats at the table? How many steps to the store? How many kinds of flowers in the garden?

Give you child lots of encouragement. This increases self-confidence. Children who are self-confident learn to read and write more easily. And remember to make time to read to your child everyday. Visit your local library and join the 2015 summer program "Read to the Rhythm" for kids of all ages. You can find more tips to support children's early learning in the Santa Monica Cradle to Career Building Blocks for Kindergarten

Limiting Media & Screen Time

Your child’s best learning experiences are from play and interactions that take place in person with parents, caregivers and friends, rather than electronically. But we live in a world of technology. Young children grow up with screens, from TV to cell phones, and see parents using electronics so they are naturally drawn to them.

There is clear evidence that too much screen time is detrimental to children’s learning. Background TV and media can interfere with children developing good sleep habits. Spending too much time in front of the television is linked to obesity in children. If you choose to let your child watch TV and/or play with electronic devices, limit to 1-2 hours or less daily. Research shows that when parents make watching TV or using electronic devices an interactive, shared experience, it can be a tool for learning and the potential negative effects can be reduced.

Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Be a role model for your child. Put down the cellphone or close the computer and engage in conversations over meals or storytelling at bedtimes. Children learn from what they see.
  • Participate and make TV or computer use interactive, talking with your child about what he or she is seeing.
  • Avoid having the TV on in the background. Turn the TV off when no one is watching, let your child see you turn off the TV.
  • Be sure that the program or game you select is designed to promote learning appropriate to your child’s age. It should engage your child’s mind and body.

You can find more tips about media and electronics usage in the Santa Monica Cradle to Career Building Blocks for Kindergarten.

For more information about sensible media and electronics guidelines, check out Screen Sense at Zero to Three, research-based guidelines for parents about screen use by young children under age three.

The Building Blocks for Kindergarten campaign is part of Santa Monica Cradle to Career, a collective impact initiative of the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Santa Monica College, service providers, and community members dedicated to making Santa Monica a place where every child has the ability to thrive.  Connections for Children is an active member of Cradle to Career and has helped lead the Building Blocks for Kindergarten campaign.

Get more information on measuring kindergarten readiness in Santa Monica.