How do I know if my child is ready for school?

Kinderling News & Features

If you have a child born between May and July, there will come a time when you are likely to be completely obsessed by this question.

And that’s because in Australia, children can attend school between the ages of four and six, depending on the month they were born.

And that’s lead to lots of angst for parents, who are left wondering just when to send their child to school.

A question that creates lots of worry for parents

This worry was exactly why Karen Seinor, specialist educator, mother and author wrote her book, aptly titled, Is my child ready for school?

“This question worries parents A LOT,” Karen told Kinderling Conversation. “I found myself surrounded by mums at barbecues asking me if the fact their child knew their ABCs means they’re ready for school.”

The answer, of course, is that there’s no simple answer!

Listen to Karen Seinor on Kinderling Conversation

School readiness comes down to the individual child

“Children need to be ready socially and emotionally for school,” says Karen. “Being able to count to ten is not ‘the’ sign.”

Karen told Kinderling that while literacy is important for children, the emphasis is on oral language, and lots of speaking and social and emotional development.

“Literacy will actually come very easily for children in the first year of school, so you don’t need to spend the preschool years focusing on writing and numbers. The more you work on the more lateral skills, like fine motor skills and communication, the more your child will benefit.”

3 vital skills that help prepare your child for school  

  1. Oral language
    Focus on building spoken language and vocabulary at home. Karen says children who start school with strong language skills are the ones who are successful academically. This is just about reading, lots of talking and singing songs.

  2. Physical play
    Karen says parents need to make sure their kids have lots of time in free play - climbing, jumping and spinning. These healthy activities are great for physical development and that helps build your child’s confidence.  

  3. Emotional and social skills
    Children who can make friends at school are happy and that helps them navigate school generally. Give kids lots of opportunities to socialise – even if it’s just with cousins and siblings. And use the opportunity to work on social skills. For example, if your child is not that great with sharing, use any opportunities to build on that.

What to do when your child’s not emotionally ready for school?  

Karen says it’s important for parents to remember that emotional skills come with time. There’s not a lot you can do, other than support your kids and not push them too hard. 

“School will be a struggle because they won’t spend their day learning, they will spend their day controlling their emotions,” says Karen. 

“If your child is not ready for school, hold them back and try an extra year of preschool or daycare instead. Another year will build their confidence and help them become better learners, too.”