Help your child be ready for school

Is my child ready for school? Will he be able to keep up with the class? Will she make friends? What can I do to prepare my child?


As a parent of a preschooler, you may often ask yourself these questions, especially as kindergarten registration approaches. Although starting school is an exciting time, the transition can be overwhelming and stressful, for parents and child.

Sending a child to school for the first time can even be unsettling for parents, who may have questions related to how to support the transition to school best, and ensure it is an enjoyable experience for the whole family.

Helping your child be ready to start school confidently goes beyond teaching them the ABCs. “School readiness” means that a child is ready to start school with the basic skills needed to learn to read, write and count, is able to follow instructions, solve problems, work well on his own, stay focused on a task, and is healthy and able to get along well with others.

Research indicates that a child’s experiences in early childhood set the stage for future development and success in school and life. We also know that children who are meeting developmental milestones have an easier transition into a learning environment.

As a parent, how can you know if your child is progressing well and meeting these developmental milestones?

You can assess your child’s growth and development using the Nipissing District Developmental Screen. This quick and easy screening tool is a short checklist of important skills (emotional, physical, social, self-help, communication, learning and thinking, vision and hearing) that a child should master by a particular age.

It is not a tool to diagnose your child or a formal assessment, but a quick check to help identify areas that may need extra help with learning age-appropriate skills or that may require further assessment.

How do you know if your child is doing well?

• Assess your child’s overall development by completing the NDDS checklist, available free online in multiple languages for children between one month and six years of age. For more information, visit

• Assess your child’s overall nutrition and physical activity levels by completing the NutriSTEP, a nutrition screening tool for children between 18 months and five years, available free online in eight languages. For more information, visit

• Have your child’s vision and hearing checked

• Schedule a dental health check-up

Talk to your child care or health care provider if you have any questions or concerns

Information on these screening tools and community resources are being added to kindergarten registration packages in the City of Ottawa. You might also see promotional materials during a visit to a playgroup, the school or your doctor’s office.

If you have concerns

It is no longer recommended to take a “wait and see” approach when a developmental concern is suspected. Early identification and intervention lead to better outcomes for children. It really does make a difference in a child’s life when services are accessed early.

In Ottawa, First Words offers speech and language services for families with children from birth to kindergarten, and the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre provides specialized care for children with multiple developmental concerns.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, visit the First Words website at to find strategies or to book an appointment to attend a community screening clinic. This information can also be obtained from the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at 613-580-6744.

If your preschooler presents speech and/or language delays and developmental concerns (play, motor skills, socializing), consult your family physician or contact the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre at 613-737-0871.

How can you help your child
prepare for kindergarten?

Encourage social interaction with other children to help them learn to share, wait, and take turns. Play dates, playgroups and early years centres are excellent opportunities for interactions with other children.

• To find a free early years program, playgroup or circle time in your area, visit the Community Playgroups page at, or call 211 for community information.

• For more information on Ontario Early Years Centres, visit

• Start healthy routines early (morning routine, meal time, bed time).

• Help your child develop independent toilet skills.

• Update your child’s immunizations.

• Limit screen time (computers, smartphones, tablets) and stay active. Get outside!

• Encourage your child to practice dressing him/herself.

Talk to your child throughout the day, every day. Children who hear a lot of language will develop more language. Talk about the things you and your child do, see, and hear. Say the names of objects and actions. Repeat the words often.

• Encourage questions and give your child time to respond.

• Teach your child the importance of listening. Take turns listening and talking.

• Include learning in your child’s everyday life by singing songs (i.e., alphabet, rhymes), playing word or counting games and introducing numbers and shapes.

Read to your child every day. Read children’s stories about starting school as it approaches. Children who are read to often and from an early age do better in school than those who are not read to. Read the same books over and over to teach new words.

• Visit your local library for a free story time or to choose a new book to read together. Find program information at

Visit the school with your child to make it a familiar place. Play at the playground and attend the kindergarten registration night to meet the teachers. Visit local school board websites for more information:

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Ottawa Catholic School Board

Conseil des écoles publiques de l’est de l’Ontario

• Conseil des écoles catholiques du centre est

Parents are a child’s first teacher and play a crucial role in preparing children for school and for life. By promoting learning at home, creating opportunities to socialize and encouraging independence, you can help make the transition to kindergarten easier for your child and for your whole family.

This article was contributed by the School Readiness Task Group, a subcommittee of the Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative. Growing Up Great is a collaboration of community organizations with a shared commitment to ensuring all children and youth in Ottawa achieve their full potential.

Photo: © michaeljung