Preschool: Is Your Child Ready?

The challenges of preschool present an exciting first step in your child’s formal education. But is your child ready? Even with prescribed enrollment ages and required milestones like potty training and independent eating, parents have a few things to consider when assessing their child’s preschool readiness.

“Research shows that two of the biggest skills children need to successfully transition to preschool and kindergarten are self-regulation and basic peer-related social skills like sharing, turn-taking, and refraining from hitting or other hostilities,” says Derek Montgomery, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Bradley University.

Encouraging Developmental Milestones

Cognitive Development
Knows and can point to body parts. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or making a game of asking where your child’s nose or ears are located.

Will start to play pretend. Giving your child simple things like food storage dishes, scarves or play tools can enliven their imagination and provide hours of fun.

Social & Emotional Development
Copies others’ actions readily. Play games like “Simon Says” or making faces.

Engages in “parallel play”. Rather than playing directly with other children, the child is able to play alongside them. Invite the child’s peers over to play.

Language Development
The child can understand ten times more words than he or she can speak.

Can understand 2-step directions and tries to follow them willingly.

Motor Development
Can stack blocks.

Can scribble or draw with a marker or crayon.


Your child will discover a new level of independence at preschool. Ask yourself, and talk to your partner and those who know the child, is your child capable of getting engrossed in activities on his or her own steam? Activities like drawing or playing with puzzles or interactive toys can encourage solo play.

Can your child communicate their basic needs? Using the bathroom, getting help and resolving conflicts with others all require some communication from your little one. During play dates or other challenging situations, stand back and allow the child to experience some frustration. Then, practice articulating what happened and prompt the child to express his or her thoughts or feelings.

Time Away from You

Separation anxiety is a natural response for the first few days of preschool – parents should expect some complaints and expressions of sadness or anxiety. Parents can prepare a tantrum-prone child for the daily drop-off by taking them to the daycare facilities at the gym or store, or take them to spend time with grandparents or another friendly caretaker.

Participation in Groups

Your child will spend much of the day in group situations, playing or cooperating together with others over tasks. Basic social skills include sitting quietly for a short period of time (wiggling is okay, being disruptive is not), following simple instructions from a teacher, and taking turns, or exhibiting patience.

The child should probably be showing an ability for parallel play, where the child is able to play alongside another child or children, and not necessarily with them directly.

Regular Schedule

Circle time, snack, outdoor time and nap time all arrive on a certain schedule, and so the preschool-ready toddler will be able to transition from one activity to the next without too much trouble.

A regular routine at home or with a caretaker goes a long way to prepare the child for preschool. Practice transition activities that you might not otherwise perform at home, like picking up toys after playtime, putting away art materials, stowing shoes or jackets in the same place each time, and so on.

Physical Stamina

It’s a busy day at Nomura Preschool! From classroom learning to reading time to outdoor play on the jungle gym to music sessions, preschool keeps kids busy. Consider your child’s stamina over the course of a day. Does he or she still need a morning nap, or can that be phased out?

And remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for a child’s development.