Is My Child Ready for School? The Ultimate Check List for this Tricky Decision


As a mum who chose to keep her 5-year-old son at home rather than start Prep, I understand the complexities surrounding the dilemma of school readiness.

This tricky decision is one our family thought long and hard about for five years.

The best tip I can offer is to arm yourself with as much information as possible and then trust your “mother” gut.  No-one knows your child better than you – and that deserves credit!

Experts agree that starting school has little to do with numerical and alphabetical recognition. It’s not about whether your child can read or write. It’s more about a child’s willingness to interact with others and how they respond socially and emotionally. This is one of the reasons why some experts might say girls are ready for school earlier and boys can benefit from starting a bit later, but each individual child will have their own pros and cons for starting school versus holding them back.

Melbourne education consultant and early childhood expert, Kathy Walker, supports this theory in her book “Ready, Set, Go”. “Readiness is really mostly about emotional and social maturity – aspects of development that we cannot fast-track,” she says.
It’s far more important “to enter school ready to thrive, flourish and enjoy the challenges – rather than merely just coping,” she says.

Here are some things to consider if contemplating sending your child to school:

Ask yourself:

  • Is my child physically, socially & emotionally ready?
  • Can my child toilet and dress himself/herself?
  • Can they pack their own bag, open food wrappers and lunch boxes?
  • Do they show an interest in interacting with others?
  • Are they interested in the world around them?
  • Do they separate well from you or their carers?
  • Can they recognise and express their thoughts and emotions?
  • Can they concentrate on small tasks and follow two to three instructions at a time?
  • Do they transition easily from one activity to another?
  • Do they possess a willingness to learn new things e.g. reading, writing, numerals?
  • Can they self-regulate?
  • Can they ask for help when needed?

Some people suggest asking kindergarten teachers for their advice. We certainly did this and we valued their input but ultimately we made our choice based on a holistic view, taking into account all that we knew of our child (using tips like those above to guide us).

One thing is certain – every child is different. And no one knows a child like his/her parents. So trust yourself – it’s the best gift you can give your child ahead of the school years.

Kathy Walker tells parents “that there’s no need to rush – children are going to be at school for a long time, so let’s ensure they are great years.”

View Kathy’s School Readiness Factsheet:

And check out this NSW Government approved checklist (remember these guidelines may change by state):

  • Socialise your child with other children
  • Talk to them about emotions and how to deal with them
  • Read to them regularly
  • Count & play with numbers
  • Sing nursery rhymes
  • Praise their effort
  • Discuss school with positivity and enthusiasm
  • Ensure your child that you are there to support them

We are glad we held our son back – it’s the best choice we could have made for his education and his future. Today he is a happy, thriving 6-year-old who loves learning and going to school!

Good luck and rest assured your child will be fine, as will you!


Avatar of Mary Cryan

Hi, I'm Mary, a fun-loving and strongly independent Mum to 2 children aged 8 and 6. I am also married to a darling man. By profession, I am a visual and verbal communications specialist with a passion for writing, designing and inspiring others. I run a small home-based graphic design business in Brisbane and write a motivational blog to empower people with positive, inspirational tips to live their best lives. My life is a never ending work in progress and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am a dedicated Life Enthusiast!

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