How to Teach Advanced Academic Content in Kindergarten

Millions of kids will grab lunchboxes and backpacks and head to kindergarten this year. This is their first experience with structured education, in which they must interact with teachers and a classroom of other kids.

Kindergarten educators support emotional development by helping kids recognize and talk about their feelings. They also teach kids to respect the classroom rules and to self-regulate.


Academic content has come to dominate kindergarten classrooms, and many parents have concerns that kindergartners are being expected to do things they aren’t developmentally ready to handle. Fortunately, research has shown that advanced content can be taught without compromising social and emotional skills.

Kindergarten students learn to recognize and print alphabet letters (lower case and uppercase). They also begin to understand the sounds of letters and build vocabulary, recognizing words by sight and sound. They learn to order and sort objects by size and shape, identify basic math concepts such as number value, and use addition and subtraction to solve problems.

Kindergartners are also introduced to long-term projects such as geography and history, learning about the world around them. They are given lots of opportunities to express their opinions, listen to others and resolve disagreements. They are also helped to develop their attention spans, which will help them throughout their schooling years.


Children must learn how to interact with others in social environments. Socialization fosters empathy, improves language skills, and teaches children about sharing and teamwork. It helps them create friendships, build confidence, and prepare for school.

Young children are naturally egocentric, but pre-k and kindergarten help them come out of their shells and develop social skills. Nurturing their social development will help them grow into adults who understand the importance of respecting others.

A recent study used latent class growth analysis to examine differences in children’s social skills. The researchers found that there are distinct growth trajectories during kindergarten. Home-rearing environment and demographic characteristics such as gender significantly predict children’s social skill growth patterns. These findings suggest that more research is needed on how to better support children’s socialization.

Physical Development

A child’s physical development includes a variety of skills and abilities that are used to move and interact with the world around them. These include large muscles, like those in the core and legs, and fine motor skills, such as the ability to pick up a small object or draw a person with two to four body parts.

Children’s physical health and growth are important to their overall well-being. Children who have a healthy diet and enough physical activity are less likely to develop unhealthy habits that can lead to obesity and other conditions.

It’s important for educators to understand the typical developmental milestones for their students so they can better support children’s physical growth. This is especially true when working with children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Some children may reach milestones at different speeds, but most will develop their physical skills along the age-by-age timelines listed here. For example, an African-American child might develop their fine motor skills a little faster than their Caucasian peers.


Children often develop creative thinking skills through simple activities. For example, when a child observes their parent stacking blocks, they may try stacking other items like books or toys to see if they will also stack. This is creative thinking, according to the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age 3.

During the kindergarten years, young kids develop abstract or symbolic thinking. This is apparent in their pretend play where they use objects to represent other things like a phone or a train, or when they mime an action without the prop (like driving an ambulance). These abstract thinking skills help them later learn about reading and math as they understand that symbols such as letters and numbers stand for something.

Creativity helps a child explore new experiences and develops concentration, focus and autonomy. It can also promote emotional intelligence and encourage self-confidence. It can even help traumatized kids build connections between the past and present, access memories they are unable to verbalize or visualize, and become more resilient.

How to Teach Advanced Academic Content in Kindergarten
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