Care For Kids' Guide To School Readiness

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The transition from pre-school to primary school is a big step for many kids, so it helps to make sure your little one is ready for the change. Here’s everything you need to know about school readiness and prepping your little one for the transition from preschool or kindy to prep and beyond.

What is school readiness?

Goodstart Early Learning’s Chief Children's Officer, Sue Robb, describes school readiness as a widely used term in relation to children starting school. It speaks to children being prepared to thrive in one of the biggest changes in their lives… entering the school system. Most children attend an early learning centre, like Goodstart, and by doing so their preparation for school begins.

Goodstart supports children and their families to become ready for school by helping children to be confident to transition both emotionally (EG. accept and deal with change) and socially (EG. by being confident in making friends and asking for help).

Rather than focus on a single skill set, school readiness encourages a more holistic approach to your child’s skills and development to make sure they have the best possible start at school. 

In Australia, all children are required to start school by the time they turn 6. With that said, some children start earlier around the ages of 4 or 5 if they’ve demonstrated that they’re ready to take the next step in their learning journey. Starting school can be a huge change for little ones, so it’s important to ensure they have the skills necessary to learn and succeed in a new environment. 

Importance of school readiness skills

A huge part of school readiness is whether or not your child has the basic skills and knowledge to help them thrive throughout their transition to school and as they settle into their new learning environment. 

School readiness skills provide a strong foundation for children's overall development and future success. They’re essential for ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. For some parents, assessing their little one’s school readiness can mean the difference between sending them to school or keeping them back for another year to give them more time to prepare.

When it comes to assessing school readiness, it’s important to consider a number of different skills and developmental achievements, including:

  • Social and emotional development: Children need to be able to interact positively with peers and adults, follow instructions, manage their emotions and cope with new situations and environments.
  • Communication and language skills: This includes the ability to express themselves verbally, understand and follow simple instructions and engage in basic conversations. It also involves developing foundational literacy skills like recognising letters, numbers and sounds.
  • Cognitive development: Children should have a basic understanding of numbers, shapes, colours and patterns. They should also be able to engage in simple problem-solving tasks and have a curiosity about the world around them.
  • Physical development: This includes both fine motor skills (like holding a pencil or using scissors) and gross motor skills (including running, jumping and climbing). Children should have the physical coordination and stamina to participate in various activities throughout the school day.
  • Independence and self-help skills: Children should be able to manage their own basic needs independently, such as using the toilet, dressing themselves and tidying up after themselves. They should also be able to follow routines and transitions with minimal assistance.
  • Pre-academic skills: While formal academic instruction typically begins in prep, children can benefit from having some exposure to early literacy and numeracy concepts in preschool. This might include activities such as reading books, exploring numbers, counting and engaging in simple writing activities.

To support children in their transition from preschool to prep and ensure they are ready for school, educators and parents often collaborate to provide opportunities for children to develop these skills through play-based learning, structured activities and positive social interactions. 


School readiness checklist

With so many different developmental skills and behaviours contributing to school readiness, it can be tricky to gauge whether your little one is ready for the move to big school. You can use the following school readiness checklist to decide whether or not your child is ready for school.

Social and emotional development

  • Can follow simple instructions.
  • Demonstrates ability to share, take turns and cooperate with others.
  • Displays empathy and understanding towards peers.
  • Can express emotions verbally and regulate emotional responses.
  • Shows confidence in trying new activities and meeting new people.

Communication and language skills

  • Speaks clearly and fluently, with age-appropriate vocabulary.
  • Listens attentively and responds appropriately in conversations.
  • Shows interest in books and stories.
  • Demonstrates understanding of basic concepts such as colours, shapes and opposites.
  • Can express needs and thoughts effectively.

Cognitive development

  • Recognises and can name letters of the alphabet.
  • Demonstrates a basic understanding of numbers and counting.
  • Shows curiosity and asks questions about the world around them.
  • Engages in pretend play and imaginative activities.
  • Can solve simple problems independently or with minimal assistance.

Fine motor skills

  • Can hold a pencil or crayon with a proper grip.
  • Uses scissors to cut along a straight line.
  • Manipulates small objects with fingers (EG. threading beads or stacking blocks).
  • Shows control and precision in drawing and colouring.
  • Demonstrates hand-eye coordination in activities like building puzzles or constructing with blocks.

Gross motor skills

  • Runs, jumps, skips and hops with coordination and balance.
  • Climbs playground equipment and navigates obstacles confidently.
  • Throws and catches a ball with increasing accuracy.
  • Moves rhythmically to music or follows simple movement instructions.
  • Demonstrates spatial awareness and control of body movements.

Independence and self-help skills

  • Dresses and undresses independently (EG. puts on shoes and zips up jackets).
  • Manages personal belongings and tidies up after activities.
  • Uses the toilet independently and washes hands properly.
  • Follows daily routines with minimal reminders.
  • Shows initiative in completing tasks and solving problems.

Pre-academic skills

  • Recognises and names basic shapes, colours and patterns.
  • Identifies letters of the alphabet and some corresponding sounds.
  • Counts orally up to at least 10 and recognises numbers up to 20.
  • Shows interest in writing and attempts to write letters or simple words.
  • Engages in activities that promote early literacy and numeracy skills.

How to help your child get ready for school

As a parent, you want to set your child up for success, especially when it comes to the beginning of their learning journey. With this in mind, there are a few steps you can take to help your child prepare for the transition from preschool or kindy to primary school.

  • Encourage independence: Foster independence by encouraging your child to take on age-appropriate tasks such as dressing themselves, tidying up toys and completing simple chores. This helps them develop self-help skills that will be essential for school.
  • Read together: Make reading a daily habit by reading to your child and encouraging them to explore books on their own. This helps develop language skills, vocabulary and a love of reading, which are crucial for school success.
  • Promote social skills: Provide opportunities for your child to interact with other children through playdates, community activities and preschool programs. Encourage sharing, taking turns and problem-solving to help develop important social skills.
  • Establish routines: Create a predictable daily routine that includes regular mealtimes, bedtime and structured activities. Routines help children feel secure and prepared for transitions, which is essential for school readiness.
  • Encourage curiosity and exploration: Foster your child's natural curiosity by providing opportunities for hands-on exploration and discovery. Take nature walks, visit museums or engage in simple science experiments together to spark their interest in learning.
  • Develop fine motor skills: Provide activities that help develop fine motor skills, such as drawing, colouring, cutting with scissors and building with blocks. These skills are important for tasks like writing, drawing and manipulating objects in the classroom.
  • Practice basic math and literacy skills: Introduce your child to basic math concepts like counting, sorting and recognising numbers, as well as early literacy skills like letter recognition, phonics and rhyming. Be sure to keep it fun and playful to capture their interest and maintain their attention.
  • Promote healthy habits: Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep, eats a nutritious diet and engages in regular physical activity. A healthy body supports a healthy mind and contributes to overall school readiness.

By taking these steps, you can help prepare your child for a successful passage to school and lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning. For more information, have a read of our collection of articles on the transition to school.

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