How to Tell If Your Child Is Ready for Preschool

Determining when your child is ready for preschool is easy if you know what signs to look for. Some of these signs, at times, are very easy to see, but some of these are a bit more hidden.

When Do Kids Start Preschool?

Most preschools start accepting kids around the age of 2.5 to 3 years old, but this isn’t a magic number since every child is different. 

Preschool readiness depends more on developmental factors than chronological age. So, is your little one physically, emotionally, and socially ready for the classroom? Lots to consider here in making this big decision. 

Before you consider enrolling your child in preschool, be sure you can answer these four questions. 

Separation Anxiety

This is a biggie. She may know all her letters, shapes, and colours, but unless she’s emotionally ready for the day-to-day challenges at preschool, it may not be Time yet. 

If your little one is still not comfortable being away from you, she’s not ready for preschool at age 2 or 3. 

Transitioning to preschool will be a stressful event already–you don’t want to add extra anxiety to the mix.

Social Development

How much experience has she had playing with other kids? Does she like it, does she do it well? 

If your three-year-old is still just into parallel play, she may not be ready to join a classroom just yet. 

Typically three-year-olds are starting to play with each other and engage in imaginative play, both critical components of preschool programs. 

And your three years old needs to be socially aware of how to treat other children before she should start preschool.


Sometimes preschools will help with potty training, but many require that this skill is mastered before enrolling. 

Potty training is such a milestone developmentally, and it can be a strong indication of preschool readiness.

Not all preschools require children entering preschool to be toilet-trained, especially if they’re three years old or younger or have special needs.

But most programs for 4-year-olds and public pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) expect kids to be out of diapers. 

Don’t worry, though, if your child still needs help with washing up or has an accident. That’s not uncommon and is supported at this level.


Kids ages 3 and 4 aren’t expected to do everything on their own. They don’t have to solve problems all by themselves. But a little independence is critical.

By the time kids start preschool, they’re expected to play games or do projects with other kids for a short period (5 to 10 minutes) without needing constant redirection from an adult. 

They also need to feed themselves and find their way around the classroom once they’ve had time to know the space.

Many preschool programs have set times when kids have to pick a learning centre (like a table for drawing or a building blocks area) and interact with it for a short period. 

Preschoolers have to be independent enough to choose an activity centre without the teacher’s help.


To be ready for preschool, kids need to express themselves in a way that an unfamiliar adult can understand.

That doesn’t mean your child needs to be speaking in complete sentences. But kids do need to have an appropriate way of getting their feelings and needs across. That can be with words, with gestures or sign language, or with the help of technology.

Expressive kids can understand what other people say. They might not yet follow directions with multiple steps, but they know essential words and rules like “sit down” and “follow me.”

Preschoolers are also expected to have a basic understanding that other kids have feelings and needs.


The ability to concentrate looks very different in a preschooler than it does in older kids. But, of course, it also varies from child to child.

Most preschool-ready kids can pay attention to a short picture book being read aloud. However, activities are typically limited to 10 or 20 minutes in a preschool classroom. Therefore, preschoolers have to concentrate on an activity for this amount of Time.

Preschoolers need to follow directions most of the Time and focus on tasks without getting too distracted. 

But a little distraction is typical, especially if this is the first Time your child has spent every day around a group of other kids.

Emotionally Ready

Emotionally, there are a few things to look for when considering whether your child is ready for preschool. 

The first is the ability to say goodbye to a parent or caregiver without too much anxiety. Of course, it’s common to be a little nervous. But kids who cry the entire day might not be ready to go to a complete preschool program.

That said, many kids cry when you say goodbye on the first day or even throughout the first week.

Emotionally ready kids are more eager to go to school and want to make friends. They might not have the skills to make friends yet, but wanting to make them is a good start.


Children need a lot of physical and mental energy for preschool. Kids who aren’t used to following a routine and being engaged can more challenging adjusting to preschool.

One way to know if kids are ready is to look at their nap schedule. If they still take a long morning and afternoon nap, they might not be ready yet.

To get your child ready, you can try merging your child’s morning and afternoon naps into one longer afternoon nap.

Putting these “PIECES” together makes it easier to know if your child is ready for preschool. If these aren’t all in place, try practising some of them at home.

If you’re concerned about your child’s skills, learn about developmental milestones for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. You can reach out to your child’s health care provider if you have questions.

Physical Development

Does she have the fine motor skills for handling classroom materials or the gross motor skills to handle the playground equipment? 

Sure, preschool is where they fine-tune these skills, but your two or 3-year-old should have the motor control to keep up with her classmates to be successful at preschool.

Nap Necessity

If your 2 or 3 years old still needs a 2-hour nap each afternoon, she may not be developmentally ready for the activity level at preschool

Usually, preschools have naps built into the day, but keep in mind she may not sleep as well at school as she does at home.

Communication Skills


Is she easy to understand? Can she ask for help when she needs it? She needs to be able to speak up and ask for help when she needs it, and she also needs to be able to communicate with her classmates. 

If you’re the only one who can understand her adorable little language, she’s not ready for preschool yet.

How to Tell If Your Child Is Ready for Preschool

Most preschools will start accepting children at around age 2 ½, but that doesn’t mean your child is magically ready for preschool when he reaches that age. 

Readiness for preschool has more to do with where your child is developmental. For example, is the socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively ready to participate in a daily, structured, educational program with a group of other children?

Though it’s tempting to look for a quick answer to this question, such as checking skills off a list, that method isn’t foolproof. 

The best way to decide is to spend Time thinking about your child and to talk to other people who know him well, such as your partner, your child’s doctor, and your child’s caregiver.

The following questions provided will help you think about the most critical factors for preschool readiness.

Is Your Child Fairly Independent?

Preschool requires children to have specific basic skills. Most preschools will want your child to be potty-trained, for instance. 

Your child should also be able to take care of other basic needs, like washing his hands after painting, eating his lunch without assistance, and sleeping alone.

Has He spent Time Away from You?

If your child has been cared for by a babysitter or a relative, he’ll be better prepared to separate from you when he’s at preschool. 

Kids who are used to being apart from their parents often bounce right into preschool with hardly a backward glance. 

If your child hasn’t had many opportunities to be away from you, you might want to schedule some – a weekend with grandma, for instance, or a day with your sister and her kids.

But even if you can’t work out your separation issues upfront, don’t worry too much. Many children leave Mom or Dad for the First Time to go to preschool, doing just fine.

The trick is to help your child adjust in short doses. For example, many preschools will allow you to drop off your child for an hour or two during his first few days there. 

As your child gets used to his new environment, let him gradually work up to a full day.

Can He Work on Projects on His Own?

Preschool usually involves lots of arts and crafts projects that require concentration and focus on an individual task. 

If your child likes to draw at home or gets engrossed in puzzles and other activities on his own, he’s a good candidate for preschool.

But even if he’s the kind of child who asks for help with everything, you can start getting him ready by setting up playtimes where he can entertain himself for a half-hour or so. 

While you wash the dishes, encourage him to make creatures out of clay, for example.

Gradually build up to longer stretches of solo play. 

Your goal here is to keep yourself moderately preoccupied with an activity so that your child can complete the project on his own without too much hand-holding from you.

Is He Ready to Participate in Group Activities?

Many preschool activities, like “circle time,” require that all the children in a class participate simultaneously. 

These interactions give children a chance to play and learn together and require them to sit still, listen to stories, and sing songs. 

This can be very difficult for kids under three who are naturally active explorers and not always developmentally ready to play with other children.

If your child isn’t used to group activities, you can start introducing them yourself. 

Take him to storytime at your local library, for instance, or sign him up for a class such as tumbling to help him get used to playing with other children.

Is He Used to Keeping a Regular Schedule?

Preschools usually follow a predictable routine: circle time, playtime, snack, playground, then lunch. 

There’s a good reason for this. Children tend to feel most comfortable and in control when the same things happen simultaneously each day.

So if your child doesn’t keep to a schedule and each day is different from the last, it can help to standardise his days a bit before he starts preschool. 

Start by offering meals on a regular timetable. You could also plan to visit the park each afternoon or set – and stick to – a bedtime ritual (bath, then books, and bed).

Does He Have the Physical Stamina for Preschool?

Whether it’s a half-day or full-day program, preschool keeps kids busy. There are art projects to do, field trips to take, and playgrounds to explore. 

Does your child thrive on activities like this, or does he have trouble moving from one thing to the next without getting cranky?

Another thing to consider is how and when your child needs to nap. Preschools usually schedule nap time after lunch. 

If your little one can keep going until then or even all day like a wind-up toy, he’s set. But, if he still needs a mid-morning snooze, it might not be Time yet to go to school.

You can work toward building his stamina by making sure he gets a good night’s sleep. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you might also want to start him off in a half-day program to ease him into the hustle and bustle of preschool life and gradually increase the length of his school day as he gets more comfortable.

Why Do You Want to Send Him to Preschool?

Think carefully about what your goals are for sending your child to preschool. For example, do you just need Time for yourself or daycare for your child? 

There may be other options if it seems he isn’t ready yet for the rigours of school. Are you worried that he won’t be prepared for kindergarten if you don’t enrol him in preschool? 

Most experts agree that there are plenty of other ways for children to develop the skills necessary to succeed in kindergarten, including attending a good daycare facility or spending quality time at home with you or another loving caregiver.

A study by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development found that children do best if they’re cared for by someone genuinely concerned about their well-being and development and who makes sure they’re doing a variety of age-appropriate activities. 

They needn’t be enrolled in an organised preschool for that.

Suppose you find that the main reasons you want to send your child to preschool are that he seems eager to learn new things and explore. In that case, he isn’t getting enough stimulation at home or daycare, or he looks ready to broaden his social horizons and interact with other children, chances are it’s the Perfect Time to start school.

Signs to Know If Your Child Is Ready for Preschool

These five signs will let you know you are sending your child to preschool at the proper Time. 

However, you should know that all of these signs are not always present, but your child may still be ready for preschool. 

It is a very case by case situation, and of course, you know your child best out of everyone.  

They Can Spend Time Alone


Younger children often suffer from separation anxiety as it is their first Time away from their mom or dad. 

However, if your child is willing and able to spend Time away from you, it will be easier for them to adjust to preschool and not upset the other children.

If you are not sure, letting them stay at a babysitter or family member for the day will tell you if they will be upset by spending a long day away from you. Either way, this is a significant indicator if your child is ready.

They Are Completely Potty Trained

A common requirement for preschools is the kids have to be potty trained. 

The requirement makes it easier for your child to have an enjoyable time and keep your child happy and avoid any embarrassment from going in their pants all the Time. 

It is important to remember that accidents can happen, and when they do, it is usually less embarrassing for your child than going in their pants every day. 

They Can Concentrate on a Task for a Longer period

When you send your child to preschool, they need to concentrate on a specific task for a more extended period. 

The tasks in preschool are generally between fifteen and twenty minutes long. Therefore, to avoid any issues, you need to ensure your child can stay on task for that long and not be distracted.

They Can Interact With Other Children 

Interaction with other children is going to happen when your child is going to preschool. 

However, you want to make sure your child is ready to interact with other kids and not become angry or fight with the other children. 

An excellent way to help is to socialise your child as often as possible. They need to know how to share, take turns, ask politely and listen to other kids and teachers.

They Have Plenty of Stamina to Complete a School Day

The school days tend to be a bit longer than what a lot of kids are used to. Since this is the case, you need to guarantee that your child has the stamina to help them get the day completed or at least make it to a predetermined nap time. When children run out of steam, they often get cranky or angry, which can lead to calls home. This is another significant indicator of whether your child is ready for preschool and whether they can handle the full preschool day.


  • Most preschoolers are still working on readiness skills when they start preschool.
  • Being able to follow instructions will help your child be ready for preschool.
  • You can practice preschool readiness skills at home.

Preschool is very rewarding and educational for children. However, you should know the signs when your child is ready to start preschool as a parent. Once you know these signs and see them in your child, you can begin to explore the different preschools in your area.

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