Skip Navigation LinksHome News Ask Fairfax! Archived Discussion Room
Preparing for Kindergarten Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Preparing for Kindergarten

This fall, an estimated 13,000 children in Fairfax County will be starting their elementary school experience as they transition from home or a child care setting to kindergarten! The Office for Children partners with Fairfax County Public Schools to help families and child care programs support children’s school readiness. The May 4 “Ask Fairfax” will address what families, child care programs and teachers can do to ensure a smooth transition to kindergarten and a successful new beginning for children and their families.

Anne-Marie Twohie : Welcome to the Office for Children's "Ask Fairfax" about school readiness and kindergarten! I'm Anne-Marie Twohie, the director of the Office for Children, and I'm joined by my colleague Maura Burke, who is the Fairfax County Public School's Coordinator of Early Childhood programs

Starting kindergarten is an exciting time for children and families. Children who turn 5 by September 30 are eligible to start kindergarten this fall. Spring is a great time for children and families to visit the elementary school and for parents to begin the registration process.

If your child needs care before or after school, the Fairfax County Office for Children can help you find child care programs near your home or child's school. You can search for child care on our website at

Chris : Does Fairfax County Public Schools require students to wear uniforms, or only certain types of clothing? If so, what are the requirements and restrictions? And do clothing/uniform policies apply to kindergartners, too? Thank you.

Maura Burke : Uniforms are not required at any grade level in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  As stated in
Regulation 2601.24P, Student Responsibilities and Rights (Chapter D: pg 9), “all students are expected to dress appropriately for a K-12 educational environment.  Clothing should fit, be neat and clean, and conform to standards of safety, good taste, and decency.

Renee Edwards : I know it is important for children to know their ABCs before entering kindergarten. Do they need to know ALL the letters or is it okay to know only a few? What can parents do at home to help children identify letters and know the sounds they make?

Anne-Marie Twohie :

When children are exposed to a language rich environment – being engaged in everyday conversations, hearing lots of words and being read to – they have many opportunities to see words in print and begin to understand that words have letters from the alphabet, and letters have sound. You can provide many easy and fun ways to help your child to learn the alphabet and to understand that letters have meaning:

When making a shopping list, you can let your child watch you print the words and can say some together. This helps your child understand that what we say can also be written – this is the beginning of reading and writing. You and your child can find some of the letters on the list and on the items at the store as you shop.

To help your child learn sounds, you can sing silly songs with words that begin with the same letters and words that rhyme. “Helping Your Child Love to Learn” is a helpful booklet that identifies simple ways throughout your daily routine that you support children’s learning. You can read it online at:

Anonymous User : My child typically naps in the afternoon, I suspect he will be very tired in the afternoon once school starts and will have a hard time getting through the afternoon. What is the best way to get him enough rest and ready for the long day?

Anne-Marie Twohie : Over the summer you might try to ease into a shorter rest time in the afternoons, and try to have these rest times correspond with the time you expect your child to return home from school in the fall. Prior to the school year, make sure to establish an evening routine and set a bedtime that allows your child to get plenty of sleep. A healthy breakfast and lunch will also help him to have energy throughout the day.

Full-day programs include a quiet time in the daily routine to allow children to re-energize while they look at books, use puzzles or listen to stories.

Rebecca Lotane : 1. Will my kindergartener be tested when registering? 2. Do kindergarteners have SOLs? 3. Does my child need to know how to tie his/her shoes? 4. What happens if my child has an "accident" in school? Will they be treated with dignity?

Maura Burke :

Rising kindergarten children are not tested at the time of registration.  Assessments begin after they have transitioned to kindergarten.  Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) are required in grades K-12, however, kindergartners do not participate in the state SOL assessments.   

Throughout the kindergarten year, children will have many opportunities to learn how to tie their shoes. 

 It is not uncommon for kindergarten children to have a bathroom accident at school.   The change of clothing occurs very discreetly. 

Anonymous User : What are the minumim requirements students need to have to succeed in kindergarten and to be able to go into 1st grade?

Maura Burke : Children enter first grade at different levels of academic development.  Fairfax County Public Schools Early Childhood Assessment is benchmarked to represent the minimum achievement children will demonstrate as they transition from kindergarten to first grade.  Parents will be informed of their child’s progress throughout the year as they move along a developmental continuum in the four-core subject areas in language arts (oral language, reading, writing), mathematics, science, and social studies.

what should they know : what skills or knowledge does my child need to know before they start?

Anne-Marie Twohie :

Having good communication will help your child to be confident in kindergarten.  It’s helpful for children to have the vocabulary to ask for what they want and need, and to be able to share information about themselves. Being comfortable playing with others and making friends is also important.

Kindergarten may be their first experience in a large group, so listening skills are important, as are being able to follow two-to three-step directions, and knowing how to take turns and make choices. Basic self-help skills also provide children with confidence – such as knowing how to dress herself , use the bathroom and wash her hands independently, and open milk cartons and juice boxes. Fine-motor skills, like holding and controlling a pencil and scissors, are helpful. Practicing prior to kindergarten enables your child to use those tools at the beginning of the school year to enhance their learning.

Being emotionally ready for school is very important for school success. Helping your child to identify and regulate their emotions, and feel good about themselves and others, are important school-readiness skills.

Anonymous User : what can i do to prepare them

Anne-Marie Twohie :

You can help your child to prepare for kindergarten by visiting your elementary school and becoming familiar with the setting and staff. You can take photos of the school to look at and talk about over the summer, and identify things at school that are the same as at child care or at home (such as a book area). If possible, visit with other children who will be going to kindergarten, too. If you are excited about this new step in your child’s life, most likely your child will be too!

There are also many children’s books about kindergarten available at the Fairfax County Public Library that you can enjoy together, such as “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Nancy L. Carlson. “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is a wonderful book that can help to reassure both you and your child that you’ll be thinking of each other on that first day of school – and always.

Find other library books for children about starting kindergarten here:

Anonymous User : How will you balance play and fun activities with the academic curriculum?

Maura Burke :

Play is an essential part of the kindergarten day and is balanced with the academics.  Play is valued as an important part of young children’s social-emotional development.  Children engaged in rich and varied play experiences help them learn to become responsible and confident participants in the classroom, encourages them to explore, investigate, create, think, and problem solve, and promotes their cognitive and language skills.

Children are not expected to enter kindergarten exhibiting a specific set of skills.  Fairfax County Public Schools provide a quality early childhood education program that is adaptable to each child’s needs, interests, and level of development.  Kindergarten children will engage in a variety of active learning experiences to help them know and understand the Kindergarten Standards of Learning objectives and Fairfax County Public Program of Studies objectives in each curriculum area. 

All but 36 schools have full-day kindergarten in Fairfax County.

Parents of rising kindergarten children can access the Fairfax County Public Schools internet website, , provides a variety of information about the kindergarten program.  Click on “Starting School for Kindergarten Parents” and “Program Philosophy and Curriculum” for an overview of the kindergarten curriculum.  Parents can also visit their child’s school and ask to see the curriculum guides.

Anonymous User : What options are there for after school care and how soon do I need to get on teh waiting lists?

Anne-Marie Twohie : Child care centers and family child care providers throughout the county provide before- and after-school care. You can call 703-449-8484 for help with finding child care, or search online at the Office for Children’s website:

The School Age Child Care program is available in most county elementary schools – you can contact SACC at 703-449-1414.

J. Kusuma : Public schools seem so much more advanced today than when I was starting kindergarten. Are children expected to already know the alphabet, their numbers up to twenty, or even more advanced skills like reading, writing and basic adding prior to entering kindergarten? Are all kindergartens now full-day or do parents still have the option of enrolling their child for half-day ? How can I learn about what curriculum that will be used in the classroom? Do kindergarteners have homework these days and what is the level of parental involvement expected in terms of working what their child at home? Do kindergarten teachers need/want parent volunteers to help with anything during the school day either regularly or occasionally? What other types of support would kindergarten teachers welcome from parents/grandparents? Are there any SOLs in kindergarten? How are the special needs of ADHD and ADD students met in the kindergarten classroom?

Maura Burke : Homework is not required in kindergarten.  Parents are encouraged to read to their child daily.  Parents and grandparents can ask their child’s teacher about volunteering in the classroom.  Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) are required in grades K-12. Teachers will use different modalities of learning for children with ADHD and ADD.  Parent can also work in partnership with the schools to develop a 504 plan. 

Anonymous User : Should my child know how to read before they enter kindergarten?

Anne-Marie Twohie : Your child does not have to know how to read before entering kindergarten. All children learn skills at different rates. It's helpful for children to have experience with enjoying books and print materials. Helping your child to be excited and curious about letters and reading lays the foundation for him to learn to read when he gets to school.

Anonymous User : How can I help my child prepare for school?

Anne-Marie Twohie :

One of the most enjoyable and effective ways to help prepare your child at home is by reading together – every day if possible! Bedtime is a great time to do this, and establishing a regular bedtime routine that includes reading is relaxing and a wonderful way to nurture a love of reading.
Having conversations together throughout the day, singing songs, telling stories, and playing games together all support children’s oral language and vocabulary development, which is an important foundation for the skills children will learn in kindergarten.

Playing with other children and family members supports children’s social development, which is also important to their kindergarten experience. Matching and sorting everyday objects – like socks and shoes – playing counting games, recognizing shapes, all support children’s math skills. Being outside in nature supports scientific knowledge, and learning about your community and the people within the community supports learning about social sciences.

Anonymous User : Most parents are concerned about safety and transportation with their little ones. Here are some questions I've heard lots. How do I find out where and when the bus will pick up my child? Will someone help my child find their bus after school? Do I need to take them to the bus stop (also Fairfax County will not drop a kindergartener off at a bus stop unless someone is there to get them, i.e., parent, older sibling or babysitter)? If I walk my child to school where do I drop them off? Will there be a teacher outside with my child until the bell rings? In the winter are the kids allowed inside the school before the bell rings? If I drive my child to school, where do I drop them off (kiss-n-ride)? How does the school handle allergies at lunch? What items does my child need to bring the first day or week of school? What are the rules for my child using the restroom? Is there a bathroom in the kindergarten classroom? What will my child be expected to know at the end of kindergarten? How can I help them succeed? Where can I go for ideas on how to help my child succeed? How can I, as the parent, be involved at the school or in the classroom?

Maura Burke :

Bus, walking, and driving questions are to be addressed at each child’s school.

Parents are to address their child’s allergies and accommodations at the school level. 

At the beginning of school, kindergarten teachers will provide a list of materials for parents to send to school.

Most kindergarten classrooms have bathrooms inside the room.  Rules for using the restroom will be discussed by kindergarten teachers.
Children are not expected to enter kindergarten exhibiting a specific set of skills.  Fairfax County Public Schools Early Childhood Assessment is benchmarked to represent the minimum achievement children will demonstrate by the end of kindergarten.  Parents will be informed of their child’s progress throughout the year as their child moves along a developmental continuum in the four-core subject areas in language arts (oral language, reading, writing), mathematics, science, and social studies.

Parents can help their child succeed by reading to them daily.  Use questions that ask who, what, where, why, and when.  Have frequent conversations to foster oral language development and discuss words that your child may not understand.  Recite the nursery rhymes and do finger plays that focus on rhyme.  Have your child count how many forks/spoons are needed to set the table.  Take your child on walks and discuss what is seen.  Visit stores, parks, the library, or the zoo and discuss what was seen.

Parents are to check with their child’s teacher about volunteering in the classroom.

Maggie : I registered my daughter for SACC last summer and was told I made it into my schools program. When can I expect follow up information? Thanks.

Anne-Marie Twohie : Registration is open a year in advance, so this summer families may begin to register for the 2012-2013 school year.

For families who have registered for the 2011-2012 school year, they will receive information from SACC Registration in July (licensing forms and financial packets).

If you have any additional questions, please contact SACC at 703-449-8989 or at:

Anonymous User : Are there support options ofr children wtih disabilities?

Maura Burke : There are support options for children with disabilities.  An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) indicates the support the child will receive.

JPSTLS : What resources are available to help prepare a student for kindgarten? What does the school system expect students to know (reading, math, etc) by starting kindergarten? Thanks!

Anne-Marie Twohie :

One resource available to families is the school system’s booklet “Success in Kindergarten: Parent Strategies.” You can read it online at:

The Fairfax County Public Library has a wonderful selection of books for parents and child care professionals about school readiness. You can see the list here:

Anonymous User : In general My son was born in January, I keep hearing that he will loose 1 school year because of January Birth. Is there anyway I can avoid it?

Maura Burke : Children who are five on or before September 30 of the school year are eligible to attend kindergarten. 

Anonymous User : Do you happen to know the proportion of kids who are being held back at the cut off? Our son is born in September and we are planning on sending him to kindergarten. However, it seems like every person I know is holding back. I am hoping that there will be other kids in his class who have just turned 5.

Anne-Marie Twohie : There will be of a variety of ages and developmental levels in all kindergarten classes. Teachers are prepared to address the needs of all children.

Maggie : What are the hours for kindergarten? My child will go to Mount Eagle. How long before the start time and end time can you drop off/pick up your child?

Maura Burke : School bell schedules vary.  Contact Mount Eagle directly at 703 721-2100.  The school's office staff will provide you with this information.

Kim Hale : When will the county know which if any half day kindergardens will change to full day kindergardens?

Anne-Marie Twohie : The School Board will vote on the budget at the end of May. Full-day kindergarten schools will be determined at that time.

Oakton Parent : How do FCPS Kindergarten teachers balance the wide range of skill sets and knowledge that incoming K students have? In other words, how do they challenge the academically advanced children (already reading on their own, can count to 100 and do simple math, etc.) while teaching those who are just learning their letters, sounds and numbers, without slowing down anyone's learning? Thanks!

Maura Burke : Teachers implement a variety of best practices and strategies that support meeting the needs of all children.  Throughout the day children work in small and large groups and in centers to help ensure individual needs are addressed.

Anonymous User : Some parents will want to know what support the schools offer to kids who may have special needs that are not identified yet. They also may want to know how the kids are enriched if the kindergarten material comes easy to them.

Maura Burke :

Parents should have a conversation with their child’s teacher to find out the type of school support that will be provided for their child.

Teachers are to meet the needs of all children –those who need support and those who need to be challenged.

Anonymous User : I would like to find out more about the curriculum including how much time is given for each subject, playtime allowed, materials used in the classroom, and discipline policy. Our kindergarten orientation mainly focused on logistics (time of arrival, buses, etc) which could have easily been addressed through a handout and this information is also readily available on the FCPS web. It would have given me more comfort to hear more about what a typical day would be like.

Maura Burke : I encourage you to visit our website  for detailed information on curriculum.  

Miller family : Q. Our gifted 5 yr old child has, among other skills, been reading -to us- since he was 3.5 years old... quite fluently. He will be going to Oakton Elementary School's Kindergarten program this September... What programs do you have in place to continue to facilitate his advanced academic abilities? (Other than those specifically for underrepresented populations, which we aren't) We want him to keep moving forward and encourage his love of learning... How -exactly- are kindergartners identified for this seemingly vague "Differentiated Lessons in Areas of Academic Strength" program, and how will said lessons be integrated into his daily or weekly school activities? Who is the "Advanced Academic Resource Teacher" at Oakton Elementary? May we contact this person ahead of his enrollment? Thank you!

Maura Burke : I would encourage you to speak with the Advanced Academic resource teacher at your child's school.   You can also access additional information about the Advanced Academic services at

Concerned Mother in Herndon : My two children will begin attending kindergarten in two years. We are a one-income family of four who unfortunately does not meet the income requirements to qualify for Head Start. We have decided not to send our children to private preschool because we cannot afford it along with the Virginia 529 prepaid tuition payments we are currently making. Besides continuing to participate in free weekly playgroups with other three year olds, reading to my children on a daily basis, and attending free public library events and visiting museums, how else can I prepare my children for a successful transition into kindergarten? Thank you so much for your time and assistance.

Anne-Marie Twohie : To go along with the social interactions and community experiences, try to incorporate literacy and number activities into your daily life. You can make everyday activities into learning moments, such as: writing notes to friends and family and having your children write certain letters and their names; counting the utensils when setting the table; reading signs on the road or counting dogs on a walk.
Also, make sure your children are self sufficient and practiced in dressing themselves, using scissors and a pencil, listening to directions, and asking for help when needed. When children and families have a connection with the school before the kindergarten experience begins, then children and families can have a comfort level that can be a wonderful foundation for school participation.

Maura Burke : Thank you for joining us today.   We received many more questions than time permitted us to answer.  Please feel free to contact your child's elementary school or Office of Children at 703 324-8000 with your questions.