Parents often ask, “When will my child be ready for preschool?” But the answer varies because each child develops at his or her own pace. Some will be ready for preschool earlier than others.
Whether or not the child is ready will be based on the development of certain key skills and milestones. While having each skill mastered is not the goal, it would be ideal to have some general guidelines to meet before the kid is dropped off for the first day of school.
In this article, we’ve compiled a preschool readiness checklist for the things a preschool teacher will be looking for.
10 Skills to Look For When Determining If a Child is Preschool-Ready
Keep in mind that while academic skills can be helpful, readiness skills should be more centered around the child’s personality and temperament.
Child development of these skills typically happens between the ages of three to five as the attention span, memory, and language skills are developing.
The following 10 skills can help caregivers assess a child’s preschool readiness.
1. The Child Shows Emotional Development
The child should be in the process of developing strong emotional skills before starting preschool. This will help the child feel confident enough to take initiative to get their needs met and express how they feel safe. It will also ensure they can ask for help when needed.
Here are some signs the child is developing emotional skills:
Notices others’ emotions
Can express emotions, needs, and requests
Is learning to self-regulate
Can share toys easily
Will take turns
Uses their words to solve problems when frustrated or angry
Uses words like “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”
Tries new tasks without being afraid of making a mistake
2. The Child is Developing Reasoning Skills
Young children should also start to develop their reasoning skills before entering preschool. Reasoning skills allow children to see different perspectives, which leads to the development of empathy and understanding. Not only will this allow the child to be more creative, but it will also help them make connections, and problem-solving through critical thinking.
Here are some common signs a child is developing reasoning skills:
Can match identical objects, or match objects by shape and color
Understands that objects still exist even if you can’t see or hear them (object permanence)
Enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together
Remembers short sequences of events that have two to three steps
Understands concepts like in, out, front, back, under, over, on, and off
Knows parts of the body like head, shoulders, knees, feet, nose, etc.
Can draw a picture of himself or herself that includes these body parts
3. The Child Can Focus Their Attention
To learn, a child must be able to pay attention. As a child grows, he or she can voluntarily focus on things for greater periods through sustained attention. However, this must be done through the development and continued improvement of sustained attention.
Experts say that about two to three minutes per year of their age is a reasonable attention span. The average attention span for a two-year-old would be four to six minutes; a four-year-old would spend eight to 12 minutes of focused attention, and a six-year-old would have between a 12-minute and 18-minute attention span. Keep in mind that other factors may be present that will influence the attention span like nearby distractions, hunger or fatigue, and how interested the child is in the activity.
Here are some common signs a child can focus attention:
Can listen to and obey simple instructions
Sits still during story time
Carries out instructions with little to no mistakes
Asks questions about the story that was read or the instructions that were given
Does not seem to notice distractions
Is watching the speaker
Can maintain a train of thought
4. The Child is Developing Language Skills
A grasp of the fundamental building blocks of language is a sure sign that the child is ready for preschool. Language development skills directly support the child’s ability to communicate, express and understand feelings, learn, think, solve problems, and develop and maintain relationships. It is also the first step to learning to read and write.
Here are some common signs a child is developing language skills:
Uses language to communicate requests, greetings, describe things, and many other purposes
Uses accepted language styles, such as the appropriate volume and tone of voice
Tells or retells simple stories
Uses words in the correct contexts (or close to the proper context)
Uses sentences with two concepts or phrases
Talks in complete sentences
Follows one or two-step directions given to him or her
Uses descriptive language
Makes up stories
Talks about their everyday experience
Ask questions about how things work
Expresses clear, understandable ideas
Recites the ABCs or recognizes some letters of the alphabet
Expresses thoughts and needs verbally
5. The Child Engages in Artistic or Musical Activities
Art and music both can play a role in the development of cognition and creative thinking. Art can have a direct impact on the child’s learning pathway to literacy, math, and science. Additionally, music can ignite skills for school readiness, such as intellectual, social, emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. Engaging in musical activities helps the child get familiar with sounds and the meanings of words.
Here are some common signs a child is developing artistic and musical abilities:
Recognizes some basic shapes
Can name six to eight colors
Draws with crayons, colored pencils, or other art tools
Drawings resemble known objects or people
Articulates what he or she is drawing
Makes up songs
Sings or recites nursery rhymes
Has a favorite song
Imitates sounds and rhythms
Plays by using realistic toys to imitate household routines
Acts out simple play scripts with others in the form of dramatic play
6. The Child is Developing an Understanding of Math and Science
Math is important for kids to start to get a grasp on early vital life skills. The sooner the child expands their knowledge of mathematics, the more likely he or she will have better academic achievement. Learning math allows children to learn to problem-solve, develop and measure spatial awareness, and how to use shapes and understand them.
Science allows children to learn more about how the world works. It is also essential for them to learn about themselves and how the body works. Knowing these things can help the child gain confidence since they’re standing to develop an understanding of the world.
Here are some common signs a child is developing an understanding of math and science:
Knows the difference between a circle, square, and triangle
Can count to five (although may make some mistakes)
Can identify 1, 2, or 3 quantities of things
Is curious about the numbers
Knows the difference between “some” and “all”
Uses size words like “many” correctly
Uses comparison words like “same as” correctly
Is interested in patterns and sequences
Can sort objects by colors or size
Understands the concepts of “morning” and “night” and knows the order of the day
Is curious about objects and events he or she sees in the environment
Is curious about how things work, and offers possible explanations
Is curious about animals and the sounds they make
Knows and uses words like “fast”, “slow”, “hot”, and “cold”
7. The Child is Developing Social Skills and is Capable of Group Interaction
The child must be able to get along in a social environment. If the child has already started to develop social skills, this ensures that he or she will be able to flourish in a learning environment with other children.
Here are some common signs a child is developing social skills:
Is excited to go to school, learn new things, and meet new friends
Enjoys playing in a group with others and participating in group activities
Does well with routine activities, like taking a nap after lunch
Will anticipate routine activities and responds well to them, such as the nap after lunch
Is interested in people in their lives like family members and friends
Is interested in common jobs like doctors, teachers, and police officers
Easily makes friends and has appropriate interactions with them
Asks for help when needed
Follows rules and respects limits
8. The Child is Developing Fine Motor Skills
By the time the child is ready for pre-K, he or she should have developed some gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are the abilities required to control the large muscles in our bodies. These skills help children perform everyday functions like walking, jumping, skipping, and more. They are also important for self-care skills like dressing themselves, getting into a car, and maintaining table posture.
In school, kids use these important motor skills to do things like sitting up during classroom instruction, playing on the playground, walking to their classroom, or carrying a heavy backpack. The quicker the child can learn these basic skills, the more physically ready he or she will be for preschool.
Here are some common fine motor skills the child should be developing:
Can do activities that require strength and balance, like jumping in place, running, kicking, or standing on one foot
Displays some gross motor coordination like maneuvering around obstacles
Can ride a tricycle
Can run and kick a ball
Displays some hand-eye coordination when playing with games like building blocks or putting together a simple puzzle
Can use fingers instead of a whole fist to grip a pencil or crayons to write or draw
Begins to show a preference for either left or right-handedness
9. The Child is Developing Reading and Writing Skills
Getting a child started reading early has many psychological benefits including inspiring creativity, curiosity, and imaginative thinking. Children can learn to role-play and develop empathy, problem-solving skills, and a sense of morality. This helps them grow self-confidence.
Reading and writing help children improve their communication skills through the expansion of vocabulary and better spelling, grammar, and verbal communication.
Here are some common signs a child is developing literacy skills:
Can hold a book properly
Can turn the pages
Realizes the words in a story convey a message
Knows the first letter of his or her own name
Knows the difference between some uppercase and lowercase letters
Is familiar with some letters and letter sounds
Is familiar with main characters in some stories
Enjoys reading with others
Can hold a writing tool with either a finger grasp or fist grasp
Uses crayons, pens, pencils, and markers to draw
Seems to “write” in a linear way (this could just be scribbles)
Attempts to write their name
10. The Child is Developing Independence
A child who develops independence and can endure separation from his or her caregiver may be ready for preschool. Children who have this ability can build confidence and develop skills that will enable them to succeed in many areas of preschool learning including socially, emotionally, and academically.
If the child is unable to be independent at this time, it could be helpful to wait a bit longer until a better time. Here are some common signs a child is developing independence and is capable of separation:
Can be separated from a caregiver for a few hours
Enjoys doing things on his or her own at times; this can include things like getting dressed by themselves
Likes to work on projects on her or her own for a few minutes
Has spent some time being cared for other adults other than the caretakers; he or she did reasonably well
Initiates independent play and maintains it
Likes to read or do art on his or her own
Can be separated for several hours, such as a birthday party at a friend’s house or a sleepover at the grandparent’s house
Assess a Child’s Readiness for the Next Important Step
Early childhood is one of the most important times in a child’s life. Therefore, knowing which school year is the best time for the child to enter preschool is essential. We hope this preschool readiness checklist can help caregivers, teachers, and family help assess a child’s readiness for the next important step in their lives.
If a child fails to develop essential skills during the age-appropriate time, they might need to seek extra help or perhaps even get a diagnosis. Luckily, here at CASRF, we’ve got the programs to help!