Ready for prep?

In Australia around the age of 4.5 – 5 years old, children are considered to be ‘ready to learn’ or ‘ready for school’. Of course as humans we are learning from birth and certainly the years from birth to five are one of the steepest learning curves of our entire lives.

But in this article, we will consider a child’s readiness to learn in an educational setting, which comes part and parcel with a curriculum, rules and usually fairly large groups. So, back to our starting point, children in Australia are considered ‘ready to learn’ at between 4.5-5yrs. However, as with most things , it is not always as clear cut as this. School readiness and the readiness to learn in a formal setting is about much more than age.

When considering your child’s readiness to learn or readiness to start school, research consistently identifies the most important indicators of being ready to learn are:

Social Skills

Can my child:

  • ✓ Handle transitions without becoming emotional (home to kindy; changing from one activity to another)
  • ✓ Understand and follow rules
  • ✓ Follow simple instructions
  • ✓ Sit still for 5-10 minutes
  • ✓ Talk to adults – request information from adults and respond to adult inquiries
  • ✓ Change their energy levels to suit the activity at hand

Emotional Maturity

Can my child:

  • ✓ Separate from parents/caregivers easily and happily
  • ✓ Get along with other children
  • ✓ Take turns
  • ✓ Enter a conversation
  • ✓ Empathise with others
  • ✓ Negotiate compromises
  • ✓ Express frustration and anger without escalating into disagreements or harming others

Language and Thinking Skills

Can my child:

  • ✓ Draw a person with arms, legs and facial features
  • ✓ Name basic colours
  • ✓ Name common shapes
  • ✓ Understand number concepts such as more/less, empty/full, large/small
  • ✓ Count to five in order

Motor Development

Can my child:

  • ✓ Join in gross motor games without getting tired or frustrated
  • ✓ Hop, skip, jump and run in a coordinated way
  • ✓ Move around without bumping into things
  • ✓ Open a lunchbox and food wrappers
  • ✓ Dress independently
  • ✓ Go to the toilet without assistance
  • ✓ Hold scissors correctly and open and close scissors
  • ✓ Hold a pencil/crayon to colour and draw
  • ✓ Complete fine motor activities (eg drawing, cutting, holding spoon) without swapping hands

Daily Life

Can my child:

  • ✓ Sleep for 10 – 12 hours at night
  • ✓ Eat a wide variety of foods
  • ✓ Enjoy a wide range of activities including indoor and outdoor play

This checklist is a guide only. If you are concerned about your child’s readiness to start school, it is important to talk to your child’s teacher at kindy as well as school staff where your child will be starting prep.

An Occupational Therapy consultation may be useful if your child:

  • Avoids certain activities
  • Needs more help than their peers with self-care and play activities
  • Shows persistent negative behaviours when trying new activities
  • Seems chronically unhappy or anxious.

Written by: Madeline Avci. Mum of three young men. Occupational Therapist. Owner of Jump Up for Kids (including Jump Up Outdoors). Madeline is passionate about making the outdoors part of everyone’s day and supporting families to navigate the challenges of our modern world.

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