Readiness to learn at school

Readiness to learn at school
When we think “ready for school,” we picture our preschooler with a pencil in her hand, practicing numbers and letters. But specialists agree that several other skills are essential.

Areas of childhood development

When we think “ready for school,” we picture our preschooler with a pencil in her hand, practicing numbers and letters. But specialists agree that several other skills are essential.

“Preparing for school is actually preparing for life,” says Caroline Bouchard, education professor at Université Laval and child development psychologist, who borrows this idea from UNESCO.

“From birth to age five, a child fits all the various aspects of her development together to form a whole, a little like pieces of a puzzle. These include her motor, emotional, social, intellectual and language skills. If we were to consider only the academic component, many puzzle pieces would be missing,” says Bouchard.

To prove this point, let’s run through the five areas considered important to develop before kindergarten:

Physical health and well-being
  • General physical development
  • Gross motor skills (control of movements)
  • Nourishment and dress
  • Cleanliness
  • Punctuality
  • Alertness
  • Social skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Curiosity
  • Respect for peers and adults
  • Ability to follow rules and class routines
  • Good work habits and independence
Emotional maturity
  • Sociable behaviour and ability to help others
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Hyperactivity and attention deficit
  • Ability to express emotions
Cognitive and language development
  • Interest and skill in reading, writing and math
  • Appropriate use of language
  • Feeding and dressing
Communication skills and general knowledge
  • General knowledge
  • Ability to understand others
  • Clear speech
  • Ability to communicate and be understood

Here are some questions that will help you assess your child’s overall development before she starts kindergarten.

  • Is she in good general health?
  • Is she physically independent enough to, for example, dress herself, put her things away, choose an activity, go to the bathroom and play by herself?
  • Does she show interest in applying her knowledge and skills? Does she express interest in reading and numbers?
  • Is she enthusiastic, show intellectual curiosity and persistence? For example, does she enjoy looking at a new book?
  • Does she behave appropriately in social settings? For example, is she able to share? Show empathy? Is she able to play with several children? Is she able to follow instructions? Can she wait her turn? Or does she have tantrums?
  • Is she able to communicate her emotions and thoughts?
  • Has she developed a certain emotional independence? For example, is she able to leave you easily?
  • Does she have an interest or skill in reading and writing? For example, can she identify certain sounds and letters we see often (the “M” for Metro, for example) or can she count numbers (0, 1, 2, 3…)?

At 5 years old, children are rarely ready on all points

Each child evolves at her own pace. A 4-year-old may, for example, be very gifted in writing, but less ready than another on an emotional level. She may have a harder time separating from her parents for example. Research says that these differences are due to several factors: family environment, individual characteristics, attendance at a quality daycare.

“Parents who talk to their children every day, guide them, reassure them, boost their self-esteem and stimulate their curiosity to learn are equipping them the basic ingredients they need for school,” affirms Bouchard.

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers understand this reality. Their mission is therefore to develop the skills of each child to their full potential as well as to bring all the children up to the same level.