What your child really needs to know before starting school


School readiness, it is always a hot topic! I am a primary school teacher and I often get asked by parents about what their child needs to know before starting school. It seems on trend at the moment for people to say, “Nothing! They will learn everything they need to know when they get there!”. This is definitely not the case.

Your child will be thoroughly assessed in their first few weeks of Kindergarten/Prep/whatever your state calls it. Your child’s teacher will expect them to know and be able to do certain things when they arrive. Kindergarten is not like is used to be twenty or even ten years ago. Most students now attend pre school so there is a higher expectation of social and emotional skills. The curriculum also moves much faster than it has in the past.

school readiness

Here are some of the things you child should be able to do or to know by the time they get to school:

Social Skills

They should be confident enough to start a conversation with other children and grown ups.

Be able to ask for things they need and say please and thank you.

Attempt to initiate play experiences with other children as well as being able to share and take turns.


Be able to use the toilet and wash their hands by themselves.

Dress themselves, especially taking their their shoes on and off as well as jumpers.

Knowing how to use their school bag, open the zippers, packing their bags and knowing where things are located.

Able to carry own bag, lunchbox and drink bottle.

Beginning to take responsibility for their own belongings.

Knowing how to open and close their lunchbox and place it back inside their bag.

Is familiar with the foods inside their lunchbox and knows how to open the packaging and eat the food correctly.

Can take their drink bottle from their bag, open it, drink from it and close it.

Knows how to refill their drink bottle.


Is able to follow one to two instructions.

Can sit sensibly on a chair.

Is able to sit on the floor with their legs crossed.

Can listen for a few minutes at a time.

Gives eye contact to the person who is speaking to them.

Is interested in learning.

Emotional, behavioural and social skills are the most important to master before your child gets to school. However, basic learning skills are important too. Below is a list of things that your child’s Kindergarten teacher would love your child to know and will set them up well for the year ahead. Please take note that it is easier for your child’s teacher to teach a new skill rather break the learning of an incorrect concept such as writing in capital letters instead of lower case or saying their sounds incorrectly.


Be able to hold a pencil correctly.

Know how to use scissors and starting to cut on the line.

Should be able to recognise and write their own name.

Say the name of each letter that is in their name.

Is able to trace/starting to copy/independently draw simple shapes as well as write lower case letters and numbers.

Knows the alphabet song, colours and basic shapes.

Be able to recognise some the letters in the alphabet and know some of the single sounds that they make.

Understands basic reading skills such as reading from left to right, turning the pages and that the picture matches the text on the page.

Being able to count to at least ten if not twenty.

Understand times of the day, morning, lunch, afternoon, before, after etc.

school readiness

Now I am not saying that you need to be sitting your child down and showing them flash cards and forcing them to learn how to read and write. Quite the opposite in fact,  forcing them to learn could cause them to resent learning rather than being interested and excited. All of these skills should be taught organically through every day activities and experiences.

Talk to your child about the world around them. Point out words and letters on signs and in books, children love spotting the letters that are in their names. Provide opportunities for your child to use a pencil and draw. Show them how to write their name and encourage them to give it a go themselves. Sing the alphabet and counting songs with them. Ask them to count ten or twenty pushes on the swing. Read with them every day and talk about the books that you are reading. Point to the words, talk about the pictures ask them questions.

Most importantly, if you are excited about teaching them they will be excited about learning. Make learning fun and enjoy the time you have with your little one before they head off to Big School.

3 thoughts on “What your child really needs to know before starting school

  1. Pingback: How Do I choose a Primary School for my Child? - Stuff Mums Like

  2. Jacinta

    Thank you for this post!!!
    Before my eldest son went to Kindy I tried to find out how to prepare him and the only articles I could find were like “let him know that he is loved & important” which is lovely but didn’t really explain to me what you have done in this article.
    I had no idea that he was old enough to use scissors so I never let him touch them and he couldn’t hold a pencil because he didn’t have the fine motor strength.
    He needed two years of speech & occupational therapy plus a specialised reading program just to be at an average level for his age group.
    Climbing trees & skinning knees is great but we are doing parents & children a disservice by not letting them know what the reality of Kindy is.

    1. mmMaraya

      Hi Jacinta,
      I’m so glad you found this helpful. I definitely agree that the trend for articles now is ‘let them be kids’ but the truth is there are things they do need to know. There’s no need to hothouse them but they do need some skills. Thanks for reading!


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