Starting school is a big event for your child, and for you. For many children this may be the first time that they are exploring the world without you by their side. It is normal for both you and your little one to be a little apprehensive about this new adventure.  

There are a few important skills that your child will need to master in order to cope well at school. To make a decision about whether they are ready to start school you will need to think about their skills in the following areas:  

  • Communication with others 
  • Social and emotional development 
  • Independence  

Communication with others

In the classroom your child will need to be able to understand others and follow instructions. They will also need to be able to express their needs and be understood by their teacher and friends.  

Social and emotional development

By now, your child has learned to cooperate and negotiate with others. They still may have some difficulty sharing and usually like to be in charge, but overall they will enjoy being around other children their own age.   

The classroom may be the first structured environment that your child has experienced. In order to cope well, your child will need to be able to listen and focus on activities, follow instructions and understand that the classroom has rules.

As the day at school is busy, they will need to be able to cope with the transition between activities, even if this means stopping a favourite activity.  

Being independent

It is important for your child to be able to complete tasks without your help, because at school you won’t be there!

Your little one will need to be able to go to the toilet without help, open their school bag and lunchbox, as well as put on their jumper, shoes and hat. Remember that these tasks are tricky so make sure you give your child lots of time to practice.  

Ways to help your child get ready for school

It’s okay if your child is a little bit worried about starting school. Leaving you for the day can be a big step for some children. Check out our top tips below for ways to help your child prepare for their first day at school:  

Visit the school

Most schools will have a visiting day for you and your child to get familiar with the school and the classroom. Going to school together is a great way for your child to start to imagine all the fun they will have there. 

Talk together

Talk to your child about what happens at school. Explain what it is like in the classroom and the types of activities that your child will enjoy. Explain that you will be there at the end of the day to pick them up. 

Read books

There are so many great books about starting school. Sharing these together can be a great way to prepare your child and also to give them an opportunity to talk to you about what their worries. 

Play at the school

Use the school holidays to get familiar with the school. If possible, walk to the school together and have a play on the playground. Show your child where their classroom is and explain where you will wait for them when school is finished. 

Get ready for school together

Involve your child in all of the getting ready for school activities. This can include shopping for a school bag, lunch box, uniform and shoes. Where possible let your child choose the items they would like. Remember to choose items that are easy for your child to use independently. For example, shoes with Velcro fasteners and lunchboxes that are easy to open. 

Encourage independence

In the months leading up to your child’s first day at school it is a great idea to encourage them to be more independent. This can include reducing the amount of help you give them when they go to the toilet, when they get dressed and during meal times. Give your child lots of praise when they attempt things on their own. 

Good sleep habits

In order for your child to be ready to learn at school they need to be well rested. School is very busy and tiring for your young child and getting to bed early is essential. Ensure you start good sleep habits in the months leading up to your child’s first day at school.  

What if my child isn’t ready for school?

If you have any concerns about your child’s readiness for school it is important to talk to your school principal.

You can also make an appointment with your Child Health Nurse or contact the Child Development Service.  

Want to know more? 

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – School Readiness – a guide for parents 

Raising Children Network – Preschoolers 

Royal Children’s Hospital – School Readiness