‘School readiness’ seems to be a bit of a minefield and for some parents it can be overwhelming. We were confident our kids were ready to start school but for some parents the decision isn’t quite that clear cut. So if you’re feeling a bit undecided and your school or preschool/daycare centre does offer something like an information evening on school readiness, we’d definitely recommend going along as we found this a big help. The brief information session we attended was packed with little nuggets of wisdom we thought we’d share for those who aren’t too sure if their little Miss or Mr is ready.

Your child can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31 July in that year. By law, all children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. It’s usually clear for kids who turn 5 from January through to about February or March, but can be a trickier decision as to when to send your child if they turn 5 later on.

Our teacher broke it down into three key areas for us to consider in terms of our child and stressed that every child was different, regardless of their age. If you’re in the process of making the decision about school for your child, here are some things to consider:

Are they ready emotionally?

This is really important. Starting school is a HUGE thing in this small person’s life – equate it to starting a new job and then some. MASSIVE! Here are some questions to ponder…When you realistically think about your own child, will they cope with this transition? Do they separate happily and easily from you when you drop them at daycare? Do they still have huge meltdowns that are not in proportion to the problem at hand?

Are they ready socially?

Here’s another important one. Can your child verbalise their needs to others? This is important when they need to ask for help, for example to find their hat or to open their lunch container. Remember, at home they probably just come and thrust the container at you – get them practising verbalising exactly what they want you to do. Another basic thing that this is relevant to is asking to go to the toilet.

Some other questions to ask yourself might include:

  • Is my child capable of interacting socially with regard to things like waiting for their turn or losing a game?
  • Can my child follow instructions with 2 to 3 steps, for example ‘When you get to your desk please get out a lead pencil and your Busy Book.’
  • Does my child cope with being told ‘no’?

Something else to consider in the lead up to starting school is preparing your child for the fact that there won’t be as much choice of activity at school compared to what they’ve been used to at daycare/preschool.

These all sound really simple but they’re important interactions in a school environment.

Are they ready physically?

We hadn’t given this point too much thought but there are certain physical things little ones need to be able to do when they start school. Things such as opening their lunch boxes and containers, zipping up their school bag, and putting on clothing such as hats, jumpers and socks.

Another important one is being able to turn the lock on the toilet doors – you might usually go into the loos with them at the shops or in other public places but before school starts it’s worth doing some practising with these locks so they’re familiar with them. And on the point of the toilet, here’s one for mums of boys – does your little guy know how to use a urinal? They may not have been exposed to them very often as they’re not at home, kindy or in parents rooms. So a few trips out with dad might be in order too!

You may think we’ve skipped over the fundamental thing to consider – where your child is at academically. Our teacher stressed that of all the things to consider, this really wasn’t at the top of the list at all. She said that it’s great if your child knows some numbers and letters and also great if they can read a few words or write their name. But there’s no requirement at all for them to be able to do any of this. It’s THEIR job to teach your child these things in Kindy! All the teacher mentioned was that it’s handy if your child can read their name among others, largely from the practical perspective of identifying their belongings.

She encouraged us to continue to read to our kids, sing songs and play with them as we no doubt do already. If you’re not sure of where your child is at, it’s a great idea to have a chat with the preschool or daycare director who will be able to provide some insights. Our teacher left us with this parting thought if we were still having trouble deciding about whether our child was ready for school – you know in your heart, in your gut. Follow your instincts and it’s rarely the wrong decision.

Further info can be found on the NSW Department of Education website.